Jealous Hater’s Book Club: Apolonia, chapter five

In case you’re wondering, no. The science fiction element still has not shown up.

Rory isn’t studying with Benji anymore. For two weeks, he’s been calling her, and she’s almost thinking she wants to make up, but she’s holding onto her anger like Marty McFly on a hoverboard behind a car. When Benji is missing from class, Rory concludes that’s either sick, or he’s committed suicide:

I started feeling curious if he was sick, out of town, or something much worse.

When he doesn’t answer her texts, she goes to Charlie’s to look for him, and finds his room unlocked. A passing rando explains:

He shook his head. “No, but he never locks his door unless he’s home,” he said, turning the knob.

Is this one of those too-science-to-function things, like Rory’s coat?

So, Rory goes to Gigi’s. Let me reiterate a Writing Tip: Rory is going to Charlie’s and then Gigi’s to look for Benji, and only two of those names belong to people. No.

Rory decides to check The Gym, but first, something amazing happens:

It wasn’t as if he had anyone here to take care of him, including me–the jealous bitch, who didn’t even give him the chance to explain, much less apologize.

Is that… was that actually concern for a person who isn’t Rory? marie antoinette clapping

Rory finds Benji at The Gym, where he’s lifting weights:

There he was, red-faced, drenched in sweat, and squatting about three hundred and fifty pounds.

Hmmm. This is an indication that Benji has some pretty awesome strength for a guy who spends most of his time doing sedentary stuff on computers. I would say that it’s probably believable, but outside of the norm, for your average college student who isn’t being coached to squat that kind of weight. I wonder if he’s an alien, too. They go outside to talk about their fight:

“I’m sorry I didn’t answer your text,” he said quietly, looking at the asphalt. “I just couldn’t go to class another day and see the anger in your eyes when you look at me, knowing you were just a few feet away and I couldn’t talk to you.”

“I’m sorry. That was cruel and unusual punishment.”

no-not-really

Benji is worried that Rory hasn’t eaten (couldn’t go a chapter without remembering that Rory doesn’t eat), so he takes her Gigi’s for food, where he explains the Ellie thing:

“Then who is she to you?”

Benji shook his head and spoke with a nervous smile. “I guess she was sort of a coworker, but it was never anything more than that.”

“Coworker?” I asked.

“She was my lab partner spring semester last year. That’s why we have each other’s phone number.”

Hey, you know how we could have avoided the Rory-runs-around-town drama of this chapter? By having a conversation that went:

Rory: Why do you have that bitch’s phone number?

Benji: She was my lab partner last semester and I guess I never took her out of my phone.

Rory: Okay.

Tada! Rory asks him:

“You had a bunch of weights on that bar. Were you lifting that much all morning?”

“Pretty much. I’ve been blowing of stress like that since high school.”

Okay, he’s been squatting 350 all day? He’s an alien. Or a genetically modified super soldier. This is what I’m putting my money on. Not that he couldn’t have just really upped his game training for years, but I’m thinking this is too inconsequential a detail to just drop in there for it to lead to nothing.

“What stress? You seem like someone who had the perfect childhood.”

Yes, Rory. Perfect childhoods exist, and if you had one, you never have any source of stress in your life ever again ever.

“My parents were great,” he said, nodding, “but they worked a lot, and my dad was gone most of the time. We made sacrifices, just like anyone else.”

My muscles tensed. I had to stop myself from informing him that he had no idea about sacrifice, but it was just a knee-jerk reaction. Just because his parents weren’t murdered didn’t mean he didn’t have the right to complain.

JesusCrucified

Benji asks Rory if she’s been to a lot of concerts, and gestures to her Ramones t-shirt, and she said she did go to a lot of concerts during the summer of her senior year. I hope Rory didn’t go to a Ramones concert three years ago, because they broke up in the 90′s and three of them were already dead in 2010.

Since he doesn’t know that Rory’s parents are dead, Benji imagines that they’re super cool, which is not the impression I would get about a family who raised Rory:

He smiled. “That doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m sure they know that you would have found a way to do what you want. Makes me wonder what they’re like. Raising such a free spirit.”

When I think “free spirit” I definitely think, “Misanthropic college student who listens to The Ramones because her family was murdered.”

