A blogger contacted me about the possibility that Apolonia could be a Roswell fanfic (the blogger who contacted me is not affiliated with the link). Having never watched Roswell myself, I wouldn’t know. I’m also not familiar enough with McGuire’s background to know whether or not she has published fanfic in the past, though I have heard that allegation leveled at her before. I haven’t seen any kind of obvious trail, like with E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Grey. If you’re familiar with Roswell and notice anything, feel free to discuss it in the comments.
Chapter two opens in Dr. Zoidberg’s lab:
Water? Check. Muffin? Check. Even handsomer in his black-rimmed glasses, the spot-stealer sitting at the table to my left, working his ass off?
Heads up, the underlines are my attempt at representing italics, since the default font for quotes in this WordPress theme seems to be italics, and I don’t know how to change something like that.
So, Cyrus, who was only okay-looking in the last chapter, is clearly starting to grow on Rory. They’ve been working on the “boring rock,” the one that’s made of some totally unknown mineral that no one on earth has ever seen before. Rory bemoans the fact that she can’t type and look through the microscope at the same time. Many of you who are actual scientists and not just an author/blogger who occasionally dabbles with water, pepper, and soap just to see the if the same thing still happens. The science types have informed us that a rock made of a totally unknown substance from space would a) not bore someone who was into science, and b) not be entrusted to a professor at a small college, let alone a student researcher. And probably not one who can’t multitask.
Cyrus and Rory have a Twilight moment, complete with microscope and golden eyes:
Just once, I’d caught him glancing at me. His golden eyes returned to the microscope so quickly that I thought it was my imagination.
I will now be on the lookout for descriptions of Cyrus’s eyes that include the words “ochre” or “butterscotch.”
Oh, shut up. Like you haven’t read Twilight.
I chewed off another hangnail, spit it on the cement floor, and then took a bite of my pathetic dinner.
Okay, so, I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure some of you are going to point out that she’s not only eating in a lab, but she’s putting her fingers in her mouth and spitting on the floor. Anyone who’s taken a high school chemistry class knows that all three of those things are probably not okay. I mean, the last one alone is just manners.
Whatever science Rory and Cyrus are doing involves looking into microscopes and recording numbers, and Rory is racing Cyrus. He finally packs it in at midnight, and Rory is delighted because she can tell Dr. Zoidberg that she’s the better research assistant. You may remember that in the previous chapter, Dr. Zoidberg made it clear that he wasn’t interested in firing Rory, but Rory refuses to let go of her fear that she’ll be fired by her long-time family friend.
Rory leaves work at one in the morning:
There was an elevator with a set of stairs on each side, which I preferred. I had an aversion to elevators, especially alone and at night. That was where I’d met my killers.
After climbing the stairs and pushing through both sets of glass doors out to the front of the building, I noticed a group of students walking and then another group. Scanning the area, I saw that many students were heading in the same destination, and feeling like a lemming, I joined the line.
Writing Tip: Exposition can be hard to pull off. You have to know exactly how much detail to give, and when to give it. This is not one of McGuire’s strong suits in this book. “I had an aversion to elevators, especially alone and at night,” would be fine here. Later, when there’s time to explore the killers thing, the reader would remember, either consciously or subconsciously, that she’d mentioned this, and it would be perceived as foreshadowing. Or, if the author wanted to include this information right now, there should have been more than just, “Oh, by the way, my killers.” We get this huge piece of information, and then immediately move on. What we move on to isn’t more interesting than learning about her killers. The next paragraph is all “the students do this, the students do that.” We just learned in a brief aside something about the people who tried to murder you and your family. We don’t care about walking. Either don’t tell us about the killers, or expand upon them.
Rory follows the lemming line for five blocks. Like, she literally just goes along with them, doesn’t break off or go to her place or anything. She follows them into a house and shit:
The group led me five blocks off campus to an old building, down the stairs, and through a door.
Wait a minute, Rory. You won’t get on an elevator alone and at night, but you’ll blindly join a group of students you don’t know at one in the morning and go into some strange basement?
Come on now.
It was a rave, the fake kind with sorority girls and wannabe think-tank members. In the two years since I’d moved east to Kempton, I’d stayed far away from raves, parties, rallies, underground fights, and people in general.
I think it’s hilarious that she’s avoided all these places where literally every New Adult book seems to end up in by the end of the first chapter.
