FLASHY GIF WARNING: There is a flashy gif in here. It’s not so flashy that it triggered any events for me, but you know your stuff better than I know your stuff, so heads up, there’s a picture with blinky text on it. It’s David Tennant, and it comes after two pictures of me looking alternately hopeful, then angry.
This book was a finalist in the GoodReads Reader’s Choice awards this year.
For best science fiction.
The chapter opens four weeks from chapter five, and Rory and Benji have been eating together every day. Her grades are getting better, and she hasn’t seen Ellie as much. Shit is looking up in Rory-land.
Well, except for one thing:
Spending time with Benji seemed to take up my days, and being ignored by Cy took up my nights. We would sit across from each other, barely speaking, barely making eye contact.
So, Cy is pulling an Edward Cullen, is what’s happening here. No matter what Rory does, she can’t get Cy to talk to her other than a few words at a time.
I pretended not to notice, but I wanted to punch him for pulling me into that amazing hug as if he gave a shit and then spending nearly a month making me feel as if I were invisible.
I keep feeling like some of these time jumps are really odd. I don’t mind when a book jumps over sections of unimportant, boring stuff–like when Bella and Edward broke up and there were just blank pages–but this is actually important information. Rory is just telling us, “Yeah, I started hanging out with Benji more, and I’m happy about it,” and “Cy is ignoring me and it’s making me feel this way,” but wouldn’t it be more interesting to see that going on?
Well, no, probably not, but it should be there, anyway. If it’s going to exist, and it’s going to be an integral part of the characterization and plot, we kind of need to see it happen. The stuff that isn’t going to figure into the plot at all is the stuff you can just ignore.
Like the science fiction element.
Halloween night, while everyone was dressing up and attending parties, Cy and I were in the basement, punching numbers.
Hang on, do we finally know when we are? Her first day of class was in chapter one. In chapter three, it’s been two weeks since that. Chapter four was another two weeks, so it’s been a month since the first day of class. Chapter five starts two weeks after that, on the first day of October. And chapter six starts four weeks after that. So, wait… okay, I finally have a feel for when we are in this book’s leaping timeline.
But we still have no clue what numbers they’re punching or why.
Cy cleared his throat, and for the first time in weeks, he spoke to me first, “I can talk to Dr. Zorba about a space
“He’ll never go for it,” I said, wiping my lips with the cuff of my sweater. “He wouldn’t risk a fire or a significant temperature change affecting the specimen.”
“It won’t affect the specimen. It came from space.”
“Exactly. Where it’s cold.”
No. No, no. It’s not “cold” in space. It’s not anything in space. That’s why it’s space. Temperature in space is relative to whatever is floating around out there. If there’s a golf ball floating past the sun, that is going to be a hot fucking golf ball. But not because space is hot. Because the sun is hot. And when that golf ball floats away, it’s going to be less hot. It might even go so far away that it’s totally frozen. But it’s the golf ball that’s cold. Not outer space.
Plus, let’s just wrap our heads around the concept that while this space rock was found in the arctic tundra, it did have to plummet through our atmosphere to get there, and that kind of event tends to generate heat that can be described as “slightly above room temperature.”
“Who says that planet it originated from wasn’t able to retain higher temperatures?”
“Exactly like Venus. I mean… I’m sure that it’s possible. I’ll look into a space heater.”
Oh, well, now that you put it in those vaguely sciencey sounding terms, of course!
Look, I’m not Bill Nye or anything, but I’m almost 100% sure that Dr. Zoidberg would already know what kind of environment this thing should be kept in, right? Like, wouldn’t that be one of the very first science tests? “It’s okay in the cold… what happens if we move it into a slightly warmer room?” Is this basement room they’re working in as cold as the arctic? Then what is the issue here?
This fucking science.
There’s some forced quip about Uranus jokes, then Rory catches Cy looking at her:
“You’re much more attractive when you smile, and your laugh is lovely.”
And then Rory, rebel that she is, is all, “I don’t need you to tell me I’m attractive! I’m alternative and cool and not like the other girls! Don’t be interested in me, I think I don’t deserve love!”
Nah, she tells him thank you, and then he says:
“I just want you to… I don’t know what I want.”
He stared at me for a few moments more and then continued with his work. My face caught fire as the blood pooled under my cheeks. My fingers wouldn’t work after that, and I couldn’t concentrate on the numbers.