Rory agrees:

I’d never felt like a free spirit. More like someone who was weighed down by her horrific past.

Writing Tip: Show, don’t tell, is really important, and I think the author has done a fair amount of showing already that Rory is weighed down by her horrific past. Trust that your readers can take the hint. Show, don’t tell, or show and tell a little, but don’t show, and tell, and tell and tell and tell and tell until the reader is already like, “Enough with the murdered family already, ya crybaby!” in chapter five.

Seriously, that’s how I’m reacting to every mention of her murdered parents now. Just with this eye roll of, “This? Again?”

I should not feel that way about a girl with murdered parents.

But Benji made me see something about myself that I hadn’t seen before–the bright side.

THANK YOU, JESUS!

JesusCrucified

“No problem, Jenny!”

Rory checks her phone and realizes that not only is she an hour late to her research assistant gig, but Cy and Dr. Zoidberg have already called her. And immediately, Rory jumps to the conclusion that we all knew was coming.

“I just need to get there fast before I lose my position. Shit!”

It has now been weeks since Cy started working with the space rock, and Rory hasn’t been fired yet. And as I have pointed out numerous times, Dr. Zoidberg is basically Rory’s guardian, who has looked out for her and gotten her into college and is one of the only people who knows her entire sad backstory. If we had seen any interaction with Cy at all–besides sitting beside him and glumly spitting on the floor– or with Dr. Zoidberg that indicated that Rory was going to lose her job, then fine. But this is false tension, just like the fight with Benji was false tension.

Benji drops Rory off at the lab and asks if she’ll study with him and sit with him in class again, and she says she will. Then she goes inside:

Both Cy and Dr. Z were rushing me, asking where I was, why I was late whom I was with, and a dozen other questions.

I held up my hands. “I’m sorry! I’ve been working every night for six weeks! I needed a break!”

You’re an hour late for work without calling, and you’re worried that you’re going to get fired, so the way you enter this conversation is by blowing off their concern with, “I needed a break.” That’s an interesting battle strategy in the war to remain employed.

Dr. Z tells Rory that she should have called, then he leaves her alone with Cy:

“Selfish!” Cy growled behind me.

I flipped around, preparing to let him know that I didn’t report to him, but the second I faced him, he crashed into me, wrapping his arms around me, his fingers digging into my skin.

“I thought…” he said, his voice thick with worry.

Wait… what? Why is he doing this? We’ve had absolutely no screen time with this dude, other than when Rory is arriving at or leaving from work. He sat next to her in class and stuck up for her once two weeks ago. She’s watched him draw dots. That’s it. There’s nothing else that has gone on in this book that has made the reader anticipate that Cy would have any concern for her above that of a coworker other than the fact that he has been telegraphed as a love interest by virtue of the genre he is in.

And here’s the thing: even if Rory doesn’t notice and comment on it in the narration, we need to see something going on with Cy, so that this exchange doesn’t look clumsy. Maybe a scene where Cy expressed concern over how hard she was working, or telling her that he’s not competition. Or something. Anything. Literally any interaction at all would have made this at least a little bit more convincing, and less like smashing two Barbies together so they can get married. This also ruins the fun of reading to find out which one of the two guys she’s going to pick. In The Vampire Diaries (the real Vampire Diaries, not the shit the franchise turned out after they booted L.J. Smith to the curb), I honestly wondered whether Elena would end up with Stefan or Damon at the end of the series. It was less of a question in Twilight, but I did have the thought at the back of mind that maybe the author would pull a switcheroo and make Bella fall for Jacob (though I can’t decide if that would be a better or worse ending than turning him into a creepy child molester grooming his future bride).

The point is, we have no idea where this came from, so we have no reason to care about it or believe it. It doesn’t feel real. Especially when it becomes this overwrought:

I just stood there, not knowing what else to do. No one had touched me like that in a long time, yet it felt natural, as if he’d held me a hundred times before. I slowly  hugged him back and rested my chin on his shoulder. The longer he held me, the better it felt.

After a full minute, Cy finally relaxed his grip and took a step back.

ten second hug

I think we’re being asked to believe that this is a hate-covering-deep-affection scenario, but you know what? It’s not working. Because we don’t know Cy at all.