Yet here I was, for no particular reason, breathing in heavy smoke, stepping in sticky god-knows-what, and allowing the Top 40 to violate my eardrums.
Someone has a case of the Anastasia Steeles here. This is yet another heroine who doesn’t. Like. Anything. To the point that it’s super ridiculous; she’s crashing a party in a strange place that she hasn’t been invited into, she got there just by following strangers, and now she’s complaining about the music? WHY DID YOU GO IN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
She tries to leave, but accidentally shoves the door into Benji’s face. He gets a nosebleed, so Rory takes matters into her own hands and cuts him to the front of the bathroom line.
“Hey!” a girl whined. “You can’t cut!”
“Deal with it,” I said before closing the door in her face.
Rory tends to Benji’s wounds, and he admits that he only came into the party because he saw her going in there. Why was Benji out this late? Was he following her or something? Shouldn’t almost-got-murdered Rory be more cautious about this? Why doesn’t she have that thought?
Benji’s smile was sheepish and annoyingly charming.
*adds “sheepish, charming smiles” to lists of things Rory dislikes*
His short sandy-brown hair was parted and feathered back just so, and his almond-shaped brown eyes disappeared behind a curtain of long eyelashes that any woman would pay good money for. Teeth an orthodontist would be proud of along with a strong jawline would score him any number of nice young ladies.
Wait. He’s kind of sounding like he looks like actual Benji, doesn’t he?
I hated to admit it,
Of course you do. You hate everything.
but I was maybe just a tiny bit attracted to Benji. But he was nice. Too nice. And I didn’t want nice. I didn’t want anyone.
I don’t know, the constant emphasis on how hot Benji is in the first chapter, plus the fact that you’re the heroine in an NA book, leads me to believe that this is not the case. However, Benji is the first male love interest we’re meeting, and he’s not the one with the gold eyes, so I’m guessing he’s not going to be the guy ring-a-ding-dinging your bell by the time we hit the halfway point.
Benji wants to walk Rory home, but Rory walks him home instead, because of all the blood loss. But when they get here, he’s pretty persistent about wanting to walk her home. Again, he just happened to bump into Rory at one in the morning at this party neither of them had known about, that he’d just happened to see her go into. My prediction is that he’s either secretly evil, or following her to protect her.
As she tries to leave, he grabs her wrist:
Out of pure instinct, I grabbed his wrist with my free hand and pulled him over my shoulder, slamming him on the ground. He grunted as the air got knocked out of him when he hit the cement.
Now, wait. Isn’t she like, emaciated from never eating anything? Didn’t we cover that in the first chapter? She said she’d been steadily losing weight for two years because she doesn’t like to eat. That doesn’t sound like someone who’s going to have the strength to flip a grown man over her shoulder and slam him into the ground. I realize there are all kinds of self-dense courses that teach these kinds of moves where you use your opponent’s weight against them and blah blah blah, but I’m not buying the super strength if it doesn’t come up as a huge plot point later.
Rory is embarrassed that she’s done this and she feels annoyed that she has to stay there and be nice to him. Which I get, because she was just trying to leave, and he grabbed at her. She should have just left him on the ground and been like, “Do not touch people without their prior consent!” But she feels awkward, so she sticks around while he continues to try to pressure her into letting him walk her home, into going on a food run, and he even grabs her wrist again when she tries to leave. He says:
“You broke my nose. You can’t give me five minutes of sympathy conversation?”
This all makes me think he’s a villain, but then again, this is a New Adult novel, and a lot of them feature romantic heroes who act just like this, creating obligations to force their way past the heroine’s boundaries.
Benji asks Rory why she went to the party, and instead of telling him she was just wandering along, she says she needed to get out. He suggests going to the gym to burn off excess energy, and invites her to come with him. Finally, he lets Rory leave and she heads back to her dorm.
Huh. She’s a junior living in the dorms? Didn’t we have a conversation about this in the After recaps?
As Rory passes the elevators:
My mother’s eyes flashed through my mind. I’d seen the line between her brows and the strange look in her gaze just before she died. My father always said she was tough. She was, even as she took her last breath. her eyes held so much sadness–for being helpless to save me and for the life she thought I would miss out on. She didn’t think about herself in those last moments. She was asking me for forgiveness with her eyes, and through the dirty rag tied around my mouth, I gave it to her. I just couldn’t forgive myself.
