While Jamie McGuire was busy favoriting tweets that threatened bloggers this weekend, I was reading chapter three of her book. I shall struggle to remain objective.
Chapter three begins with a confrontation between Rory and Ellie, the neighbor she hates. Ellie asks Rory who spent the night in her room, and we get a description of her long brown hair.
My hair used to be the same length as hers, but she didn’t feel like she had to wash blood out of hers every night.
There’s no way Rory could possibly know that. I mean, it’s a good guess, but how would Rory know? We also learn that their pants are of equal tightness, which Rory rejects on principle.
“I have to say,” she said, not waiting for my answer, “I’m surprised, whoever it was. Your new haircut is absolutely appalling.”
I’m flagging this for unrealistic dialogue. Maybe, “Your new haircut is ugly as fuck.” What the hell is this, some Jane Austen shit?
“Good,” I murmured.
“What was that?”
“I said, you’re a whore,” I replied, slinging my bag over my shoulder. That was definitely worth a smile, so I wore one all the way to class.
We finally find something Rory likes, and of course it’s being as unpleasant as possible.
Rory walks to class, dressed insufficiently for the cold.
Everyone else was wearing heavy coats and knitted hats, but I never thought about things like that. I had formulas and data sparking the synapses in my brain, along with horrible memories and now…the golden eyes of the confusing jerk I didn’t want to think about.
“I’m too smart to know how to put a coat on,” is not an argument I’ve heard before.
But what’s this with confusing jerk thing? Cyrus hasn’t acted like a jerk to her at all, unless you count weirdly stalking her. But books like this never count threatening behavior as jerkishness. And we haven’t had enough time with him to learn about his personality at all. He’s barely had any page time. So, Writing Tip: If the love interest in your book is a jerk, you need to show the reader times when he’s actually being a jerk. You can’t just tell us that he is one.
During class, at night, weekends, in the lab, I wondered about him.
Hold up, hold up. When the hell are we? I assumed that Ellie’s question about who spent the night was tied to her noticing Cyrus’s visit in the middle of the night. Now Rory has had weeks to contemplate him? Maybe I’m nitpicking, but in those two weeks, couldn’t we have seen some interaction between Rory and Cyrus that would give her reason to wonder about him?
It became a game for me to make up his history and background. I’d wonder if he had a happy childhood or if he was at Kempton to run away from an overbearing father. In every scenario, though, he was alone and lonely, and no matter how much I wanted to despise him, I just couldn’t even if it meant he was planning to steal my research assistant position.
Once again: nothing in the book so far has suggested that he’s trying to “steal” her position, and as many of you have pointed out in the comments, there’s usually more than one research assistant going on in a lab situation. The author is just telling us, through Rory’s POV, that he’s trying to steal her job.
Benji is more than willing to jump on the “Cyrus is evil” train, because he clearly wants to get with Rory. Even after she broke his nose and beat him up:
It had been two weeks since I smashed his nose, and the bruising had finally begun to fade.
Okay, so it’s now been two weeks since the last chapter. It feels good to know where we are in time.
Rory goes to lunch with Benji:
Eating with Benji was a much better alternative to eating alone in one of the cafeterias. He was the only student at KIT who didn’t have to blather on about whatever project he was working on, and he wasn’t bad to look at either.
Is Benji handsome? Because I feel like it hasn’t been pointed out to us enough. But it’s nice to see that Rory is consistent; she doesn’t just hate her own project, she hates everyone else’s too.
Rory can’t afford to be distracted in class, because her grades have slipped from A’s to B’s. (Side note: If there are any grammarians in the house, is “As and Bs” or “A’s and B’s”? I’ve never found a sufficient answer for this question). This could be just my experience, but for the brief time that I was in college, we didn’t refer to letter grades, but grade point average. This might be a nitpick, but this wording just contributes to the high school feel, to me. The reason she’s distracted in class is because she’s so busy thinking about Cyrus:
Just another reason to hate Cy. He was becoming a huge distraction.
That’s not his problem, Rory. It’s yours.
Benji notices Rory watching Cy:
“You’re doing it again,” Benji said.