Cy apologizes for giving her the world’s longest hug, and she assures him that she’s not depressed. Okay… so. You’re not depressed, but you’re haunted by the grisly murder of your parents that almost left you dead, as well, you isolate and refuse to care for yourself, but you’re definitely not depressed. Cy tells her that he doesn’t want anything to happen to her.

I grinned, dropping my backpack beside my desk. “Something has already happened to me. You should stop worrying.”

Cy opened his mouth to say something, but he decided against it.

And with that POV skew, the chapter ends.

 

91 thoughts on “Jealous Hater’s Book Club: Apolonia, chapter five

  1. I hate to say it, but simply based on reading your recaps, I think this book is even worse (as far as entertainment value) than 50 Shades.

    Also, the Jacob/Twilight thing: Years ago I read this article about people in Appalachia. This really old doctor delivered some woman’s baby and looked at the little girl and decided right then he wanted to marry her. And he did when she was 13 and he was in his 70s. *shudder*

  2. This chapter was a hot mess. The whole Benji thing was stupid, the Cy thing was stupid, it was all stupid.

    And only Benji is a person so one out of three names.

    1. Ah, you’re so right.
      Now I know why this is classified as sci-fi: Rory is a robot! And she’s been implanted with all these memories and feelings in order to function like a human being, but clearly there’s been some sort of system failure.

  3. She was my lab partner spring semester last year.

    I am selfishly asking for my own research, but do people definitely have partners in college-level science lab classes?

    1. I’m not a science major – so I wouldn’t know about the senior level classes – but when I went to Uni, my geology class partnered us up. It was me and two other lovely ladies. And again in my ecology lab, often times we would be partnered up. (Those were the only two science classes I took, though, so I couldn’t speak to any others, like chemistry or biology.)

    2. I’m a freshman in college, and I have a couple of partners for honors chemistry. I’m not sure how it works in other classes, but in mine, they’re not assigned or anything–it’s just whoever you end up working with. I went through about four before sticking to the group I’m in now.

      Not that I’m saying it’s impossible Benji was in a class with assigned lab partners–it’s just not something I’ve been through.

    3. Speaking as a science major in college: Yes. Lab partners and lab groups are a thing. Being able to work well with others is an important part of science, so group work is really pushed.

      1. @ Lovell and Anon: Thank you! I remember having a lab partner in a low-level physics class in college, but when I started a story using Ye Olde Lab Partner Plot Device (TM), I suddenly started thinking, “Maybe actual science majors get a lab station all to themselves these years!” So whew.

        1. I am a master’s student in Microbiology and Immunology and we still have lab partners. Not only does it encourage collaboration, it cuts down on the need for everyone to have their own supplies.

    4. I went to a UK university and we had lab partners for all 4 years (the same one, in fact, unless you specifically requested to change or your partner dropped out). I imagine US colleges change partners more regularly, since they don’t pick fixed courses like we do.

    5. College student here working towards a science major- and yes, every class that I’ve been in that involved a lab also means you get a partner. It’s usually due to not having enough equipment for individuals, but also because they’re just really hard and time consuming so having someone else helps. Of course that goes out the window if you get a crappy partner like I did this semester.

      1. Nim, my sympathies for the crappy partner. That stinks! Do you have to work on any projects together outside of classroom time, too?

        1. u.s. engineering grad, but we had to take a lot of the pure science classes and labs. (we had engineering labs too!) my labs across all disciplines had at least one partner. they also all had work outside of lab time, for pre-labs and lab write-ups. sometimes that work was split and assembled later, but most of the time we did it together. also, sometimes two pairs of lab partners would work on pre-labs together.

          whether the pairs/groups were self-selected or assigned and whether they lasted for a portion of or a whole semester depended on the professor.

    6. yes, BUT: i would never call a lab partner a coworker or even “sort of a coworker.” i don’t think people working in the same professor’s lab outside of a class (whether as an undergrad or for a phd) would even call each other coworkers. “lab mate(s),” “this guy in my lab,” or even the single entity “do you want to come to my lab’s bbq” sound better.

    7. do people definitely have partners in college-level science lab classes?

