Jealous Hater’s Book Club: Apolonia, chapter three

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.

"Tell me about it."

“Tell me about it.”

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.

Bringing back a recap classic.

Bringing back a recap classic.

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.

104 thoughts on “Jealous Hater’s Book Club: Apolonia, chapter three

  1. Just to answer your grammar question real quick, “A’s and B’s” is correct in order to avoid confusion. It’s one of the rare instances where you can use an apostrophe to make a plural.

    Also, how can you read this book? I’m bored to tears just reading the little excerpts.

    1. I agree with Renee on both counts: the grammar answer and the horrible book. I’m starting to feel like it’s the worst you’ve slogged through yet. Is that true? If so, may the gods have mercy on your soul.

      1. I’ve always been told As and Bs, which makes a lot more sense to me because of the apostrophe thing (I mean, why would you use apostrophes? It’s not possessive and it’s not a contraction).

        Having said that, I’m from the UK and a lot of our grammar/punctuation rules and conventions are slightly different from US ones.

        1. The reason is it avoids confusion. Are you saying multiple instances of the letter A or are you writing the word “as”? Are you using the abbreviation for bull shit or are you talking about multiple instances of the letter B?

          See what I mean about it being for clarity? Sometimes that’s necessary even when it goes against usual grammar and punctuation rules. Farther down in the comments I posted a reference to a couple style guides that back me up. But the UK may very well have different style conventions regarding this. I’m coming from an American grammar rule stance. :-)

          1. I’m from the UK and I’m pretty sure we would write A’s and B’s, as you say, for clarity. Also the convention here (as in the US) is to apostrophise abbreviations such as DVD. I remember having an argument with a former boss about promotional beer mats that said “Dos and Donts”. That is correct grammar, but it looks awful and is not easy to read. I lost and the design went in a file with a post-it that said “Spockchick objects”.

          2. We actually would write DVDs because that isn’t quite so confusing due to multiple, capitalized letters.

            I agree about the other. I would write that “Do’s and Don’ts.” You don’t want too many apostrophes in one word.

            Some American style guides do allow As and Bs, but most are A’s and B’s. MLA and APA, used mostly in academia, call for As and Bs. But those style guides allow a lot of things that I think make for bad writing.

          3. I’m thinking that maybe there isn’t a hard-and-fast “correct” way of doing it. I just try to avoid confusion by not putting words like “As,” as in more than one A, at the beginning of a sentence. That way, the capital letter makes it stand out. I do see this a lot because my football team is nicknamed “The Us” (short for United and admittedly a bit lame). You can’t write it all in capitals because then you’re talking about America; you can’t put it at the beginning of a sentence because it turns into a pronoun. Which it kind of looks like anyway. Personal preference and style: meh.

  2. This is random, but in high school it was grade point averages and in university it was A’s and B’s, where i’m from. So that bit reads normal to me. Your mileage may vary of course.

    Sooo… Benji is rich as well as ripped? That’s a lot of laptops.
    Girl hate, euuw. Hypocrisy, euuw.

    I think that if Rory was just self-centered rather than overtly hateful, this would be a moderately more interesting story. But she’s just so unlikeable I can’t believe she’s ever going to BE likeable. If you start your main character in a hole that deep, there has to be some reason for me as a reader to endure her bullshit and right now, there isn’t. Worse, it’s first person, so i’m stuck in her head, which is awful. If i’m reading a book and asking why i’m doing this to myself, and it’s NOT because i’m too emotionally involved, you’re doing it wrong.

  3. I stopped getting letter grades in like second grade when my school switched to a 1-5 system. Then in 7th grade I went to high school and everything after that is percentage.

    1. We got letter grades all through school — kindergarten through senior year.

      In college, we got a GPA, but professors wrote letter grades on papers and such and I always thought of my overall grades in terms of letters.

      My cousins had GPAs and not letter grades in their high school.

      It definitely differs depending on where you are, so I don’t think this particular point in the book is off, necessarily.

      1. But how common is that now? Because your audience is supposed to be in college right now. And I’m in high school *right now* and I get a percentage.

        1. No idea. My cousins were in school at the same time I was and they got a GPA number and I got letter grades. If you went to a different school in a different place, you might get a GPA or letter grades instead of a percentage. It differs by district and has nothing to do with time period.

        2. I graduated college in 2009. We had a GPA but we were also aware that the GPA translated into letters by cetrain points. I forget what they were now, but something like 4.0+ was A, 3-4 was B, 2-1 was C, etc. I’m just making up the breakdowns though.