This is GREAT! This is such a great piece of exposition! She’s triggered by the sight of the elevator, and she’s relieving this horrible moment that is full of micro-events that will later be a piece of the fully revealed puzzle, I assume. This is fantastic. However, Writing Tip: This would have been so much better before the party. If she’d seen the elevators and, instead of thinking about her killers, she thought about her mother. And she had this little scene, and suddenly, whoa, she’s at the party. It would have been super effective in establishing that this girl has PTSD, and she’s just going on autopilot and it explain why someone as cautious as Rory is would have gone into that party in the first place.
The pieces are all here, they’re just not in the most effective order.
As it stands, she does have a moment where she realizes she can’t remember getting to her room, and then boom, she’s there. She flops down on her bed and:
A groan escaped from my throat, loud enough for my neighbor Ellie, the bossy, bitchy beauty of the campus to hear. She loved to tell me that my crappy music was too loud, my clothes were too black, and my social life was too sad. It was okay though because I was proud of the fact that I didn’t listen to cheesy pop songs or let everyone see my tits in one of four hundred too-tight V-neck sweaters, and I wasn’t a slutty, whorish whore.
Just when I was like, “Gosh, there isn’t as much over-the-top girl-hate as I would have expected in a New Adult novel, ” the Nuh-Uh train just came crashing into My Last Nerve station. I don’t care if she does follow that up with:
Okay, that was harsh.
It’s still some shitty, slut-shaming nonsense right there (and you all know I do not fall for that “just playin'” nonsense. If I say, “just playin,” it’s because I’m making it known that I just talked some shit about you and I don’t regret it). It’s not like Rory goes, “Okay, that was harsh, I should know better than to hurl misogynist insults at a fellow student who is just trying to be a woman in college, which is super fucking dangerous.” She’s like, “Okay, that was harsh.”:
But in our four semesters at Kempton, she’d had the dicks of at least three professors in at least one of her orifices–and those were only the ones she’d bragged about.
Does it matter? If she’s sleeping with a professor, even if she instigated it, the professor is the one doing wrong here. If she’s bragging about it, she’s clearly not planning on getting a good grade or anything, because she’s going to be disciplined and probably kicked out and the professor is probably going to get a slap on the wrist. And it really doesn’t matter because it doesn’t have any bearing on Rory’s life at all. In fact, none of this is necessary. We’re reading a story about a girl who a) was nearly the final death in a grisly, possibly cult-related mass-murder, and b) has access to a space rock. She doesn’t need a stereotypical hot-for-teacher female to bitch about.
Also, it makes Rory sound immature, more like a teenager than an adult in college.
Without any transition at all, Rory thinks:
I turned onto my side, hoping, praying that I would fall asleep before the memories came too fast and hard to block out.
Hey, look at that. The scathing indictment against slutty, whoreish whores has split the emotional conflict in a weird place. It’s like a game of Duck, Duck, Goose, only this time it’s Murder, Murder, Whore, Murder. Jumping from Rory’s emotional trauma to slut-shaming and back to Rory’s emotional trauma makes this scene disjointed and jarring. It’s almost as thought the aside about Ellie-the-slut was unnecessary and hampers the narrative flow, and the book would have been better without it.
Rory sees feet blocking the light coming in under the door. She decides to get the jump on whatever is out there, and surprise, it’s the love triangle, delivered in thirty-minutes or less. It’s Cyrus, and he tells Rory that he’s been listening outside her door.
Cy held out his palms, walking into my room.
Well, come right in, then, jeez.
“No, no, please. It’s not as salacious as it appears. I was just making sure you were home. Safe.”
Oh. Well, then that makes total sense, that you should come by at like two in the morning to check on her, Edward.
Rory says she doesn’t need anyone checking up on her, and Cyrus (Cy to his friends) says:
“I apologize for the intrusion. I couldn’t help myself. I told myself many times that I shouldn’t.”
“So, why did you?”
That’s not what he says, he just says he doesn’t know, and leaves. But we know that Edward was in his heart, and that’s all we need.
So, despite being aggressively stalked by two dudes in one night and suffering PTSD flashbacks about the night her entire family died in front of her, Rory ends the chapter like this:
I shut the door and locked it, my anger and confusion quickly doused with an uncontrollable smile.