      Others have answered this, but I thought I’d add that even though I am quite antisocial, I still ended up with a couple bio partners’ cel numbers and became Facebook friends with one of the chem partners for a while until he started regurgitating a shitton of libertarian talking points. (His grandma wasn’t too pleased with him for that, either. Poor lady.)

    8. I had lab partners in 4 out of the 6 science classes (in chem 1 and chem 2, microbiology, and intro to biological anthropology) that had a lab section that I took at uni (we had labs in anatomy & physiology, but no assigned lab partners, most of the time the lab work was independent, we’d randomly team up for some assignments). HTH.

    9. Canadian recent engineering grad here -we most certainly did have lab partners, though generally we wouldn’t refer to them as coworkers of any sort.

      The only case I can think of where I’d refer to a group project mate as “sort of a coworker” would be my capstone project, but I worked with those four guys for a year plus on the project, and only if I was explaining it to someone not in the faculty at all.

    10. Even in my physics and math courses we had ‘lab’ partners. Just people that you would work on problems with. Like a person above me said, collaboration is really encouraged and unavoidable in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). And having two other brains to pick before resorting to a TA or Prof really helps cut down on the amount of times they have to answer the same questions or a ‘the answer is in the notes, bolded, italicized, CAPATALIZED’ question.

      Though I have never in my life referred to or heard anyone refer to a lab or studio (physics version of lab) partner as a coworker. I think the author was trying to use it as a clumsy way of explaining what lab partner is. But its awkward and for the most part unnecessary, I feel like most people know what a lab partner is. Though I’m pulling from a fairly narrow pool of people to make this assertion so correct me if I’m wrong, anyone.

  4. This thing is just the worst. Where is this going? Is there a plot, or are we just going to be treated to pages and pages of boring non-scenes between people?

    Also, how do you manage to make brakes squeal when you’re accelerating? Tires, yeah. Brakes? Do you drive? I hate that sort of inattention to details. I’ve literally grabbed Mr. Winters and made him act things out with me, just so I can get everyone’s position in a scene right – and not even necessarily so I can put it all on the page.

    *grumble grumble goes back to read yesterday’s post about comparing myself to other writers*

  5. I really appreciate your recaps Jenny. How you labor for all us onwatchers! I feel like I’m learning so many tips on how NOT to write.

  6. It could’ve been worse: the rock could have the “Blob” in it, and thus make the story…uh, well, a…story.

    I honestly don’t remember all this angst as a teen…but it*was* the 80s, so maybe I just don’t “get” it.

  7. It really annoys me that this book is in the science fiction category of the Goodreads awards. Not because it’s terrible (although it sounds terrible), but because if I wrote a book about dinosaurs in rocket ships battling giant space jellyfish and marketed it as romance, without even having dinosaur-jellyfish interspecies forbidden love as a plot point, I would imagine that your average romance reader would be pretty upset about being duped into reading one type of book when they were expecting another.

    1. There is science fiction in the book. I won’t say anymore since I don’t want to spoil this train wreck. I guarantee you’ll be ‘wtf’ing when you get to that too though

  8. Good point about how Cy is telegraphed as the love interests. I think a big problem with romances is that the partners are coded as love interests but not developed as such–the showrunners rely in tropes to say, “This is who’s gonna bone,” and expect us to take that for granted without developing the relationship. Love/hate ‘ships get the worst of that, IMO, because those are the ones that really need the character development to explain why they work at all.

  9. Wait wait wait what wait what, he hugs her?! They’ve had like one line of conversation ever – what’s he doing touching her? Why isn’t she delivering a swift kick to the yin-yangs? Effectively this is a near – or complete – stranger deciding to grapple her

    ” No one had touched me like that in a long time”

    I should hope not – complete strangers really shouldn’t be touching you like this.

    And it’s not like she actually has friends beyond people shew spews endless contempt over

  10. No one had touched me like that in a long time, yet it felt natural, as if he’d held me a hundred times before. … The longer he held me, the better it felt.

    Ugh! This kind of lazy relationship-building drives me nuts. Are we all supposed to start shipping for “Rorus” (or can we just call them R.O.US.?) on the basis of this? Not because they have any reason to actually like each other, but just because it feels “familiar” and must be “destined”? Or something?

