It has been some months now since I began this journey, slogging through the quicksand of Apolonia. I was assured there would be science fiction in this novel, but I fear those rumors were untrue. I am now stranded in the barren wasteland of chapter eight, with nary an alien in sight. It is too late for me, Dear Diary, but I hope one day that this journal may be found, and my struggle will not have been in vain.
Warn them, Dear Diary. Warn them, and remember me…
Chapter eight opens in class:
Benji was sitting next to me in Dr. Z’s class, but all I could do was focus on Cy–every time he raised his hand or spoke, his green plaid flannel shirt, his staple khaki cargo pants, and how fast he wrote down whatever he thought was important.
Let’s talk about the Benji/Cyrus back-and-forth. I’m reading Twilight right now, as I mentioned in some other post. I blame that series for the landslide of love triangles in fiction aimed at young adults, even though Bella never, to my interpretation, seemed romantically interested in Jacob at all. She did a shitty thing in Twilight by flirting with him just for information about the Cullens, but I don’t remember there being any kind of strong dynamic in which she was actually torn between the two guys. I’m convinced fans of the series put that there, until it became this “Team Edward”/”Team Jacob” thing that was sort of official without actually being canon. I’m still shocked that there are people who thought it might turn out with Edward and Bella not together. So, here we are in this book, with an undoubtedly Twilight-mandated love triangle that has exactly the same amount of romantic non-tension that Twilight had. Though we’re told again and again that Rory has feelings for Benji, they never feel authentic because in the next chapter or scene she’s annoyed with him or just plain ignoring him. With Cy we’re beaten over the head with this supposed attraction she has for him, but their interactions are almost entirely hostile while she obsesses over him from afar (another Twilight influence that popped up in a lot of books and persists in fiction written for young adults since).
This dynamic could work, but for it to work we need to see some forward momentum. Every time Bella and Edward interact, their rapport changes, on a path from awkward and angry to friendly and then eventually to romantic. Her relationship with Jacob begins as friendship, then turns awkward and angry when he tries to force it to be romantic. All we have here is a character who starts off awkward and angry and resists all attempts the plot makes to develop her or her relationship with either guy. And that really sinks the book because so far, the love triangle is the plot.
It’s a rare day that I use Twilight as a benchmark for excellence in fiction (despite the fact that I like it).
Benji reached for my hand, turned it over, and wrote LUNCH? in black Sharpie on my palm.
Oh, and reminder, I use the underlines to indicate italics in the text. There are no underlines in the formatting of the book.
Benji is super agitated about the intense hugging the night before, because he’s starting to make some mental conclusions that worry him:
“[…]It’s that…well, I’ve known you for almost two years, and I didn’t know you had taken a self-defense class. does that have to do with whatever happened to–”
Why haven’t any of the other students leaned over and shushed them by now? They’re always having these long ass conversations in class. I see this a lot in high school and college-set books. It’s always in science class–Buffy is another example of this–which makes a lot of sense because it’s a class with independent, cooperative study. But it doesn’t really work when the science class is a lecture and the room would therefore be quiet.
Benji asks Rory if she’s going home for break, which she’s obviously not, because she doesn’t have a home:
When Dr. Z dismissed the class, I realized I hadn’t taken a single note. The first half, I’d spent staring at the back of Cy’s infuriatingly beautiful head, and the second, I’d tried not to think about the memory Benji unknowingly pulled to the surface.
She watches as Cy packs up his stuff and leaves, and Rory thinks:
Part of me wanted to stop him and ask about the frightened look in Kevin’s eyes the night before. I hadn’t seen that kind of raw fear since the night my parents and Sydney–the night I refused to think about. I wanted to know what Cy had said to Kevin that was so frightening.
Okay, here’s an interesting contradiction. Rory is so sensitive to any sign of danger that she’s accidentally hurting people, but when she sees Cy scare Kevin as much as the murderers scared her family the night they died, she’s even more infatuated with him. We need a space for this sort of thing on the New Adult bingo board.
Benji mentions how weird it is that he never see Cy outside of class:
“He disappears after he leaves here. One day, I followed him, but he turned a corner and… poof.”