WHAT NUMBERS?! For the love of fuck just tell us what these numbers are and what they’re referring to! We hear about “the numbers” more than we hear about this highly improbable space rock, can we at least know what they mean?
I feel like the research that went into the science side of this story was like, the author looking for stock photos of scientists and going, “Wow, there are numbers on the blackboards behind them in almost every single one.” And that’s it. Science = numbers. End of story.
Cy gives Rory a candy bar, because it’s Halloween, and he wants to know why she isn’t at a Halloween party:
“Fake blood. Dead people. Slutty costumes. None of it screams fun to me.”
Once again, I must point out that the limits of my ability with this blogging stuff is that I don’t know how else to indicate there were italics in the quote function. The underline is italics.
This is a really good bit of characterization for Rory here, that honestly, some authors wouldn’t have thought of. It’s really easy to focus on the macro bits of characterization, like horrible murders and dead parents, and forget the micro pieces, like, “This could cause her to really dislike this holiday everyone else loves.”
But does the “slutty” part have to be in there? Were her parents murdered by sluts? That would explain so much about Rory’s aversion to sluts and slut-related paraphernalia? Or is it just that seemingly ever-present vibe of internalized misogyny we’re so craving in our New Adult books?
Cy wants to walk Rory home, and she’s like, “why?”
He blinked a few times and then cleared his throat. “I think that maybe my insistence not to form attachments here was incorrect. We spend a lot of time together in this lab, and I’d like to get to know you better. As much as one can in the time I have left.”
Don’t worry, he’s not dying. He’s just going home soon.
“So that’s why you’ve been ignoring me? Because you know you’re leaving?”
He hesitated. “In part, yes.”
“What’s the other part?”
He squirmed in his chair. “You…intrigue me.”
I feel like maybe he’s not real clear on the meaning of the word “intrigue.” If you’re ignoring something you find intriguing, you probably don’t find it that intriguing.
Despite the difficulty I had focusing, I forced myself to get through the pages of data on my desk. My mind kept wandering off, questioning why I felt so drawn to him. Cy wasn’t my type. He was leaving. His lack of concert tees told me that we likely had nothing in common.
I feel like if your criteria for whether or not you have something in common with someone should extend just slightly past whether or not they wear concert t-shirts. And we’ve already heard that Benji doesn’t wear concert t-shirts, he dresses like an on-duty Best Buy employee, and she hangs out with him all the time.
But even then, i had a strong feeling that there was a reason life had thrown us together.
Because there is a greater being directing the events of your life. That greater being is also responsible for you being a future scientist who is paradoxically uninterested in a space rock.
Cy offers Rory his coat for the walk home, and she declines. I don’t know, maybe it’s not that she’s so smart that she can’t remember to wear a coat. Maybe she just doesn’t like coats, and she’s not being honest with herself or others?
Cy asks Rory what her major is, and she says:
“I’m considering Bio Med. I have a thing for Astrobiology though, and Dr. Z and my father…” I began, but got lost in the thought.
Hang on. Rory is a junior. I realize people can and do change their majors all the time, and some people don’t choose a major for a while, but it seems like if she’s going into a field like science, wouldn’t she need to choose a major earlier than her junior year? And Astrobiology is kind of a broad term. Like, can you even major in that? Wouldn’t you just major in one of the areas of the subject, like chemistry or physics or something? I’m not a guidance counsellor, but if you’re trying to get into a grad school situation, science wise, isn’t it better to keep your major kind of vague?
Discuss in the comments, I’m interested to hear thoughts on this.
“Were astrobiologists? Nothing wrong with having similar interests as a parent. It’s quite honorable where I’m from.”
Okay, I’m pretty sure we’re all on the same page about Cy being a potential alien, right? So if he’s saying, “it’s honorable on my planet,” then okay, whatever. But here’s the thing: the author has presented him as being Egyptian. So here we have this person from another culture making a comment about honor, and it makes me distinctly uncomfortable. It just feels icky in a modern perspective. Are there places where honor as a concept is valued? Sure. Probably. But it’s just so cliche to show someone from a “foreign” culture talking about honor.
Maybe that’s just me.