  11. the only good thing about these recaps, is that it permits me (per my own restrictions) to read-ahead-read-along for the next chapter.

    and then break down weaping in pain.

    these are truly masochistic. but I gotta say, I learn SO MUCH about quality writing and narratives from this. Even if I’m sobbing in pain.

    On the other hand, gee even I could be a writer if this is what qualifies….

    1. Agreed. I learn far more reading recaps like this than just about any other way apart from actual writing practice. It makes you actually think about what works and doesn’t in a story.

  12. This…. this is so terrible. Like, worse than the stories on FictionPress where the author runs out of ideas and makes the girl pregnant while forgetting that she needs to have sex first. How was this published?

  13. I had an idea the other day, next time you get annoyed about Rory hating everything play “I Hate Everything About You” by Ugly Kid Joe and imagine that as her anthem

  14. The Benji-Rory actually bothers me more than the clumsy telegraphing that Cy is a love interest. We’ve decided that Rory’s a junior, right? Benji is, by all accounts, her only friend. Why is it news to her that he lifts weights to relieve stress, or news to him that she enjoys going to concerts? Hell, why doesn’t she know Ellie used to be his lab partner. My best friend is a student, and I can recite a bunch of information about his classmates and professors, even though I’ve never even met those people. I get that it’s tricky to write friends-transitioning-into-lovers, but no one forced the author to make that choice.

    1. I think she might have originally written this as being a freshman? because next chapter they talk about majors and how she’s not selected hers yet.

      You know, in her THIRD YEAR OF COLLEGE. Which given the vast amount of science classes, she should be past the core and into the major specific ones by now …

      So that and the other weird inconsistent characterizations make me wonder about the tale being badly rewritten for a Junior from a Freshman perspective.

      1. Oh, that makes a ton of sense, Leah. A lot of the details that seem off would make more sense if Rory was a freshman and Benji was, perhaps, a sophomore or a junior.

        It’s pretty irritating that no one thought to do a second editing round on the book to adjust for that change, though, especially since the experience of being a college student is a common one that many readers will share and where errors will stand out.

    1. oops, i don’t know how to do fancy things, so here is the quote that disappeared:

      A passing rando explains:

      He shook his head. “No, but he never locks his door unless he’s home,” he said, turning the knob.

  15. About the squatting 350: this does happen in college gyms, but not that one exercise all day, and also not alone. People do it in pairs, either with a friend as their spotter or an employee. 250 is much more common, but also done in pairs. In fact, most weight lifting was done in pairs unless it was free weights. You want to rest between sets and you look less like a doofus if you have a friend to spot while you do it. If Benji had been in my gym on my watch, we’d have been giving him some serious hairy eyeball. He sounds like the sort of patron that put our collective hair on end.

    1. I asked my gym rat husband if 350 lbs for a 20 yr old college kid was realistic, and he said it was far-fetched, but possible, and he wouldn’t just be standing around squatting that much weight over and over. He would do maybe 3-5 reps at 350 and then drop down to a lower weight. He certainly wouldn’t be doing squats with that much weight all day long. His legs would turn to jelly and he would collapse with a possible hernia.

  16. I think this book is a good example of what can go wrong when you choose to write in 1st Person POV. When you do 1st person, you have to make sure you’re narrator has an interesting voice and enough dimension to really hold the reader’s attention. Rory’s problem isn’t that she’s unlikeable – she is, but good writing can make an unlikeable person interesting – it’s that she’s flat and uninvolved. That’s not good for 1st Person.

    I really think 3rd Person POV would have been better. We’d get more of Cy and we’d get to see what he thinks of Rory or what’s going on with him and the space rock, and we could get some Benji too. Plus, personally, I just think 3rd person is better (and easier.) Esp. for beginning writers. It really lets you get a hang of sentence structure and character writing without being thrown into the limited scope of 1st person. You really, REALLY need to know your character for that, and most writers don’t. 1st person is good if you want to get a hang of writing dialogue (since you basically write a large portion of it like how someone would talk) but I think 3rd person is best.

    1. Rory’s problem isn’t that she’s unlikeable – she is, but good writing can make an unlikeable person interesting – it’s that she’s flat and uninvolved.