        3. I graduated high school in 2003 and had letter grades (and was aware of my GPA, though less so), and graduated college in 2007 and had letter grades as well, though I was slightly more aware of my GPA than I was in high school. It varies more by geography than generation.

        4. I just graduated from a US university in Dec 2013. My classes used various combos of letter grades, percentages, points fractions, and 4.0-0.0 scale grading. Total class grade was the last one, often with a conversion chart to letter grades in the syllabus. Science classes were usually heavily curved while humanities were not, but in either case, the teachers would help students stay updated on their current letter grade.

  4. How can something be dull and infuriating at the same time? I suspect that what’s her face doesn’t tell Benji that it’s never going to happen because of a combination of the following: she secretly likes him hanging all over her, she thinks that her subtle clues are enough and she thinks that just plainly saying that she won’t date him is ‘rude.’ Because girls expressing their romantic disinterest clearly is almost always considered harsh or mean or unfair in these sort of books.

  5. Y’know, I’ve read some epicly bad crap in my time, but I’d have DNFed this book at this point. The protagonist is terrible – she loathes everything, has nothing but contempt for everyone and there’s a desperate attempt to force a narrative through Rory’s POV which just fails because the only conclusion is that Rory is a truly horrible person

  6. I’m still super confused about when the hell this chapter takes place. So neighbor person is asking about who was over last night (which was apparently jerk dude). Dude came over after she punched Muscles Richpants in the nose. So why the hell is the neighbor asking about who visited last night when its two weeks later? Have there been multiple visits? Am i making this more confusing? Or did I miss something that separated the conversation with the walking?

  7. Ughhhh, the male-and-female thing is such a missed opportunity! Instead of two male love interests, she could have made Cyrus a girl and actually make it a love triangle by having it go girl!Cyrus likes Benji, but Benji likes Rory, but Rory likes girl!Cyrus. But that would have been way too interesting and progressive.

  8. “Cum-burping gutter slut” made me wonder if we weren’t reading the rants of an MRA. That is truly vile. Especially coming from someone who went through a “slut phase” herself. I guess having a lot of sex is only acceptable if you’re going through deep emotional trauma?

    1. Not only that, but when she says “people like that are miserable” and want to make others feel the same, I’m like … we’re talking about the heroine here, right? Because that’s a dead-on description of her!

      1. I thought the exact same thing at that point! I also think the book club name is a great description of her… she seems to be quite the jealous hater.

    2. I found that particularly ugly, too. Why would you have your character say that about anyone? I get that we’re painting Ellie as a mean girl, but the most she’s done so far is ask a few prying questions. The insult comes out of nowhere and really makes me dislike the MC… even more than I already did.

      1. what?? that’s almost as distressing to me as the content of this book. we compared a beloved family dog to honey badgers constantly, mostly because she had black-and-white-coloring and once got hit by a car and just shrugged it off. ;____; now my memories feel dirtied.

        1. Oh no! Don’t let terrible people ruin honey badgers for you! Your dog deserved the name far more than they ever will. If it helps, it always amuses me to think that the other group of people that identify as honey badgers are Hufflepuffs (me!), and there are far more people who identify with a fictional school group than women who identify with that disgusting, toxic movement.

    3. I wouldn’t be so enraged if it was at least original. I remember this phrase being used as an insult…ooh…twenty years ago?

    4. Seriously! Is her excuse ‘I went through a traumatic time, so it’s cool I slept with lots of people. This other bitch is perfectly fine! ENJOYING sex! Like a whore!’ I can’t with this shit.

    5. I was absolutely positively shocked when I read that phrase. Why is this incredibly ugly hatred necessary in this book?

      …I’m just glad I didn’t pay full price for this garbage. I don’t think care what happens in the rest of the book, tbh, I feel pretty certain I can already call it.

  9. First off, I wanna say this book is absolutely horrendous. The MC is incredibly unlikeable and even though first person books are simplistic in descriptions (as people usually do not think in wordy and colourful details) this is overly so. I don’t know how you’re able to read this, Jenny, but I’m in awe of your willpower.
    Also, I was wondering if you were going to write about the YouTube video “10 hours of walking in NYC as a woman” beacuse it is getting major controversy, and let me tell you, the comments on the video are absolutely disgusting. I was hoping you would do a article on it because I really like to hear your thoughts on the video and the comments about said video.
    Anyway, another funny recap, and I can’t wait for more!

