That chapter title makes it sound like something exciting is going to happen here.
Nothing exciting happens here.
In fact, there’s no reason that this chapter and chapter thirteen shouldn’t have been the same chapter. I looked at the table of contents and there are like sixty-five chapters in this book. And that, my friends, immediately got me thinking that this was meant to be serialized fiction. After some frustrating googling (there are approximately nine hundred billion stories titled Crave on Wattpad), I didn’t find any evidence that it’s ever been a serial. Still, I do wonder if it was initially written with the thought of, hey, let’s put this on Wattpad, get a big audience for it, and bill it as this enormous viral hit like After, and then act like it’s some kind of coup that Entangled got their hands on it. That’s just speculation, of course, but it might explain why the chapters are so short and end so abruptly, only to pick up exactly where the last one ended.
Plus, I think at this point, everyone knows that Entangled is usually trying to force The Next Big Thing™ long after the previous “big thing” that inspired them has lost its momentum.
We left Grace in the library, having interrupted a girl chanting and looking spooky.
I fumble for an apology—or at least an excuse—but before I can come up with one, the rage in her eyes is gone. In fact, it dissipates so quickly, I can’t be sure I didn’t imagine it. Especially since the anger, or whatever it was, turns to welcome as she walks toward me.
Right away, the suspense from the chapter hook is gone. The thing that made the reader continue into the next chapter was the idea of this beautiful, chanting girl using this terrifying rage on our heroine. But don’t worry! Nothing interesting happens! The rage goes away the second you turned the page! This is just a character introduction!
I’m trying not to sound too annoyed about it, but I kind of am. Like, so far, I’ve mostly enjoyed this book. But if it’s going to be a constant build-up of suspense followed by nothing actually happening, I’m going to lose enthusiasm. So far, that’s been how the last few chapters have gone and I’m not into it.
“You must be Grace,” she says in slightly accented English as she comes to a stop about a foot in front of me. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” She extends a hand forward and I take it, bemused, as she continues. “I’m Lia, and I have a feeling we’re going to be really good friends.”
After introducing herself, Lia hustles Grace out of the room they’re in and locks it all up.
“What language was that you were speaking? Was it native to Alaska? It was beautiful,” I say as we start walking back toward the center of the library.
“Oh, no.” She laughs, a light, tinkling sound that perfectly matches the rest of her. “It’s actually a language I came across in my research. I’ve never heard it spoken out loud, so I’m not even sure I’m pronouncing it correctly.”
I think Lia is going to be a villain. She’s chanting in a language she doesn’t even know, in a secret room she doesn’t want Grace to be in. She’s also very quirky, and we’ve already got Macy. There isn’t room for more than one quirky friend in a YA novel.
I’ve thought about the comment about Native languages from the last chapter and I think I know why it was included. This was billed as the “feminist Twilight” in promotional materials. I have a feeling that because Twilight was so fucked up in its representation of the Quileute people, Wolff or Pelletier or someone was like, wait, let’s make sure we acknowledge that there are Native people from this area and make sure everyone knows our book isn’t racist like that book. It’s just painfully out of place. Well-intentioned but glaring. Like, never before in this story has Grace been interested in books or other cultures, there’s been no mention of it at all until a non-white character shows up speaking a different language. I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad for someone to think of these things while they’re writing or to include them, but it does feel pretty out-of-place for this character to suddenly be deeply interested in the Native languages of a place she never had any intention of setting foot in until her parents’ recent death.
Grace asks Lia what book she found the language in, and Lia is like, a boring one, let’s go have some tea. She points out that Grace will have plenty of time to talk about their classes when she’s actually taking them.
I decide not to mention that starting new classes is pretty much the only thing I’ve been looking forward to about the move to Alaska. I mean, my public school definitely didn’t offer Witch Hunts in the Atlantic World for a history credit. Besides, tea sounds wonderful, especially considering what just happened when I tried a Dr Pepper.
PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATION BY
Anyway, can we just… I just want to…
We’ve given Grace a lot of leeway here with regards to whether or not she should have figured out yet that this is a magic school. She has now found a girl chanting in an unrecognizable language in the back room of a gargoyle-infested library and oh, by the by, THERE IS A CLASS AT THIS SCHOOL THAT IS ALL ABOUT WITCH HUNTS, JUST WITCH HUNTS, SPECIFICALLY BETWEEN THE 15TH AND 19TH CENTURIES.
Not World History. Not U.S. History. Not Government. Specifically just a class about witches.
In a school full of weird shit and ominous warnings.
GRACE, COME ON, YOU SHOULD HAVE THIS FIGURED OUT BY NOW.
Especially if she’s such a huge book fan, as we’ve suddenly been told out of the blue in the last chapter.