      The flat and uninvolved might be all right if it was deliberately showing the effects of her trauma, since this isn’t unusual for people suffering PTSD. The problem is that we don’t know if her tragedy made her this way, or if she was just always so flat. If Rory used to be vivacious and interested in the world, I’d really like to know that.

  17. I love the name of this series (“Jealous Haters Book Club”); I kinda think that should replace “Jenny Reads” as your headline for that section lol. Which reminds me – maybe these Apolonia recaps could go there?
    I also adore your first use of the crucified Christ because it works on so many levels:
    1. yup, you’re a martyr / sheesh, get down off your cross, Rory
    2. a simple, exasperated “Jesus. Christ.”
    3. a sarcastic likening of Rory’s situation with the sacrifice God and Jesus made (if you believe that sort of thing) for the entire world
    Her whole inner monologue on that is a bit weird, though, isn’t it? Is she saying he has no idea of what sacrifice is because her parents were literally ritually sacrificed, which would make that word, for her, akin to someone saying “oh gosh I’m so ADD” when they’re merely distracted? Or is she saying that somehow she sacrificed her parents, like in the grand scheme of things, her parents were sacrificed (they died first) so her life could go on? Or did she sacrifice a normal life / a healthy psyche in order to survive such a trauma with whatever self remained? Hmmm, prolly thinking too deeply on this one.

  18. Agh, I’m so torn.

    On one hand, this is shit. Like “so bad I want to stop reading” kind of shit.

    On the other hand, it’s absolutely hilarious and I’m absolutely not going to stop reading.

    And on the other hand, I want to scream “BUT IT HAS SO MUCH POTENTIALLLLLLL!”

    And suddenly I have three hands.

  19. Ugh, I hate random POV skew. Almost as much as I hate spontaneous huggers, even. Also, that hugging scene has such a copied-from-shoujo-manga vibe to it. More ugh.

  20. I’m not sure a pov change is enough to save this story. Maybe having one stable plot rather than the multiple poorly thought out ones.

    1. I don’t think it would save it. Idk if this is in response to my comment, but I was saying that one of the problems here is that the way the story’s structured doesn’t fit with the perspective and that’s something to bear in mind when writing a story. The POV you use can be really important and it always pays to think it through. It was more writing advice than a fix-it for this book though, because this story has a lot of flaws. And a few of them are bafflingly basic – like Writing 101 type stuff.

  21. I agree completely with the person who said “some people shouldn’t even self publish”. This is just so…I don’t know, boring, disjointed, ridiculous-I could take up a whole page of just adjectives to describe this book and how bad it is.

    Another thing-I’m SICK and TIRED of male characters who are so worried about the main female character eating. Please writers, quit using this as part of the storyline. It’s not only getting very old, but IMHO it is a form of skinny shaming. I felt like we were back to 50sog again.

    1. I’ll admit I have a scene where Neil expresses concern over Sophie’s eating habits in The Ex, but it’s not because she’s so special snowflake that she’s not eating, and there’s no, “BUT YOU’RE SO SKINNY.” It’s basically just, “I know you’re stressed out and I don’t think you realize this, but you aren’t eating much lately.”

      1. There’s such a huge difference though. What’s happening here stems from toxic ideas about weight, femininity, and mental illness. It’s Rory (like a lot of characters before her) showing consistent, destructive behaviors that result in the male characters being overbearing and stifling.

        What you wrote, on the other hand, was a realistic portrayal of how stress can affect a person and how sometimes it’s necessary for an intimate, gentle reminder from a partner that hey, you’re forgetting to take care of yourself. It didn’t define your characters. It wasn’t the whole of the story. It was a moment, where you acknowledged how your character was being affected by her circumstances in a way that was fairly harmless and totally relatable. And that type of realism is what makes your characters and stories so well-rounded.

        1. Perfectly put. It’s all about context. Unfortunately we have too many writers out there glorifying the wrong stuff and using the same storylines over and over again.

          1. I wish more authors would have their female characters respond to stress by stress-eating all the junk food, cheeseburgers, fries, carbs in general, and chocolate they can get their hands on. I know I’m not the only one who does this, in fact, I know more stress-eaters, than stress-noneaters.