    1. I watched the ’10 hours walking in NYC as a woman’ video and the comments are indeed disgusting. There’s a weird sense of entitlement that usually seems to go with this kind of harassment.

      The first assumption is that women dress to get the attention of men. I don’t know why men think that. Do they do that themselves? Do they stand in front of the mirror every morning going ‘what would women like me to wear?’ Men and women aren’t that different. Most of the time people dress the way they dress because they feel comfortable and confident in the clothes they’ve chosen to wear.

      The second assumption is that a strange woman walking by would care what a strange man would say to her. I mean, that’s why people say things to each other, right? Because we assume the other person cares about our opinion and wants to hear it. A lot of the men in the video appear to think that they’re complimenting her by paying attention to her and telling her that she’s beautiful. But, again, they’re all strangers. She doesn’t know them. Why should she care about what they think?

      The third assumption is that because the men have ‘complimented’ her they are entitled to some kind of a response. No, they’re not. They have voiced an uninvited and (judging by her response) undesired opinion. They do not have any right to her time or attention. She is not obligated to say ‘thank you’ or smile or acknowledge them in any way.

      The sense of entitlement some men display is baffling.

    2. ‘The MC is incredibly unlikeable and even though first person books are simplistic in descriptions (as people usually do not think in wordy and colourful details) this is overly so. ‘

      I think you’re being generous. There are plenty of first person books written well that never made me question the character’s speech. Because I was busy enjoying the book. This is just a terrible first person experience. You definitely feel trapped in the mind of some boring bitter dud.

  10. I can’t tell if it’s just the recap format or if the plot is seriously this disjointed. Also, ew to that gross slut shaming and girl-on-girl hate. I’ve never read a more vile phrase.

  11. I thought the part about her being dangerous for Benji was a hint that the people who killed her family and friend are still after her, or at least Rory fears they are. So, anyone close to her is in danger of getting caught up in that, which makes her feel obligated to isolate herself.
    Actually, it would make sense for Rory to have some kind of survivor’s guilt that stops her from letting herself enjoy anything in life. If that were played up, it might make her character more sympathetic. The girl-hate still has to go though- no sympathy for that.

  12. This is the point where it became far too obvious that Rory is just sex-negative Ana Steele with a couple bits pasted in to make her seem extra damaged and gothy.

    I mean, there are people who both have lots of sex themselves and who judge others for doing so, but I can’t even figure out who Rory might be having hypocritical sex with. She spends most of her free time in the lab. She doesn’t like parties. The only person she seems to hang out with is Nice Guy Benji. She’s not awkwardly running into her past hookups or having to deal with people she’s led on or getting texts from anyone who’d like to hang out again. And, speaking of Benji, does he have some sort of opinion about the fact that the woman he has this chaste crush on sleeps with everyone but him? These people are all up in each other’s business, which is about right for a small college, so he presumably is aware of this. I wouldn’t want more slut shaming in the book than there is, but this seems like something that character should care about in some way.

    Maybe Rory sneaks out to bars on the other side of town, hooks up with people who aren’t in college, and is really careful not to give anyone her phone number? Or maybe she’s just Ana with a few details changed.

    1. I think, going by the excerpt, she used to be a cum-burping gutter slut. For a while right after the initial trauma. Not that she still is.

      1. Ah, that makes a little more sense. I still get a big, “Oh please,” when I think about the person described doing anything more rebellious than cutting her hair oddly within the past couple of years, though.

  13. the part with the coats is such a missed opportunity. what data is she even thinking about if not the super cool space rock??? she should be mulling over that data while she walks to class, and sharing with us so that we can start to speculate and get interested, and then someone startles her when she gets to class by asking where her coat is / asking “omg, aren’t you cold?!” it can even be benji/cy offering her his coat. you can’t absentmindedly forget something if you’re thinking about how leaving it behind makes you better than everyone else. that’s just weird.

    1. I used to work with a guy who was that deeply into his scientific work. He would sometimes show up at work with his shirt on inside out or the buttons not lined up. After he got married that quit happening. I think his wife must have double checked his outfit before he left the house.

      1. He probably was completely unaware of it, though. And he probably didn’t think it made him better or smarter than the people who dressed more neatly.

        This character recognizes that it’s cold enough for a coat but she doesn’t wear one because she doesn’t have time to think about it, as though wearing a coat and hat means you’re somehow inferior intellectually. I’m thinking it’s the opposite. Winters up north are pretty brutal …

  14. I never thought I’d EVER say this, but After was far more interesting than this. I don’t know how you can slog through this crap Jenny, I have to agree with Renee, bored is putting it mildly. Ouch.