Rory tells Cy that she’s not sure if she wants to be an astrobiologist, because something about it just doesn’t feel right to her. When Cy says that he gets it, she says:
“No, you don’t,” I said. It wasn’t the right thing to say or even remotely polite, but I became weirdly defensive when it came to my pain and memories.
Well, if you endure the horrific murder of your entire family and nearly die yourself, I can understand how that might make you a tad defensive. But Cy isn’t saying, “I understand how you feel about your dead family.” He’s saying that he understands how she feels about not wanting to go into her dad’s field. He might actually understand that, so don’t jump the gun. He has no idea that your family is dead.
No one got anything about me, not even Dr. Z, and they didn’t get to say they did. If they understood or related to me, it meant I had to share something that belonged only to me.
Again, Rory, you’re isolating yourself, understandably (NO YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME, JENNY!), due to your trauma. But so far, for this entire book, I haven’t seen a single character behave toward you as though they had superior knowledge about your experience. Cy is just saying that he understands not wanting to go into your dad’s profession, and he’s saying this after he just mentioned about his honor and shit. For all he knows, he does understand, and he thinks you’re on mutual footing. Not everything is about your dead parents, especially when you admittedly don’t tell people about them.
But Cy apologizes and Rory changes the subject by asking what his major is:
Rory is all, uh, they don’t have that class here, and Cy is like, no, but they do back home, and by the way, if you couldn’t tell by those clues that I’m an alien, when I came here and started studying this mysterious space rock, then I don’t know what the fuck to tell you.
Or maybe just that first part.
Cy and Rory banter, and they actually display some chemistry towards each other, albeit in a very forced, very predictable teen television drama kind of way. He makes her laugh, which we know is like, mission fucking impossible.
And then this happens:
“This is me. Thanks for walking me home and for asking this time.”
He ignored my mention of him showing up at my door.
“You’re never going to explain that, are you?” I asked.
“I don’t think I need to.”
“So, my hypothesis that you followed me after the lab is correct?”
Cy didn’t answer.
“I’ve already told you. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“That’s all, and for some reason, I needed to see you.”
“Why must you ask so many questions, Rory?”
Yeah, Rory. Why don’t you stop asking so many questions about stuff like why a total stranger would follow you to your home the very first day that you met. God.
No, but seriously, why isn’t Rory more cautious about this? She was almost murdered. Her whole family was murdered. She doesn’t trust the guy who’s basically her best friend enough to tell him what happened to her, and she broke his nose when he put his hand on her wrist. So… why isn’t she more wary about a guy who showed up at her door after following her home the day they met? Why isn’t she more concerned about his creepy display of unwarranted affection, and the way he shut her out after? None of this is ringing any sort of danger bell for you, Rory?
“Weren’t you just defending the right to learn while in college?”
Cy lowered his eyes and took a breath. “And just like college, some things we must wait to learn.”
Like, learning that the guy you have a crush on is an alien, for example.
He managed a small smile and then fidgeted for a bit before reaching for me. He pulled me against him, and my entire body stiffened.
He held his warm cheek against mine and whispered in my ear, “No one knows everything.”
He let me go and walked away quickly, his hands in his pockets.
And then she body slams him into the concrete. No, no, wait. She’s totally fine with this grabby behavior, even though she’s so deeply traumatized and isolated that her PTSD is triggered almost daily.
Look. I get that sometimes people are going to write about mental illness and they’re not going to get everything absolutely right. But I’m pretty fucking sure that PTSD can’t be cured by alien love, and I have this really sick, pit of my stomach feeling that this is the avenue we’re heading down. Introducing a character and showing us that they are psychologically vulnerable, alright, you’re taking a risk. But you have to see that characterization through. You can’t just show us stereotypical alternateen behavior, say it’s caused by this huge trauma, and then drop any pretense of it when it’s time to jump on the trope train to love triangle town. At least tell us why this is different. Let us inside Rory’s head–we’re in first person, for crispy sake!–so that we know why this is a realistic, true to character reaction. Either aversion to touch is a feature of Rory’s PTSD, or it’s not. Fucking pick one and stick to it.
In class the next day, Benji sits next to Rory and is talking to her.
I opened my laptop, ignoring him for the most part and thinking about the night before. It was nice to walk with Cy and to talk about classes and my major instead of the rock.