          2. @Promise, I actually had to edit a long rant about that out of my comment. Stress eating is so common and I wish more stories used that instead of stressorexia.

          3. I guess I never realized people were one or the other in terms of eating/not eating in response to stress. I find myself sometimes getting stressed and bingeing, but sometimes getting stressed and just not getting hungry for anything at all.

            Of course, it could be hormones, since stress bingeing almost always occurs right around my period.

          4. Depending on how bad my stress is, I’ll either stress eat or stress not be able to eat. The former is in reaction to moderate stress, but the latter is reserved for truly awful stress — like the kind after a loved-one dies. And you know what? I don’t look good after that — I look haggard and gaunt.

          5. I tend to comfort-eat when stressed. I only stress-starved once, got down to 112lbs (I’m 5ft tall so actually according to some not-very-reliable sources that’s actually the weight I should be) and I hated the way I looked. My bones were sticking out, I lost my curves and I had the body of an adolescent boy. So when I read these stories it just reminds me of how ugly i felt, not “OMGZ she must be so hawt now!”

          6. @M I actually am the reverse, when I mid-stress I don’t eat, but then when I get super stressed, like last month when my grandmother died, i ate so much that I ended up making myself sick and puking Doritos all night. Not fun.

          7. RE: Stress eating, I think this just goes to show that books need to change it up. Sometimes people stress eat and sometimes they don’t, but these books are so cookie cutter. ‘Oh, she’s stressed, so she’s going to starve.’ And the only reason is because depression/stress/etc. are seen as deep/profound when they have appealing side effects. But when it causes people to recognize a person’s pain and suffering in a way that’s humanizing, but not conventionally attractive (messy hair that’s NOT sexy, weight gain (which actually happens when you starve yourself,) rumbled clothing, dry skin to accompany those bags under the eyes) then it’s demonized.

            Rory’s not entitled to her trauma unless it garners positive attention. She’s not allowed to be depressed unless it makes Benji and Cy romantically worry about her. She’s not allowed to isolate herself because she wants to, she has to do it because it makes her ‘mysterious’ and that much more intriguing. Rory’s actual feelings and reactions aren’t relevant unless they make her more attractive, which stems from a really ableist and misogynistic idea of, like, women existing to appeal to other people.

            Every single moment of Rory’s life here is presented in this manner of her (and Ellie) being this public display for everyone’s judgement and consumption. Nothing about her grief or trauma is private, which means her reactions are framed to appeal to the people around her. She can’t stress eat or get too disheveled or fall apart because then people would be forced to acknowledge her as a human being rather than this MYSTERIOUS, DEEP ENIGMA.

            If we were forced to see her as a human being, then when that guy at The Gym slapped her ass, we’d be concerned about HER. We’d see how it affects HER, not sit back and internally jack off to the tune of Benji threatening him in typically masculine, Alpha male fashion.

          8. As Promise said, I know far more stress eaters than stress starvers. I am a stress eater myself, and also went to a very interesting lecture in the teaching hospital where I live about the effects of the stress-hormone, cortisone. Because of that steroidall hormone many people’s stress leads to weight gain, not weight loss. This silly trope is all about self-insert authorship. ‘Oh, I wish I didn’t eat when I was stressed! Instead I have three big macs a day.’ It is total nonsense. The more I read your recaps, the more I see self-insert. And these authors are clearly very dull. Hence the dull, unimaginative drivel.

    2. I don’t think it’s skinny-shaming. I think it’s supposed to be wish fulfillment. These girls are so AMAZING that they just can’t gain weight! They’re too busy having important feelings and being pursued by men to even remember to eat!

      Imagine seeing a book where the heroine stress-eats instead of stress-starves. Do you think the characters around her would be written as worrying so solicitously about whether she’s all right and treating her like a delicate too-good-for-this-world angel? Gaining weight because your parents were murdered in front of you would never be treated as the endearing flaw-but-not-really-a-flaw that losing weight because you’re just too deep to care about food is.