  15. I seem to have made a habit of looking up the books you talk about. Still finding it hard to believe garbage like this is what’s popular. What happened to needing a plot and character development? Where are the problems that aren’t just in the main character’s (whiner’s) head?

  16. You know, one interesting explanation of a little girl hate between Ellie and Rory would be that Ellie was one of the girls Rory banged, and they really liked each other, but she they severely fucked it up by being uncomfortable with their sexuality, and neither of them got over it.

    And then they could work it out and waltz off into the sunset together in the end. UuU

    1. I would read that book in a heartbeat! I might just pretend they had sex anyway, it’d make this book much more interesting …

  17. Rory makes me miss that lovable and friendly Anastasia Rose Steele, just like “50″ made me appreciate the engaging plot and originality of “Twilight”. Dear god, tell me there isn’t a book that makes this one look good in comparison.

  18. I think Charlie’s is mentioned in the ffirstchapter. Its like the nickname for the dorm, but I had forgotten that by the time I read this chapter.

  19. So any promiscuous female character who is not the heroine is “an evil, cum-burping gutter slut?” Wow. I’m so glad I did’t give this author a dime. Have strength, Jenny.

  20. When i got to the point where you excerpted the walk and how happy Benji was, i had to read it twice because i suddenly thought he was dog Benji. My little dachshund has muscles, why not Benji? And her

    reasoning for not wanted to fall for Benji sounds good because taking care
    of a dog is alot of work.
    To clairify – the part where they are eating and dogs are walking by. I think thats what threw me but still, i think dog benji makes it more interesting.

  21. The Bisexual Sisterhood has deputized me to respond in this matter:


    Thank you for your time.

  22. I have to confess that I enjoy a little girl-on-girl hate in a story — which make me feel worse than enjoying dubcon — but I’m thinking more along the lines of Taffy Sinclair or Lila in Sweet Valley High being snobby or stealing someone’s boyfriend, not a grown-ass adult spewing that kind of bile. I think I’m drawn to the idea of a young girl having a distinct, defeatable nemesis , a fantasy that contrasts with the death-by-a-thousand-cuts that young women deal with in real life.
    I thought I was an epic cusser, but “cum-burping” is new to me, and disgusts me.

  23. At least “isotopic signatures” are a thing. Which……are not consistent with the rest of what is depicted in the “science” parts of this book. I can’t imagine what type of “looking through a microscope counting things” study would be undertaken in the same lab as a radio- or stable isotope study.

    Look, I know that this isn’t supposed to be a scientifically-accurate book, but I also think a couple of quick google searches would have made this a lot less scientifically objectionable.

    1. I know, I tripped over that as well! Like, yes, you can analyze materials to find out their isotopic signatures, but the signatures themselves are not a thing one can ‘count’ like one can count numbers of microfossils or bacteria.

      There’s no excuse for this kind of authorial sciencefail when many, many places on the internet can quickly tell you what you need to know.

  24. The entire timeframe of this book and this character’s plot is BAFFLING to me.


    So, Rory’s parents and best friend were killed. Five months later, she started college. Now it’s two years later and she’s starting her junior year.

    Except…if they died five months before her freshman year, wouldn’t it now be more like two and a half years since they died? And five months before September is April. You’ve already submitted your college apps and gotten your acceptances and rejections by then. What’s all this (from Chapter 1) about Dr. Zoidberg filling out her college application, then?

    (At one point I actually constructed a whole theory about how her family had been killed in AUGUST and Zoidberg petitioned the school to let her start in January, which would make the dates line up better…but the book doesn’t seem to indicate that?)


    Chapter 1 was the first day of school, and Chapter 2 was a night of research that *seemed* to take place pretty soon after Ch1. Chapter 3 starts…either the next day or two weeks after Ch2, and goes for perhaps a week. Which would indicate we’re maybe a month into the school year.

    Except…Benji is already talking about studying for his finals? And at the beginning of Ch3 everyone (except Special Rory) is wearing heavy coats and hats, which…early October in Indiana is not coat-and-hat weather. Hoodie weather, MAYBE. What time is it???