We find out that the librarian is named Ms. Royce and Lia describes her as a “hippie skirt and flower crown” person, so I’m assuming she’s a witch. Or maybe that female gargoyle noted in the last chapter. Still not ruling out the librarian being a gargoyle.
We’re on the other side of the library from where I came in and we pass through a sitting area with a bunch of black couches, each one dotted with purple throw pillows bearing different quotes from classic horror movies. My favorite is Norman Bates’s famous line from Psycho: “We all go a little mad sometimes.” Although I’m also partial to the pillow next to it: “Be afraid. Be very afraid,” from The Fly.
Those are some fresh teen references there, I’ll tell ya. What late gen z/early gen alpha isn’t familiar with the films of 1980s Jeff Goldblum?
Authors, I beg of you, please look somewhere besides Hot Topic and Facebook for your “humor.” I promise, it’s totally possible to be funny without regurgitating slogans and telling the audience how funny those slogans are.
Lia says that Ms. Royce loves Halloween and that’s why the library looks the way it does but at this point, why is anyone trying to hide what the school is from Grace? I’m shocked that so far, no one has been like, “Wow, your uncle brought a human here?” because they just assume she would already know. I was so expecting Lia to say something like that and have the big reveal in this chapter.
If we really want to pick a nit, here’s one: Grace notes that Halloween was three days earlier. Denali doesn’t get intense amount of snow in October that we’ve heard about Grace suffering through upon arrival. And Denali park services record something like three inches of snow on the ground in October, with the caveat that yeah, it’s probably colder at the summit of the mountain.
Honestly, Alaska isn’t as snowy as people think it is. It was second in the running last year, right between Colorado at first and Michigan in third. And there have actually been years that Michigan got more snow than Alaska. It’s the cold in Alaska that’s the killer, I guess?
Why am I hung up on weather? We have a boring character introduction chapter to get through.
They leave the library and Lia asks about how Grace is doing with the transition:
“So I’m assuming, since you aren’t at the party Macy organized for you, that your first full day at our illustrious school hasn’t been as smooth as your cousin hoped it’d be?”
Grace refuses to engage in making it sound like Macy is the problem, which I like and which also makes me kinda suspicious of Lia. Why is she trying to get Grace to be critical of Macy right away in this conversation? What’s the point of that?
Lia is too friend. Red flags all the way for me on this one.
Instead, Grace says that she’s still recovering from the travel and Lia is like, yeah, getting here is hard unless you’re coming from Vancouver.
“Yeah, I’m definitely not from Vancouver.” I shiver a little as an unexpected wind whips through the hallway.
Welcome to your new school, where you just found someone randomly rage-chanting in the spooky library after you ran from a school party brought to you by the creators of HBO’s True Blood, a school which features classes on the persecution of witches and also has random wind blowing around inside. Oh, also, you watch a show about a magic school that’s very similar to this one in concept but you haven’t connected a single one of these dots yet.
Lia mentions that Alaska is “a long way from California” and Grace is like:
“How did you know I’m from California?” Maybe that’s why everyone is staring at me—I must be wearing my not-from-here vibe like a parka.
My first thought was, well, your uncle told everyone that you’re coming here from California. Obviously, we don’t know that happened, but it makes sense, right?
But then Lia says oh, yeah, your uncle must have mentioned it, and goes on to talk about San Diego and I’m like, HA HA! I got your number, Lia! I know you’re a villain now! When someone in a book or a movie or a show says something, and the main character is like, how did you know that, and the person who said it is like, oh, I must have heard it somewhere, SOMETHING IS UP.
Here’s my thought: later, that’ll be a clue of some kind. Grace will be like, wait, Lia did know details about me that I hadn’t told her, and I’ll be like, wait, your uncle apparently wouldn’t shut up about you coming to the school and if he never mentioned it, Macy sure has.
Lia’s room is on the same floor as Grace’s, and as they walk, Lia points out where some stuff is. This makes Grace feel a little better, because one of her main concerns has been getting lost in the school.
I’m a little surprised when she stops in front of the one door on the hallway, maybe on the whole floor, that doesn’t have some kind of decoration on it.
My surprise must show, because she says, “It’s been a rough year. I just wasn’t up to decorating when I got back here.”
Red flag number two. Maybe we’re going to find out that Lia isn’t even a student there, and she left the door not decorated because she’s not supposed to be in there.
Maybe she’s a ghost.
I don’t know, at this point I just need something to happen that’s not Jaxon-related. Some larger plot that isn’t focused solely on whether or not Grace will end up with the aloof and toxic badboy vampire.
Lia is grieving someone, too; her boyfriend she’s been with for “a really long time,” which also raises a red flag for me in the “maybe Lia is a ghost” department because how long is “a really long time” when they’re teenagers? I’m not saying teenage relationships aren’t important or she can’t be grieving or anything like that, but the idea of “a long time” interests me solely because this is a paranormal novel and could be an indicator of how long Lia has been alive (or not alive).