“Watching him. I’m hoping it’s because you’re suspicious of him like me.”
What kind of scolding, controlling bullshit is that? Feel free to watch him, Rory, just as long as you’re not watching him in a way that’s threatening to the claim I have on you.
Rory tells Benji that she’s been noticing how Cy makes a bunch of random dots in his notebook all the time:
What I wasn’t telling him was that Cy’s dots were always in intricate patterns, and something he added in what looked like hieroglyphics.
I sincerely hope that this is because he’s an alien and not because he’s Egyptian.
But I wasn’t interest in investigating Cy and certainly not with Benji, so I kept that tidbit of information to myself.
She’s not interested in investigating him, but she sits around wondering about him all the time, and inventing stories about him. And she’s so not interested in investigating him, she’s kept track of how many of these dots he’s drawn on his paper during class, to the tune of two hundred and thirty-nine.
Rory goes to lunch with Benji, who talks about school:
“…so I said, ‘Therefore, I was correct. A meteor is a flash of light, not the debris.’ It’s just ridiculous he wasn’t aware of the difference at this level.”
“Agreed,” I said before taking a sip of my water.
I don’t know if you can actually be judgmental on this one, Rory. You’re not even interested in space rocks.
At Gigi’s Café, we have an opportunity to watch Rory pick at her food, reminding us that she doesn’t eat. Benji talks about how he’s not going to join a fraternity, and that he’s annoyed with people at “Charlie’s.” I tried to find other mentions of Charlie’s in the book, but for whatever reason the text isn’t searchable. I don’t think I’ve read about Charlie’s thus far, so I don’t have any clue what it is.
Benji asks Rory to come over and study with him, because her grades are slipping. She asks him how he knew that, and he says she told him. All she really said to him was that she couldn’t afford to miss any notes.
I tried to remember if I’d even told Benji that much. Telling him anything even remotely personal meant fifty questions and relentless attempts to make whatever it was better. Our friendship was comprised of his relentless positivity and chatter and my bitter quips.
Ah, so Benji is to Rory as Kate is to Ana Steele. What is so appealing about this dynamic to New Adult authors? “Ugh, I hate my friends, they’re way too caring and interested in me.” Who thinks that? Wouldn’t the better alternative just be to not have friends?
Rory tells Benji that Ellie has moved in to the room next to hers. She’s told Benji about Ellie, so he knows what she’s talking about
I wasn’t sure why she’d chosen me to torture. Mom once told me that people like her were miserable inside, and making others even more miserable was the only thing that made them feel better. I disagreed. Ellie Jones was just an evil, cum-burping gutter slut.
Is this really what people want to read? I mean, it obviously is, because it’s a theme in so many New Adult and Young Adult books. Every boy has to love the protagonist, every girl has to be either evil or less pretty than the heroine. That’s it. And then when the heroine has sex with the love interest, that’s okay. She’s not a slut. Just those other girls.
Honestly, I don’t think I have ever seen girl hate this strong in a book. It’s disgusting. We need to find the bacteria or spore or virus that makes New Adult authors look at their manuscripts and say, “You know what we don’t have enough of? Girl-on-girl hate. I should encourage the fuck out of this,” isolate it, and eradicate it. There are young women right now reading that line and cheering for the heroine. That’s fucked up.
Benji suggests that Rory help him pass the final, and he’ll buy her lunches when they eat out. And Rory is cool with this, even though:
When our food came, I tried to keep my attention on the cars passing by and the pedestrians walking their dogs, anything to keep from making eye contact with Benji. He was too happy anyway, and now that we would be hanging out regularly, his eyes were even brighter, and he couldn’t stop smiling. It was disturbing.
You didn’t have to agree to hang out with him. I’m not even sure why he wants to hang out with you.
Rory agrees to meet Benji before she has to start her night “at the Fitz.” Writing Tip: Even though you might run into places like Gigi’s cafe and Charlie’s and the Fitz in real life, it’s confusing to the reader if a lot of the place names in your book are people names. One probably won’t hurt, but you should find non-human names for your locations.
After a section break, Rory goes to Charlie’s, which is the dorm where Benji stays. Not confusing at all, right?