    Okay, this is not strictly a timeframe question. But:

    -He’s a junior (I assume) but still talking about whether he’s going to join a fraternity?
    -He owns four laptops??
    -He’s suspicious of Cy for absolutely no reason???
    -Four laptops???? And also a desktop i guess (unless the LCD monitor is just so he can dual screen ONE OF HIS FOUR LAPTOPS??)??

    1. I get it. He thinks Cyrus is a 21-Jump Street style undercover cop trying to bust his drug.
      It explains the suspicion and the INSANE number of laptops (drug money is hard to launder). No one needs more than two laptops and maybe an extra LCD monitor or two. I’m saying this as an aspiring IT professional too BTW.

      Or maybe Jamie doesn’t know as much about college as a NA writer should.

    2. There’s definitely something up with Benji! Not only does he have four laptops and a suspicious nature, but he’s known Rory for a couple of years and she’s only just now seen him in a short sleeved shirt? Maybe the reason for that is that he always has to wear a jacket to cover a concealed weapon.

      (Or not, but Benji the police officer/spy is more fun than Benji the Nice Guy.)

    3. I got stuck on the four laptops as well. So he has four laptops…and not a smart phone, from which you can check your email ANYWHERE?!
      He better be a computer science major, because my nephew is one and only has one laptop (plus a tablet and a smart phone).

  25. I can’t quite tell, is this snippet a typo from the book, or a typo you made putting the text in the review?-

    ‘…and no matter how much I wanted to despise him, I just could even it meant he was planning to steal my research assistant position.’
    Specifically the ‘I just could even it’.

  26. Okay, this is a non-sequitur to your post, but I didn’t know where else to ask you. Have you been following the news on Jian Ghomeshi? The short version is that he assaulted multiple women during non-consensual rough sex, and is now seeking legal action against his former employer, claiming that they were passing judgment on his BDSM lifestyle. I see this as a perpetuation of the 50 Shades nonsense, when people started blathering about how if you thought Christian Grey was abusive, you just didn’t “get ” BDSM. Would love to hear your thoughts on this, if it interests you.

    1. It’s weird. I haven’t seen any US outlets or writers mention it at all, and it’s kind of a huge deal up here in Canada. I guess our news really doesn’t make it down there very easily.

    2. I think Jenny wrote in another post that she won’t be covering Jian Gomeshi due to wanting to keep up her own mental health.

  27. Someone else answered this in an opposing way, and I don’t want to argue about it back and forth, but I don’t believe it should be A’s and B’s. The apostrophe does not denote possession or stand in for missing letters/words, which are the two reasons apostrophes are ever used. In English, when you make something plural by adding an s to it, you never add an apostrophe, so why would you do so for single letters? An apostrophe looks less weird, I guess, in this circumstance, but it does not seem grammatically correct to me. As an analogue, it’s not 1990′s, it’s 1990s.

    /three years as a professional copy editor after a lifetime of doing it for free

    1. Yeah. You might want to not charge for copy editing because you are wrong:

      The “Plural Apostrophe”

      All too often, writers use apostrophes to make certain words plural. With some rare exceptions (e.g., the Chicago and AP style guides recommend, to varying degrees, inserting an apostrophe to make single letters plural to avoid confusion — like “straight A’s”), this should not happen.

      /12 years as a professional writer and editor.

        1. I’m looking at Chicago right now. It’s not particularly clear. It uses “the three Rs” as an example, but then states if the letters are lower case, you use the apostrophe. So if I write As and the context clues aren’t clear, how do you know what I mean? Multiple instances of A or “as”? It also suggests “maybe’s” rather than “maybes.”

          Your argument was it isn’t possessive, but neither is “maybe’s,” and that’s what Chicago recommends.

          Grammar Girl also recommends A’s and B’s as opposed to As and Bs. The vast majority of writers and editors prefer A’s and B’s.

        1. It was. But then if you’re actually being paid to be an expert in something you should actually know what you’re doing. It’s extremely common and accepted to write A’s and B’s. Even if your particular style manual favors As and Bs, you should know it isn’t the only correct option.

          This is an extremely frustrating thing for me because three times since I started working at my job we have had to hire a second editor/writer and I end up doing both of our jobs because the new hire who is supposed to know these things doesn’t.

          It’s also a huge part of why so many terribly written books get published.

  28. Good God, this book is so boring. (Not your recaps, of course. They’re great.) And I completely did a double take at “cum-burping gutter slut.” I haven’t seen an insult that vile and I’m on ontd all the time. It seems like Rory is projecting her own self-loathing onto Ellie, which just makes me dislike Rory even more and feel sorry for Ellie, and that probably wasn’t the author’s objective. Oh, well. Team Ellie.

