One time, I was hanging out with one of my editor friends, and she was working on an author’s manuscript. She was complaining about how the revisions process with this particular author was driving her crazy, and she said, “At some point will there be sex in your erotic novel?” It made me laugh so hard, because I was thinking, wow, that’s something, an erotic novel with no sex. Stuff like that just tickles me. Anyway, I guess what I’m asking here is, “At some point will there be science fiction in your New Adult Sci-Fi novel?” Because if there is, it’s not in chapter four. It is now two weeks after last we were last with Rory and Benji, and Benji is trying to bribe Rory into going to the gym with him:
“Just once. Come with me once, and I’ll never ask you to go again. I’ll throw in a freebie dinner, one you don’t have to study with me for.” “What am I? A food whore? I said, no.”
(Again, the underline is not present in the text, I’m putting them here because I can’t do italics in quotes for some reason and I don’t want to misrepresent the text.) No, Rory. Of course you’re not a food whore. You don’t enjoy your food. Just like you’re not a sex whore, because you didn’t really enjoy all that sad, wounded sex you had. I bet Ellie loooooooves food. The whore.
I’m sick and tired of Benji pestering Rory until she gives him what he wants. That’s some bullshit, especially since he’s one leg of a rickety-ass love sawhorse. Because after that quote up there, we directly roll into:
Thirty minutes later, we were at The Gym.
First of all, why is that capitalized. Is it the gym? Second, if Rory is such a hard ass who doesn’t need anyone, why doesn’t she just tell Benji off, or at least stop letting him wear her down until she does what he wants?
I was in a loose-fitting Rolling Stones tee,
Ooh, rebellious 1960’s teen!
black leggings, and high-top converse, poking buttons on a treadmill and fantasizing about where I would eat my freebie dinner.
Fantasizing about dinner? You whore.
Rory starts thinking about how she’s out of shape, because she’d been an athlete in high school, and how different things were then:
I even had friends, and they would beg the heavens for my thick, shiny brown hair and perfectly peach skin. Boys had just begun to notice me. Then, I died and came back an angry, shaven and pierced pale hermit who gasped for air after slowly jogging for two minutes.
Yes, reader, this is the real tragedy. Rory’s family was horribly murdered, possibly sacrificed, and it made her ugly.
Why is this the thing she’s focusing on? She talks about how she was so in shape when she played volleyball and she was beautiful and boys noticed her, but she devotes less than half a sentence to the friends and the life she lost. The most important thing, dear reader, is that we know that while Rory is not beautiful right now, she has the potential to be totally hot.
Woe-is-me-out-of-shape Rory goes to get a drink, and wouldn’t you know who’s there?
“You must be lost,” Ellie said behind me.
Oh good. I don’t think we got our fill of ridiculous girl hate in the last chapter. I’m really hoping that whatever rivalry this is, it goes all Legally Blonde at the end and they’re good friends.
Her perky D-cup breasts perfectly filled out a perfect racerback top, as did her ass in the capri yoga pants. It was almost as if the gods had made a point to sculpt the perfect body and then were too tired to provide a decent personality.
Perky D-cups? Now I know McGuire was a fanfic writer.
Benji comes over and Ellie sees him, and learns that he and Rory are there together:
“Seriously? You’re trying to make me jealous? With…that?” Ellie said, laughing once without humor.
Benji acts like he has no idea what Ellie is talking about. Now, Rory doesn’t go, “Hey, maybe he’s fooling around with Ellie and didn’t tell me,” which, why should he if they’re not going out, but in any case, she doesn’t assume Benji is trying to cover his ass here. She thinks:
From the corner of my eye, I could see the beginnings of a grin on Ellie’s face. Was she really so horrible that she would pretend to have dated Benji to ruin one of the only friendships I had?
Listen. If your friend’s dating past is going to cause you to seriously rethink your friendship? You’re not the good friends you think you are.
Luckily, Rory is a mature individual who definitely does not behave like they’re in an episode of bad a teen drama:
I grabbed Benji’s cheeks and planted my lips on his. Benji’s entire body tensed, and then he relaxed, pulling my body against his. His mouth parted, and what was suppose to be a quick, hard peck turned into a long, deep kiss with a lot of tongue and a lot of pressure from Benji’s fingertips into my skin.
I pulled away and we looked at each other. “I bet she’s jealous now,” I said, stealing a side-glance at Ellie.
“Who cares?” Benji said, unable to look away from me. Although he hadn’t been breathing hard on the treadmill, he was certainly breathing hard now.
Ellie’s mouth fell open, and then she walked away, tossing her hair as she turned.
And then confetti came down from the ceiling and then everyone clapped and then someone wheeled in a cake covered with lit sparklers and the frosting spelled out, “You’re the prettiest, Rory!” and then my dead parents rose from the dead and then they hugged me and said, “We’re so proud of you, Rory, for defeating that slut,” and I smiled and smiled until I got a nosebleed and then I died, the end.