A corner of my mouth turned up. “I’m a little jealous that I’m not the only one you stalk.”
LOL STALKING IS SO HILARIOUS.
Rory tells Benji that she’s seen Cy outside of class before:
“Like a… like a date?”
“No, like he’s Dr. Z’s research assistant.”
“I thought you were?”
“We both are.”
“Oh. I thought he was temporary. You’re still working together every night?”
Wait, it’s only Thanksgiving break. How temporary did Benji think this was? It’s only been a semester.
Benji asks if the reason Rory’s not going home for Thanksgiving is that she wants to spend time with Cy. Well, no, he asks:
“Even over break? Is that why you’re not going home?”
Which could be interpreted as, “Are you not going home because you’re working,” but we all know what the fuck Benji means. Rory tells him that she doesn’t have a home to go to, and she doesn’t want to talk about it. They go to Gigi’s, where all the waitresses think Rory and Benji are dating, despite Rory’s many protests to the contrary. Rory senses that he’s got something on his mind, so she kicks him under the table. Like you do when you’re a fucking adult. Benji says he wants to tell her something, but in a way she hasn’t heard before, and Rory asks if it’s because of Cy.
“Because of a lot of things, Rory. I…wanted to wait. I wanted to have this conversation on your terms, especially after what happened with Ellie, I didn’t want to risk running you off again. But if I wait, with you and Cyrus spending so much time together–”
“Don’t tell me don’t. You’ve stopped me from telling you how I feel about you once a week since we’ve met. I know there are things I don’t know about your past. Maybe I don’t need to know them. Maybe one day you’ll tell me, and I’ll wish I didn’t know. Either way, my feelings for you won’t change. I don’t need to know your past to know that I have feelings for the person you are now.”
This scene, it is a mess.
First of all, if Benji wasn’t textbook creepy Nice Guy already… he’s been trying to confess his feelings to her once a week since they met? What the hell? Remember, they met before the beginning of this book, and they weren’t terribly close when it started. Also, she’s trying to keep him from making this declaration, but he’s going to, whether or not she wants to hear it? It’s called boundaries, Benji. She doesn’t have to humor you if you’re making her uncomfortable.
At the same time, Rory is aware of Benji’s feelings and won’t set clear boundaries, swinging from “I don’t like you like that,” to “hold me, I’m so vulnerable and also jealous that you know other girls.” That’s not really fair of Rory. It doesn’t make her responsible for Benji’s lack of respect for her boundaries, but she’s been moving the goal posts a lot. She got so out of control jealous over Ellie that she wouldn’t talk to him for weeks, but she doesn’t want him to have romantic interest in her. In other words, she wants Benji’s friendship and free meals, but she doesn’t want to share anything personal with him and god forbid he ever look at another girl.
These two either deserve each other or need to run in opposite directions. They’re probably the most selfish main characters I’ve ever read in a romance storyline.
Rory orders a quesadilla, then Benji orders the same thing and she’s like, oh, he’s sucking up until the waitress points out that it’s what he usually orders.
How did I not notice that after coming here so often with him?
After Rory thinks about how selfish she is, Benji goes right back to being horrible:
“How do you feel about me? Think I’ll ever make it back out of the friend zone alive?”
Gosh, you didn’t want to be in the “friend zone” Benji? Because when the book started you were like, “I just want to be your friend.” I hope you get hit by a snow plow.
I stared at the pedestrians and traffic passing by. Benji was obnoxiously happy and irritating, and in the beginning, I didn’t think he was my type at all, but I suddenly feard that if I didn’t say something in the realm of him having a chance, I might lose him.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to point this out, but she’s feeling this way because he’s manipulating her.
His friendship was comforting even if I wanted to kick his ass half the time, and as long as I was being truthful, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure he was just a friend.
Regardless of his feelings or mine, I was very possibly on my way toward committing a federal crime.
Oh, right. There’s that space rock thing hanging around in the background of this “science fiction” novel.
But that’s not the only impediment to a relationship:
Benji obviously came from very respectable stock, and I was every mother’s nightmare.
You’re certainly mine, Rory.