I need Lia to be interesting somehow beyond chanting. I need her to bring some kind of conflict to this story. Please, Lia, I beg of you. Turn into a werewolf. Eat a baby’s heart. Do something other than being another side character Grace meets in between weird interactions with Jaxon.
Because the thing is, I feel like if Lia does turn out to be a bad guy, the groundwork is laid really solidly. Like, the trying to get Grace to talk shit about Macy, the being in the library instead of at the party, the instant friendliness, the whole “we’re both grieving” thing… I feel like all of these are clues that will later make sense.
If they’re not… IDK, yous all.
Lia and I just kind of stand there in the middle of her dorm room for a second, two people who look fine on the outside but who are destroyed on the inside. We don’t talk, don’t say anything at all. Just stay where we are and absorb the fact that someone else hurts as much as we do.
It’s a bizarre feeling. And an oddly comforting one.
I really like this. Here’s Grace getting a friend who is coming from a similar circumstance and who can really understand what she’s going through.
So, we’re agreed, then? Lia is a villain?
I’m not trying to just gloss over a lot of stuff here, but it’s… honestly not interesting. Lia makes tea, which reminds Grace of her mother, and that’s a nice touch because we haven’t learned a lot about Grace’s relationship to her parents yet. We also learn that “back home” for Lia is Tokyo and that her mother sends her a new tea set every semester so Lia won’t get homesick.
I’m not like, a cultural attache to Japan or anything but… am I fucking weird or isn’t Lia like, a Hebrew name? Like from the Bible? Or is it coincidentally also a Japanese name that someone born to Japanese parents in Japan would have? I need to know this trivia please. Japanese people, send help?
Lia asks Grace about the party again, and Grace tries to sound upbeat and positive, but Lia says she’s a bad liar.
“You should probably work on that. At Katmere, knowing how to lie well is practically Survival 101.”
When Grace plays that totally alarming statement off as a joke, this happens:
There’s no humor in her answer this time, and I realize suddenly that there was none in her original statement, either.
“Wait,” I say, strangely discomfited by that fact. “What do you guys have to lie about that’s so important?”
That’s when Lia looks me straight in the eye and answers, “Everything.”
Hell of a chapter hook, right?
No. Because once again, the DUN DUN DUUUUUHHHNNNN moment ends up being totally undermined at the beginning of the next chapter.
Now, scroll up and look at the chapter title. Did anyone play a game? Did anyone come close to dying? Did anyone die? Did anything in this chapter happen that the chapter title remotely implies?
THEN WHAT IS THE POINT OF PERSISTING IN THESE CHAPTER TITLES?
I like chapter titles! I enjoy them! I employ them, on occasion. But they have to make some sort of sense. They can’t be just fraudulent advertisements for the chapter. This is a boring chapter. I could read the chapter before it and then go to bed and not feel compelled to read just one more page. And that’s where these false hooks and fake chapter titles come from. Oh, Lia said they have to lie about everything! This is getting good! Ooh, and the next chapter title is “Just Bite Me,” so something vampire-ish will happen!
It doesn’t, though! There’s no reason for the title to be “Just Bite Me,” just like there was no reason for this chapter to have such a dramatic title.
If you want your book to be interesting, my first suggestion would be: make it interesting. And this book already does have my interest, so step one is taken care of. I’m interested in this book. Step two is trusting the reader to be interested in it. At no point between steps one and two did it become necessary to consistently bait and switch with ominous chapter hooks and cryptic chapter titles. You can get away with that once, maybe, but now it’s happened a couple times and it’s frustrating. Someone put their hands on Grace’s shoulders! DUN DUN DUUUUHN! Phew, it was just Flint. Grace finds a spooky girl with rage face in the library! DUN DUN DUUUUUHN! Actually, she’s really nice and invites her for tea. But wait, she says they have to lie about everything and it’s really suspicious! DUN DUN DUUUUUN! Don’t worry, when you turn the page, you find out she’s just joking.
I can see why this book is popular, okay? It’s easy to read, the chapters are short so it feels like it moves fast (but we’re on chapter thirteen and it’s still her first full day at the school). But the mechanics of it are cheap and disappointing. I’m not writing this book off completely because, like I said, I’m still pretty invested in what’s happening, but I feel resentful that the author won’t just trust that I can stay interested in something without cheap tricks and gimmicks that don’t pay off.
Don’t forget to come hang out on my YouTube channel tomorrow starting at 2pm EST (or drop by any time, it’s real casual) for cake eating and a live reading of the Fifty Shades of Grey recaps. Oh, and chit-chat and such. It’ll be amazing.