    I cop to writing some girl-on-girl hate myself in old manuscripts, but it was more along the lines of Mean Girls-esque scheming/backstabbing rather than this kind of virgin/whore dichotomy bullshit. The latter seems especially prevalent these days in NA/YA and I find that very disturbing.

    1. When I was reading this chapter recap, I literally thought, “I know it’s the opposite of what you intend, author, but I’m Team Ellie.” I’ll make us matching team shirts!

      Slutty, slutty crop top shirts.

      I also genuinely don’t know what the author intended with that “my mom always said” bit. As someone commented above, it fits Rory to a tee, and I guess the fact that it’s in the book at all means that the author is trying to highlight that Rory has a lack of emotional awareness and needs to grow? But … IS that what the author’s doing? Or is that just what I would do, and I’m projecting a character arc where none exists?

  29. I can’t get the thought of “cum-burping” out of my mind. What would that actually feel like? I’ve never burped it before, so I’m going to imagine that it feels like you do when you chug a soda and then you burp. You know that tickling feeling you get in your nose? I know, I know, cum isn’t fizzy like a carbonated beverage is (at least none that I’ve encountered) but I…just can’t get that thought out of my mind.

    Probably not a good sign for the book when the only thing that stays with me is that phrase and nothing else :/

  30. I hate this book. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

    Right, so. Yeah. I just…that’s all I have to say.

  31. Jenny, as part of these caps, would it be possible to maintain a running list summarizing the important things that happened in each preceding chapter? Because so far, all I can see in three chapters is:

    Chapter 1: Introduction to Rory’s tragic backstory; introduction of Rory’s current situation; establishment of love triangle members; and introduction of Space Rock.

    Chapter Two: Rory works late, goes to pointless rave, has token interaction with both Benji and Cyrus to maintain love triangle; introduction of girl-hate subplot; teeny bit of additional backstory

    Chapter Three: Two weeks have gone poof; loads of girl-hate (maybe establishment of an enemy?); more love triangle set-up.

    And unless I’m managing to overlook something major, that seems to be it. But maybe you’re seeing more since you’re actually reading the book, and I’m just following your recaps.

  32. I think this is book is way worse than others when it comes to slut shaming and girl hate. And that “isotopic signature” thing seems just like another sciencey thing just thrown there for this to seem like a science book. I pretty sure junior college students wouldn’t be in charge of that.

  33. I’m wondering if Ellie will eventually turn out to have a sympathetic backstory which will suddenly make all of her “sluttiness” okay after all in Rory’s eyes.

  34. I wasn’t angry about this book until right now. Of *course* Rory only became sexually indiscriminate to try and fill the emptiness inside herself, and none of her partners cared either because they’re all Depraved Bisexuals who have all the sex and none of the emotion! (also haha nonbinary people what are those)

    Benji is going to head right into Nice Guy territory if things continue this way.

    As a recent college grad, I usually understood my letter grades in terms of my GPA, i.e. “Fuck, that D in Physics tanked my GPA.”

    Also, I’m seriously confused about this murder near-death backstory, but it makes sense to me that Rory’s appetite would be affected (on top of a boatload of other psych issues). Is that even mentioned as a reason, or is she just flirting with anorexia as per angsty-YA-heroine standard?

  35. “I’m too smart to know how to put a coat on” Yes, exactly what I was thinking too! “My mind is too preoccupied with smarty smart stuff to remember a coat, and all these dumb mortals are inferior. Because they have nothing on their minds but inclement weather”

    So…she’s not interested in investigating Cyrus, except for wondering about him “During class, at night, weekends, in the lab”, making up stories about his childhood and watching him doodle in his notebook? In other words, she isn’t interested in him except for all the time?

    “An evil, cum-burping gutter slut”. Jesus. What in the actual fuck, lady? That’s incredibly vulgar. Not in an R-rated-for-explicit-content way, in a trashy, terrible writing way. And hello there you filthy hypocrite! It’s not okay for girls to have sex for fun, but it’s okay if they have sex because they are bitter and broken? And why is Ellie “evil”? I agree with you Jenny, the girl-hate in these NA books is terrible. I understand demonstrating the differing qualities between two characters, but I would love to read about girls who have each other’s backs for a change.