And then there was the small matter of a traumatic life event and my immortality. That was a lot for something new and iffy to push through.
Excuse me? EXCUSE ME? Since when is Rory FUCKING IMMORTAL? WHY WAS THIS NOT EXPLICITLY MENTIONED EARLIER IN THE STORY? WHY HAVE WE NOT HAD ANY OTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THIS UNTIL RIGHT NOW? WHY HAS SHE NOT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT IT?
I can’t even with this. This is either another case of the author not realizing that there are certain words/phrases you have to be careful with in paranormal type books and it’s just an accident, but why would Rory phrase it that way? Or she literally meant that she’d been killed and survived in the first lines of the book. This is so confusing, it makes my head hurt.
I’ll assume since being immortal would actually be interesting and we’re only just now hearing about it, she actually is immortal and it’s part of the better plot that’s happening when we’re not privy to events.
Writing Tip: IF YOUR MAIN CHARACTER WHOSE POV WE ARE CURRENTLY IN IS FUCKING IMMORTAL YOU NEED TO BRING THAT UP BEFORE CHAPTER EIGHT OF YOUR NOVEL.
“What if I said not right now and maybe not ever?” As soon as I said the words, I felt my heart knocking against my chest in a panic. He’s going to walk away. He’s going to leave me, and I need him.
Maybe he would walk away, Rory. Maybe he would walk away to protect himself emotionally. And maybe that would be okay, because it would be a healthy boundary for both of you.
Which is exactly why it won’t happen.
“Would you stop being my friend?”
“Never,” he said without hesitation. “Is that your answer?”
“Maybe. Can I think about it?”
“Absolutely. I’m not ready to give up on you yet anyway.”
Translation: Don’t worry, Rory. I’ll wear you down.
Rory suggests that they go to a party together that night, and he’s like, uh, what’s up with wanting to go to parties all of a sudden, and I realize that Rory must have Tess-from-After disease: she compulsively goes to parties she doesn’t want to go to.
He had a point. I didn’t know what was up with my sudden urge to socialize, either, but what I did know was that I was getting very sick of the endless cycle of class, dorm, and lab, and The Gym wasn’t cutting it.
I can venture a guess as to why she wants to go to the party. Because whoever edited this for content probably said, “We’ve been spending a lot of time at class, dorm, lab, etc. and it’s slowing the story down.” And this was the answer. “I don’t want to go to parties… but I am compelled to.”
After the break, Rory is just finishing up in the lab. She invites Cy to come to the party with her:
Cy’s face blanched. “But we have so much work to do. You can’t. We don’t have time for parties.”
“We always have time for parties.”
“But you don’t go to parties.”
Listen, Cy, I don’t know what book you’re in, but you’re asking a lot if you’re looking for consistency in characterization.
Rory, who is afraid she’s going to be fired from Dr. Z’s lab and that’s why she needs to work so hard and also who knows that the CIA is breathing down their necks and therefore time is of the essence now abandons the increasingly flimsy sci-fi plot to go to a party with one half of her love triangle. The party is at Theta Tau, where all the people who don’t have anywhere to go on break are drowning their sorrows. Benji says:
“Well, I’m hoping to get drunk so you’ll try to take advantage of me later.”
“Not going to happen.”
“A man can dream, can’t he?” he said, smiling and walking backward a few steps before turning for the kitchen.
She was just threatened with sexual assault by a known rapist at a party. You know this, because you defended her. You also know that she is extremely traumatized by something in her past. So why would you make that joke?
I laughed once. Benji and I had known each other for a little over two years, and I had known almost the whole time that he had a thing for me, but this— whatever it was— still felt new and maybe a little exciting.
And then, there was Cy. It was definitely possible to have feelings for two people, but I couldn’t have more than a friendship with both of them. Do I want to be with both of them?
No. Because in the section preceding this one you said you might not want to be with Benji ever.
What I felt for him was different from what I felt for Cy. I wasn’t even sure if having feelings for Cy was even accurate. What I felt was drawn to him. I needed him, but I wasn’t sure why. There was just something in my gut telling me that he’d entered my life for a reason.