His biceps bulged as he moved, and it bugged me that I noticed how his skin rippled over the muscles and veins running through his thick forearms. It was probably just because I’d never seen him in a short-sleeved shirt before. Definitely not because anything about Benji could catch my eye. Or at least, that was what I was telling myself.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a love triangle foreshadowed so artlessly. And I read Twilight.
This is my favorite part of this book so far, by the way. We get a description of Benji’s room, including:
In the center of the desk, in front of a brown leather office chair, were four open laptops and one single perfectly sharpened pencil.
And then, in reference to an LCD monitor:
“I control that via remote and can check email from my bed,” Benji said.
And I’m like, “Uh, Benji? You could also check email from your bed on ONE OF THOSE FOUR LAPTOPS.”
Benji asks Rory where she wants to “do it,” as in, where does she want to study, but Rory hears it differently:
My surprise wasn’t because I was a virgin. Quite the opposite. After my parents died, I became a statistic, rebelling and giving myself to anyone–male or female–who didn’t mind if I lost myself in him or her for an hour or so.
Oh, so what you’re telling us is that you were a “cum-burping gutter slut” yourself?
So. Tired. So tired. Extremely tired of this whole, “sex is okay if the heroine is having it, all other female are whores” dynamic. And what’s with the “male or female” thing? It would be awesome if Rory were going to be a positive example of a bisexual character, but I guess I just don’t have confidence that “male or female” isn’t being used as code for, “She was so fucked up and dangerous, she would even do lesbo shit!” I don’t know. I just can’t see the great mind that brought us “cum-burping gutter slut” bringing us a nuanced portrayal of a bisexual heroine. “Male or female” here is being used to show us that the lowest point this character reached was having sex with girls.
Rory and Benji study and eat Chinese food, and Benji asks Rory if she wants to go out sometime. Not on a date. Just studying somewhere in public.
Benji, I am getting real tired of your can’t-take-no-for-an-answer bullshit. Rory has made it pretty clear so far that she’s not into you like that. Stop trying to win her over with Chinese food and making her feel bad for not helping you get good grades by studying with you.
Rory leaves and thinks:
He was cute, and I liked spending the afternoon with him far too much. I was getting to know him too well. And he smelled too good. Caring was dangerous, for both of us.
This is one of those times when I’m reading a book and I realize that the author is depending on the reader to bring past experience with other stories with them, so the author doesn’t have to work as hard. “I could build a character and show the reader why it would be impossible for them to have a relationship, thus giving validation to their fear of emotional intimacy with others, but instead I’ll just tell them that caring about someone would be dangerous and trust that they’ve read enough ‘damaged heroine’ books to just blindly accept it.” We haven’t seen any reason why it would be “dangerous” for someone to get close to Rory. We know that she has been through a horrible trauma and is therefore probably afraid to get close to anyone else. But what about that makes it “dangerous” for Benji to like her?
Whatever the reason Benji had for liking me, it was the wrong reason. If I had to tell myself that a thousand times a day, I would. If that wasn’t enough, I would remind myself that getting involved with Benji would inevitably hurt him, and if I cared about him enough to even entertain the thought of ruining his life by giving in to his stupid crush, I should care about him enough to push him away. I was messed-up. A sob story. A charity case.
Okay, but… you don’t push him away. You hang out with him constantly, and while you tell him you don’t want things to get messy, you never really draw a line in the sand and say, “I’m sorry if you think this is something that it isn’t, but we won’t be dating.” If you don’t want to date him, but it’s clear that he thinks you’ll eventually give in, you have to be firm. And if he won’t take no for an answer, stop hanging out with him entirely.
And still: why would it ruin his life for Rory to get involved with him? I mean, I can sit here and extrapolate and arrive at a pretty good conclusion. For example: Rory is too emotionally damaged, she doesn’t trust herself to be with anyone because she wants to protect her heart, she’s too fucked up to be good for anybody. But I shouldn’t have to do that work in my head. The book should show me that.
Rory goes to the lab, where Cy is waiting. She asks him if he recorded the “isotopic signatures” because they’re important, and he lets her shout at him until she feels better about the rest of her night. Then the chapter ends.