  36. Man, I really hope this thing wasn’t inspired by Roswell. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen the show, but I know for sure that if Rory was supposed to be Liz, she’d have to get along with at least one other woman. I agree with others that it doesn’t seem to have much in common with the show, though.

    I’m waiting to see if Cyrus saves her life with his magic alien healing powers. If that happens and Dido starts playing in the background, there may be trouble.

  37. Is there a plot to this book? Other than the whole slut-shaming and “I’m so damaged” and “I hate you both but we’re going to be in a love-triangle” thing?? I thought maybe it would be about the rock, but that hasn’t been mentioned again.

  38. I was thinking of getting this book so that I could read along with the recaps, but ‘cum-burping gutter slut’ has made me resolve never to give this author a single penny of my hard-earned cash :(

  39. I read out ‘cum burping gutter slut’ to my other half. His response was ‘that’s a bit 18th century isn’t it?’ I know what he meant, but now I think of that line in Jane Austen’s pen, “Lord A’s ‘neice’, for that was how she was addressed in polite society, was a cum burping gutter slut. It was well known she rode a carriage alone with Henry A____, and wore no underpants on account of her affliction.”

    Seriously, this is very unpleasant. I know nothing of the author, but I do see a trend where grown women write as though they are 13 years old. I love my female friends and would defend them to the death. When I was a horny teen, perhaps I did not appreciate my gal-pals so much, but I would NEVER have come up with that delightful phrase. It sounds like something the author heard and just had to shoe-horn it into her story. There is a compassion gene lacking here.

  40. I figured it out! Rory’s vitriol towards her sexually liberated neighbor exists because one of those professors said neighbor slept with is none other than Rory’s own father-figure Dr. Zoidburg (can’t be bothered to look the name up). Rory can’t handle it because, growing up, she always nurtured a crush on the professor and, now that he’e her stand-in father, it’s become a full-blown Electra complex. All the focus on Benji’s arms and Cy’s eyes? — The result of an unreliable narrator trying to distract herself from what she recognizes as a forbidden relationship. That also explains her lack of interest in the rock — she doesn’t like science, she just wants to be near the scientIST. And the lack of coat — she was warmed by the thought of seeing Dr. Zoidburg once again and only recognized the chill when she realized her intimate science meetings have been spoiled by Cy’s presence. Once again, our unreliable narrator only told us she was too smart to remember her coat to hide from both us and herself what was truly on her mind.

  41. I was about to comment on how I Do Not Buy smarter-than-you-peons Rory because we just don’t see any sign of the curiosity and enthusiasm I’d expect to see in someone who’s actually interested in science (formulas and data sparking your synapses so you can’t remember a coat… but not when you’re actually studying a rock from space??). And then I hit “cum-burping gutter slut” and that is fucking VILE I cannot even. O_o

  42. Ugh, I really do not like this protagonist. And that’s saying something because I can probably count the number of protagonists I’ve seriously disliked on one hand. Even Ana I didn’t dislike. I didn’t like her, but I didn’t dislike her either. Rory is just so fucking negative all the damn time time about every little thing, even things she’s supposedly good at, even things she supposedly likes. I felt a pang of sympathy for her when she talked about why she didn’t want a relationship with Benji. Because that’s the first time she’s shown a shred of compassion for a single other person.

  43. My father was in the Marine Corps. I grew up around a lot of boys and very few girls. My foul mouth is infamous among my family and friends, one of whom said that I could string together some of the most beautiful and elaborate strings of profanity he’s ever heard.

    “evil, cum-burping gutter-slut” actually made my eyebrows shoot up.

  44. Oh but you see, Rory only had lots of sex because she was Emotionally Traumatised and Broken, so it’s ok. This makes her different from Other Girls ™, who have sex because they enjoy it or some shit, and we can’t have that.

  45. I talk about getting A’s through C’s in classes and GPA’s for semesters. What I wonder is how she knows her grades have slipped after two weeks of class. I’m surprised she’s had graded assignments already. Maybe she knows her grades are slipping the same way she knows Cyrus is going to steal her lab assistant position.

  46. I’m wondering if the author was trying to have Rory project negative feelings about herself onto Ellie, since Rory appears to have had a lot of sex she regretted having because she was doing it in response to trauma. Rory therefore vilifies Ellie because Rory can’t see a woman having a liberated sex life as anything but negative and an unhealthy product of trauma, and feels support from our current society that continues to look negatively of a woman’s sexual freedom. In a better book, Rory would learn that she’s wrong for slut-shaming Ellie and takes steps to re-evaluate her feelings on sex, perhaps even going to a therapist for it. Alas, this is most likely not that kind of book.