It’s the author. She needed a love triangle. That’s why he entered your life.
Benji gets two more beers and Rory is like, guess I’m driving, and Benji is like, nah, I’ll just have these. So, Benji is going to slam three beers and get in the car and drive. Awesome. Rory tells him that she has to go back to work after the party, and he asks if he can come with her. So like, Benji is going to slam three beers and get in the car and drive to Rory’s work, where he’ll be, you know. Drunk at Rory’s work. Good plan.
Luckily, Rory isn’t having it, so we get treated to yet another round of talking about their potential relationship. Because none of us have gotten tired of that yet.
“I’m jus trying to drink up the nerve to ask to kiss you.”
On the same day, the same day that she says she’s not sure about him and she might never want to go out with him, Benji is angling for physical gratification. Awesome.
You know what? Benji is such a fucking dick, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the actual hero of the story and not just the side guy the heroine rejects. I’m taking penny bets here that she ends up with him. There’s no way she won’t; he’s really terrible.
Benji asks Rory if she would be unsure about dating him if Cy hadn’t come into the picture, and she explains:
“I don’t know why you’re interested in me, for one. We don’t really”–I pointed back and forth between the two of us–”make sense.”
“You’re wrong. We make perfect sense.”
Silly woman. You have no idea if you want to date him or not. Let him make all those decisions for you.
“The White Stripes tee and the yellow oxford. Yeah, makes perfect sense,” I said before taking another drink.
What is this fan-fiction-I-wrote-in-seventh-grade hang up about clothes and bands? You are a fucking adult, Rory. You’re an adult. Benji is not the brunette version of you in a remake of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” video, okay?
Somehow, in my nervousness, I’d managed to drink the entire cup of beer.
“Want another, or are you done?” he asked.
“No, I’m definitely not done. We came to party, didn’t we?”
Yeah, bro, let’s pound these brewskis and then I’ll get right back to work and DO DRUNKEN SCIENCE ON THIS HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER SPACE ROCK OF WHICH ONLY ONE SPECIMEN EXISTS.
Benji is now halfway done with his third beer, and Rory is ready to make this a drinking contest. Benji says:
“Whoa there. Slow down. I don’t want to be blamed if you don’t make it back to work.”
“Do I seem like the kind of girl who makes everything everyone else’s fault?”
The conversation comes back to the shirt analogy, and Benji says:
“It’s not the outside, Rory. I mean, you’re obviously beautiful and unorthodox. I wear button-ups and get nosebleeds, but it’s the inside where we make sense.”
“I’m talking about the inside that is nice to me. The girl who tells me where freshman orientation is on the first day. The girl who let me sit next to her in class even though she wanted to be left alone. The girl who pushes everyone aside so that she can help me stop a nosebleed. The girl who walks me home after said nosebleed. The girl who let me hold her. The girl who asked me to this party. The girl who is going to at least try to give me a chance. And more importantly, the girl who had something so awful happen to her that it changed her life, but she didn’t use it as an excuse to fail.”
“The girl I badgered into being friends with me. The girl I bribe with promises of food, like she’s a pet raccoon. The girl who can be easily manipulated due to past tragedy. The girl I made up in my head. The girl who waited. The boy who lived.”
Then Benji asks again if he can kiss her. Again.
Rory decides they should play a drinking game, in which they ask each other questions, and if one of them doesn’t want to answer, they have to drink. Which, I don’t know, Rory. You don’t want to tell anyone so much as your phone number. This might end in alcohol poisoning.
The game is super boring. We find out that Rory’s middle name is Ann, and that Benjamin is Benji’s middle name, because his first is Franklin. Neither of them are virgins, Benji had a good childhood, and despite bringing up the subject of families, Rory drinks rather than answer Benji’s question on the subject. She asks him why he hates Bobby Peck, his arch nemesis, and it turns out that Bobby is dating the girl Benji lost his virginity to.
“Who’s going to drive me back to work?”
“That’s,’ Benji said, pointing at me with the same hand his cup was in, “a very good question. Not you and not me and not just because I don’t want you to go back with him. I want you to stay here with me. Do you know how maddening it is to know you like him and that you spend hours with him every night?”