WHAT THE FUCK? YOU LITERALLY NEVER TALK ABOUT THE ROCK. EXCEPT FOR WHEN YOU’RE DISCUSSING A SPACE HEATER! YOU TALK ABOUT SPACE HEATERS MORE THAN YOU TALK ABOUT SPACE ROCKS!
And how shitty is it that she sits there and ignores Benji the moment she’s distracted by Cy? I’m sorry, Benji, but you’re the Kate Kavanaugh of this book. Don’t let Rory borrow your plum polo shirt.
I thought about how soft and warm his skin was against my cheek and how good he smelled.
Benji prattled on, oblivious to the fact that I was clearly preoccupied, and then Cy walked in.
She’s done with you, Benji, go away. She’ll summon you when she needs you.
Before I did anything stupid, like wave, Cy’s eyes drifted to Benji, and Cy’s entire face tightened. Benji noticed it, too, and they traded strained glances.
Benji kind of gets the vibe between the two of them, and he suspects something’s up:
His playful expression faded. “I saw him walking you home this morning. Are you guys…”
“That was at two o’clock. Why were you hanging around my dorm at two in the morning?”
Benji puffed out a laugh. “I wasn’t hanging around your dorm. I was running.”
Benji tells her that it’s cool by him if she likes someone else:
My eyes met Benji’s. He looked wounded. “I never asked you to like me.”
He shook his head. “No, I know. I just… I will always be your friend. It doesn’t matter if you reciprocate those feelings or not. I don’t need you to love me to love you.”
I should point out here that this exchange is happening during Dr. Zoidberg’s lecture. Rory is freaked out about the fact that Benji said he loves her. But she doesn’t even entertain the thought that Benji might mean “love” in a friendship sense.
Benji feeling hurt was beginning to affect me in ways I didn’t like or appreciate. I wanted us to go back to being friends, as we were before, but it was becoming clear that we couldn’t I never asked him to be my friend in the first place or to love me or however he felt about me.
Yeah, she never asked Benji to have a non-platonic relationship with her. Like, when she kissed him. The fact that she’s known from the very beginning of this book that he had a crush on her–it’s been referenced plenty of times–and she threw a jealous fit at the thought that he might have had some kind of relationship with the girl she hates, there’s no reason at all for him to think that she was interested in him.
Rory is literally the girl that every Nice Guy, trilby wearing MRA fuck bitches about on Reddit.
Why should I have to take on this guilt when I tried to keep a respectable difference from the beginning?
I think we’ve already covered the part where she did not, in fact, remain “a respectable distance,” up to and including expressing her feelings of personal betrayal when she thought he’d dated Ellie.
It wasn’t my fault. He was the one who was being dishonest. It ruined everything, and now, Cy was finally coming around.
Hold up. Your friend, the only fucking friend you have in the entire world, says they don’t need you to love them in the same way they love you, is some how being dishonest? And they should have kept this sentiment to themselves, because it’s complicating a relationship you don’t have and an attraction that you haven’t admitted to in the first place?
I truly get the feeling that Benji is trying to gracefully save their friendship and reassure her that he’ll still be there for her even if she ends up dating another guy. And while he may seem disappointed, he’s not pulling a Xander and yelling at her. He’s said his piece and he’s finished talking about it.
Speaking of which, they do an awful fucking lot of talking in the middle of this lecture. How uncomfortable must Cy be if he can hear this?
I could feel Benji’s disappointment radiating from his perfectly ironed peach oxford. What self-respecting guy wears peach–even if the color does look amazing with his skin and eyes–or feathers his hair since 1991, for that matter?
She’s trying to make herself angry at Benji, so she decides to judge him on his clothing choices–while reminding readers that a super hot guy is interested in her, thus validating her as a woman–so she can feel better about rejecting him (even though he was totally cool about that rejection and didn’t pressure her).
Class dismissed, and I took my things and darted past Benji, not even saying good-bye. I wasn’t sure if he tried. I refused to look.
Rory decides that rather than eat lunch, she’s going to go to the lab to set up samples for Cy to use later that night. Because I guess these college students are just carving up a space rock now. But Cy is already there.
I walked over to his desk where he had petri dishes and small square stickers marked with consecutive numbers.
“I guess you don’t need me at all,” I teased.
“Oh, I need you. Make no mistake about that.”