      1. Seconded so hardcore. Rory’s whole characterization thus far seems to be based on this weird grief-related wish fulfillment:

        - She doesn’t eat due to her overwhelming sadness/apathy, and is consequently skinny (and consequently hot).
        - She gets a horrible grief haircut, but we can tell it’s actually edgy and hot because boys are into her and only jealous bitches have told her it sucks.
        - She doesn’t have to be even baseline polite, because GRIEF. She can be terrible to everyone she meets and boys will still love her.
        - Gets to be sexually adventurous or even risky without being a HOOR, because … you get it.
        - Now that she has serious tragedy in her background, she’s mysterious and deep and automatically better than everyone else.

        Sure, she used to be pretty and popular and misses those aspects of her life, but she’s … still pretty, and everyone we meet in this book either adores her or is threatened by her. So apparently, losing your parents to horrific cult-related murder has the same effects as the world’s sparkliest diet and a visit to an amazing stylist, with few (if any) downsides!

  22. Seeing garbage like this book makes me so glad I was never interested in YA, or NA, whatever genre this rotting pile of stink is supposed to be in.

  23. Am I the only one who’s absolutely exhausted with the male character panicking over the well-being of a heroine for no reason? I get that a concerned love interest is supposed to make us feel like the centre of their little world but enough with the unneccessary and out of proportion melodrama!

    1. No you’re not. I’m pretty independent-minded and absolutely hate people fussing over me, so shit like that makes me cringe. I’m really socially awkward too and only enjoy being the centre of anyone’s attention if it’s on my terms.

  24. I had to skim read the recap. That story is utterly awful. I’ll read pretty much anything and the recaps are too much for me.

    The panicking bit at the end cos she’s an hour late, I do that. I do that because my father died when I was 6 while I was at a friend’s house and I have major issues with lateness. Seriously major issues, I start assuming the late person is dead. However, I’m also fully aware that is irrational and don’t expect any one else to be the same way.

  25. I’m confused, what exactly is the main conflict in this book? Because if it’s her Benji relationship drama, I want out. Isn’t there, like, some kind of space rock/alien thing happening? I’d rather read Hugo’s treatise on the architecture of Notre Dame, at least it was more pertinent to the overall story! (wait, maybe this writer is getting paid by the word? or per terrible YA trope?) And if it’s really a romance, we need something juicier by chapter 5.

  26. What a horrible, joyless road you’re travelling down. Must make you feel miserable to plough your way through this piece of junk. Unlike 50 Shades, it’s not even funny. I pity you, but I love you, so much.

    1. I’m actually really enjoying this.It’s so much fun to just crack on a book and not get bogged down in depression over it, ala 50 Shades. :D

      1. Are you still doing these or have you given up? Not that I would blame you, but I have a morbid curiosity about where this story is even going and I don’t want to read it myself. lol

  27. I repeated the part about Rory showing concern for someone who isn’t Rory to Loki. Loki got bug eyed and said “what the fuck?”

    Loki: this author is so uncreative that she can only make nonplots in order to pass them off as plots. It’s really annoying.

    Loki: my character just got hit with a giant hammer and she’s more of a martyr than Rory. It has nothing to do with anything, but my Skyrim character is better than Rory.

    So about Rory whining about her dead parents all the time, your “this? Again?” reaction is pretty much just my reaction everytime Rory speaks ever. Also! Rory, would you like some cocoa? It’s nice and warm… Warmer than your dead parents!

    Loki: Rory blowing off her employers concern sounds like Layoff City, Population: Rory. Looks like she won’t be able to afford her cardboard box anymore!

    Loki: so let me get this straight… He supposedly rival who she supposed to be up against randomly hugs her and suddenly she’s all woooooooooo!
    Sigyn: Yeah, pretty much.
    Loki: wow! That’s such a romantic story. sO hArDcOrE~
    Sigyn: I like when she says that no one has ever touched her that way and yet it feels so natural. I mean, once during another spork I reached into Loki’s pants and was like HONK HONK and I’m pretty sure no one has ever touched him that way before… And yet, I’m sure that it felt so ~natural~.
    Loki: not even like that. This scene isn’t even slightly realistic.

    Loki: yeah, she’s definitely not depressed. Not at all.
    Sigyn: CRAAAAAWLING IN MY SKIIIIN, THESE WOUUUNDS THEY WIIIILL NOT HE–wait, that’s actually pretty accurate.

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