  47. 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.
    ^ You’re an elitist Sue and I hate you.

    We also learn that their pants are of equal tightness, which Rory rejects on principle.
    ^ Rory, if you don’t like skinny jeans, don’t wear skinny jeans. Don’t be a fucking brat about it.

    “Good,” I murmured.

    “What was that?”

    “I said, you’re a whore,”

    ^ That’s terrible. That’s not even clever. Clever would be, “I said, ‘Good’. I’m glad my hair appalls you. Now maybe you’ll stay away from me.” Don’t go calling people whores. How do YOU know she solicits sex for money?

    Rory walks to class, dressed insufficiently for the cold.
    Loki: and she just got done calling someone else a whore. That’s kind of backwards, come to think of it.

    I had formulas and data sparking the synapses in my brain
    ^ Loki : this is the first time I have heard anything about four formulas are synapses in this entire book, so I don’t think so. I think she has as much scientific mindset as a Zergling, honestly. She’s not even as smart as the lust worms in Fate, because at least the worms knew that they could go into somebody’s eye.

    It became a game for me to make up his history and background.
    Sigyn: because actually getting to know someone as a person is too mainstream.

    He was the only student at KIT who didn’t have to blather on about whatever project he was working on
    Sigyn: because Gods forbid he actually talked about his work or interests! Who do these people think they are, expressing themselves where Rory might hear them?

    Rory can’t afford to be distracted in class, because her grades have slipped from A’s to B’s.
    Sigyn: yeah, that happens when you’re too busy thinking about everyone and everything you hate and how much you hate them to actually do your homework.

    “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.

    Sigyn: to me, it reads more like she’s agreeing with him so that she doesn’t really have to contribute to the conversation, not because she claims any expertise on the subject… But then again, she thinks she knows everything, so…

    Wouldn’t the better alternative just be to not have friends?
    Sigyn: yeah, it would, for the reader. I personally feel sorry for the friends.
    Loki: that sounds like a pitiful excuse for friendship.

    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.
    Loki: Ugh, no. I just hate this writing style. It’s so juvenile.
    Sigyn: Rory sounds like one of those people that her mother described. We haven’t really seen enough of Ellie for me to judge her character, but based on the fact that Rory insists on emphasizing her sluttiness I really don’t think she has that much more to her, so I expect Ellie to be written rather flatly. But seriously, if Rory is going to criticize something about Ellie, couldn’t she picked something more original and less gross than repeating “slut” and variations thereof over and over again? Because it sounds to me like Rory is just jealous that she’s not getting laid.

    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.
    Sigyn: oh god, Benji is Kevin from Desert Bluffs! D=
    On a more serious note, yes Rory, god forbid that your friends actually be happy around you!
    Loki: ugh.

    Loki: this doesn’t make any sense. She’s condemning people for being a slut but then she admits to giving herself to everyone? It’s ridiculous.
    Sigyn: We call this “hypocrisy”, dear. Also, note that she is not portraying her own sexuality positively. She’s calling herself a statistic, as if the only people who can enjoy sex with multiple partners over a period of time are trauma victims or “sluts”, and that’s not cool. Also, I bet she’s wicked boring in bed with an attitude like that.
    Loki: I imagine so.

     I was messed-up. A sob story. A charity case.
    Sigyn: cry harder emo kid. You’re not really going to get very far in life with an attitude like that. You’re expecting the readers to sympathize with you, but your constant degradation of everything around you has made me not like you and not want to sympathize with you. I don’t care what horrible trauma you’ve been through that makes you so dangerous to be around, but you really need an attitude adjustment. Grow the f*** up and get over it. You’re a fictional character, so there’s no need for you to be this childish.

  48. Kind of weird aside- after surgeries, I wash a mega ton of blood out of my hair and your hair is super shiny for a week. Crap, now I feel like Elizabeth Bathory. To clarify, the blood is mine. I did think it was a cool detail though, because right before surgeries I get a craving for Mia Farrow pixie cuts.

  49. As far as the dots go, had Rory considered that what’s his face is writing in code so nosy shits like her can’t read it? I write stuff in code all the freaking time. Been doing it since high school. I do it at work. I do in my planner. I do it on sticky notes. There are things I don’t want people to read. I didn’t know it maybe makes me an alien. Why didn’t someone tell me?

    Anyway. I know I’m late to the party, but I love love love these reviews.

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