Seriously, what did this scene add to the story? What does Ellie add to the story? There is a space rock! There is a space rock in this New Adult Sci-Fi and it’s sitting in some basement lab doing nothing interesting while we have to watch Rory act out a scene from every single overwrought 90’s Fox drama for teens. If this was on Saved By The Bell, this would be the part where the audience would go, “WooOOOOooooOOOoo.” Writing Tip: You don’t want the Saved By The Bell audience to go “WoooOOOOooooOOOoo” in your manuscript. You also don’t want to use “and then” as much as it’s being used in this chapter. Some people say to never use it. I like it, in small doses, and I try to avoid it when I can. Sometimes, it feels natural, and you just have to go with your gut instinct. Other times, it sounds like a six-year-old trying to tell you about a field trip.
Benji helps Rory work out on a weight machine, and Rory explains that even though she knows he’s all persistent with the “I wanna date you,” signals, kissing him was only about making Ellie jealous, so he shouldn’t make anything of it. But then she says they can go to the gym together every Saturday, and is sad when he looks disappointed. They’re about to leave when this happens:
Just then, I felt a searing pain in my backside accompanied by a loud slapping noise that echoed throughout The Gym.
A guy almost a head taller than Benji passed me, smirking. “It’s about time you brought a piece of ass,” he said.
Benji immediately grabbed him and slammed him to the floor. Benji’s elbow stretched back, high into the air, and his hand was balled into a shaking tight fist. Before he threw the punch, Benji pushed away from the guy and stood up.
Where do these people live? Seriously, I want to know where this magical land of 1980’s teen movie cliches is. Right now, I just imagined James Spader as Steff McKee at The Gym.
They leave The Gym and when Benji drops Rory off, he apologizes to her for snapping and almost pummeling the dude. But Rory is fine with it:
I’d seen a completely different side of him. Before, I was struggling with returning the affections of a semi-annoying nerd. Suddenly, he was a badass. I’d wanted to kiss him again the second we stopped. Now, I was building up the nerve to do it again.
I wasn’t attracted to you before, when you were just an annoying guy, but now that I know you’re a violent annoying guy, I can’t keep my hands off you.
Look, I’m never going to argue in favor of the guy getting the girl just because he’s nice and persistent and should be rewarded for both of those traits. I hate Nice Guys as much as anyone. But how fucked up is it that this guy, who she couldn’t stand, who made her uncomfortable with his relentless pursuit, is suddenly super hot because he lost his temper and almost hit someone? I get it, he was defending her. But his reaction was so extreme, so quickly… why is a short, violent temper something to be attracted to? And this obviously isn’t the first book in recent memory where this happened (50SoG, I’m looking at you here). Why on earth is violence supposed to be an admirable trait in men?
But their romantic kiss of thanks-for-almost-punching-that-guy never happens:
His phone buzzed, and the display lit up. Both of our bodies relaxed, and I looked down. The name above the number made my stomach turn. In bold white letters, it read, Ellie. My eyes snapped back up to Benji’s. His expression immediately turned desperate.
“I can explain–”
“Liar,” I hissed, grabbing my backpack and slamming the door behind me.
Writing Tip: You can’t hiss a word that doesn’t have any sibilant consonants.
So, Rory is all pissed off when she goes into the lab, and Cy notices. He asks her if she’s okay, because something seems off about her. Rory appreciates his concern, and asks him if he’ll sit next to her in class the next day, presumably because she doesn’t want to sit next to Benji. The she starts working on data, and nothing happens with the science or the space rock.
After a section break (which is marked with a biohazard symbol that I assume is warning us about the contents of Rory’s personality), Rory is in class. As promised, Cy is sitting next to her when Benji comes in.
Benji passed Cy and then me before taking the seat on my left side.
Didn’t really think this one through, huh Rory? Curses! Foiled once again by having a right and a left.
Benji tells Rory that he tried to call her, and even came by the dorm. He wants to talk about what happened, but Rory gives him the silent treatment.
Cy leaned forward. “I don’t believe she’s ready to discuss your issue just yet. Maybe another time outside of class.”
Benji sighed and leaned back.
Cy spoke again, “Since there appears to be something upsetting going on between the two of you, it would be polite to find another seat so that Rory can concentrate on her notes.”
Okay, wait a tick. I think I see what the author (hopefully) is doing. Rory is attracted to Benji, but she’ll obviously end up with Cy, so the whole “wow, you’re so hot because you’re violent,” thing isn’t going to pay off for Benji. It’s still troubling that his violence is what made Rory reconsider her feelings for him, but we can give the book the benefit of the doubt here that we’re heading into territory where we’ll see that Benji’s behavior isn’t appropriate. My guess is that at some point, Benji will become violent toward Rory, and that’s when we’ll see this all go down.
It’s still annoying that Rory, for all her alleged toughness, can’t just tell Benji to bug off when he sits next to her, and instead plays the distressed damsel and let’s Cy stick up for her. Why can she hurl “cum-burping gutter slut” at Ellie, but she can’t tell Benji, “I don’t want to talk to you, please move, you’re making me uncomfortable?”
Well, we all know why. It’s easier to be openly hateful to a woman than it is to stick up for yourself to a man, and that’s not unrealistic for a woman Rory’s age. Some of us take a while to figure that out. Still, if this character is supposed to be this bad ass bitch who doesn’t give a shit about anything, maybe she shouldn’t be passed off as a wilting Southern belle when it comes to these guys.
Dr. Z comes in and starts his lecture, and the chapter ends without anything science-fiction-y happening. Again.