I was standing a bit behind him, so I watched, hoping he would turn around and wink or smile or somehow indicate that what he said meant more.
Rory asks him what he meant by that, and he plays it cool, and she’s like:
“Good to know. Just wanted to be clear that you didn’t mean something else.”
Then Cy aks to walk her to her next class–holy shit, she goes to other classes?–and they do more banter. They stop at a food truck, and she orders a falafel, which Cy has never heard of:
“It’s a Middle Easter dish,” I said, confused by his confusion.
“Just because it’s Middle Eastern doesn’t mean I must have heard of it. Are you familiar with all Canadian dishes because Canada is also located in North America?”
No, you fucking extraterrestrial, but I know for a fact that if you’re going to college in a city in Egypt, there’s someone selling falafel somewhere. Because that’s how cities work. There’s all sorts of people and food in them. You fucking Mork.
Rory teases him, asking if he wants to walk her to her next class, too, and babysit her while she’s cutting her hair that night.
I wasn’t expecting him to say yes. “It’s kind of ritualistic. I should probably just be alone.”
“You don’t have to be. I can be there with you.”
Rory is totally cool with him intruding on her ritualistic haircut, so they make plans to meet up later that night.
WTF is a ritualistic haircut, anyway? Does she put on dark robes and inscribe a pentagram in raven blood on her forehead? Are there candles? Are dark forces conjured?
Benji is in this class with Rory, too, and he makes a comment about how all the time she spends in the lab is cutting into his “Rory time,” which is kind of a douchey thing to say. My friends and I say that, but we’re also not making sad love-from-afar eyes at each other when we’re saying it.
But it doesn’t bother Rory, she just teases him.
Is what I am feeling a… good mood? Do I even remember what that feels like? Whatever it was, it was completely fine with me if it stuck around a while. But then it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought about my family all morning, and my good mood immediately dissipated. It felt like a betrayal, disrespectful to go a day without thinking about them. They deserved better from me.
See, this is where I get so furious at Rory’s characterization. Right there, the survivor’s guilt? It’s totally believable. So the author is showing that she’s perfectly capable of doing this characterization right. But it’s like she gets to these points in the story where she wants to put romance in, so she drops the realism completely. It’s so god damn frustrating.
When Benji tries to smile at her during class, she ignores him, and when she goes outside:
I pulled at my sweater sleeves, covering my fists with the wool to try to ward off the cold.
Hey Rory, you know what’s good for that? A coat.
I looked down at the bottom of the steps, and there stood Cy. And involuntary smile touched my lips.
“What are you doing here?” I said, descending the ten or so steps down to him.
“I decided to take you up on your invitation to walk you to your next class.”
And Rory is all, “I was just joking, and this is kind of creepy behavior coming from a guy who wouldn’t even speak to me two days ago.”
Without thinking, I threw my arms around him. Cy wasn’t fazed. He pulled me more tightly against him, crossing his arms across my back and pressing his chin gently into my shoulder. I buried my face into his neck. He smelled so good. I couldn’t get enough of it. It wasn’t even cologne. It was just him. His skin was as warm and soft as it looked. He let me get as close to him as I needed, and then he let me let go of him when I needed to.
He didn’t ask me what was wrong or if I was okay. He just walked with me in silence to my next class.
Okay, finally we’re starting to get a sense that Rory is reacting differently to Cy because he’s not all up in her business, and she feels comfortable with him because of that. But come on now. A few paragraphs ago you were all, “Oh my god, I’ve betrayed my family by not constantly thinking about them,” and now it’s, “Ooh, boy smell good. Me likey.”
When I stopped in the doorway, he finally spoke, “I’ll wait for you.”
This fool is literally going to wait for her to come out of her class. Doesn’t he have any other classes? Any place to be, or anything to do? And again, why is this behavior something Rory is okay with?
There was no use in pretending that I didn’t want or need him around more, so I nodded and went inside, relieved to know Cy would be there when class was over.
And that’s it. Literally nothing important about the space rock. Nothing that would indicate that it has anything to do with the story except for be an excuse to throw Rory and Cy together. Six chapters of relationship drama, not even particularly interesting relationship drama, leading up to the big, “I know what you are/say it” Twilight moment that we all know is coming.
This is bullshit, y’all.