I just shook my head.
“It is. Sometimes, I feel like I’m going to go out of my mind and just storm in there and steal you away.”
But you just found out that she’s working with Cy, Benji. Like, in this chapter, you expressed surprise that they were still working together.
This chapter is working so hard to make me hate Benji. He will not let up with his pursuit of Rory, when on the same damn day she told him she might not ever want to be with him. This behavior? This is not the friendship she was promised. Neither is this:
He reached over and entwined his fingers with mine. “I’m in love with you, Rory. I have been for a long time.”
“Oh,” I said again, feeling my cheeks warm in reaction. Outside of the classroom, those words felt more real. The embarrassment was replaced with nearly uncontrollable lust. No man had ever told me he loved me before Benji–well, except for my dad, and that wasn’t the same, not even close.
Well, thank Christ for that.
The moment is interrupted by the evil Bobby Peck, who is there to offer them rides home. He even tells Rory that she shouldn’t go to work as wasted as she is, so… I guess I don’t get why Bobby Peck is that bad a dude. I really don’t give a shit if he hurt Benji, because fuck Benji, that’s why.
Rory texts Cy and tells him she’s not coming back because of her awesome work ethic. Like, she literally texts him, “Drunk. Going home.” Because she’s so worried about losing her position to him, her competition. So she tells him, the guy she was pretty sure was trying to steal her job, that she’s too drunk to come back to work.
I actually get light-headed reading this book sometimes.
Benji and Rory ask to be taken to Benji’s place, and then they’re so flirty that Bobby Peck gives them a condom. Bobby Peck is on top of his game. I like Bobby Peck.
But why do they need that condom, you ask?
“It’s the middle of the night. I’m walking you home.”
“No, you’re not. It’s stupid for you to walk all the way over there and then back.”
“It’s stupid for you to walk alone.”
We stared at each other for a moment.
Benji squeezed my hand. “Stay with me.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, walking away.
“I’m serious,” he said, pulling me to him. “I’ll sleep on the floor.”
I thought for a minute, chewing on my lip. “You’re not going to let me walk home alone, and I’m not going to let you walk me home. We’re at an impasse.”
“So, my staying here makes sense, right?”
We all know where this is going. We’ve read these kinds of books all the time. “Just stay the night, nothing is going to happen WHOOPS THERE’S MY DICK IN YOU HOW DID THAT GET THERE.” He even gives her a t-shirt to sleep in.
I pulled back the covers and turned onto my side, facing Benji. He was looking straight ahead, lying perfectly still.
“Okay then,” I said, starting to turn my back to him.
“you look really good in my shirt,” Benji said, his voice muffled. “I’m just trying to keep my promise.”
Technically he promised he would sleep on the floor, but let’s just take this for the “I’m trying not to rape you and it’s a Herculean effort” line that it is and be as thoroughly grossed out as we should be.
“You did promise to sleep on the floor,” I said.
Benji slammed his face into the pillow. “I did. I promised. And I will never break a promise to you.”
I could barely understand him, but it made me giggle.
He looked up. “There is nothing about this that’s funny.”
“I don’t know. You’re pretty funny right now.”
Ha ha! Yon knave hath made a jest about raping me! How droll!
I stopped smiling and tried not to think too much about what I was getting ready to do.
I crawled down from Benji’s bed. He turned onto his side, watching me move toward him.
I lowered myself to the floor next to him and leaned in. “What if I want you to touch me?”
Without skipping a beat, Benji put his hands on both sides of my face and pulled my lips against his. His mouth immediately opened, and I slipped my tongue inside , caressing his tongue with mine .
Let’s talk for a minute about how this is a rape scene, shall we? Great.
So, Rory goes down on him, then they have intercourse. That’s seriously it. From BJ to insertion, the whole thing is shorter than the will they/won’t they that we just had to sit through from the party until now.
The prose is E.L. James level vague:
He pumped and rocked against me, faster and stronger each time, rubbing against every part of me that I wanted him to until I could feel the build, until it consumed me, overtaking my entire body, finally making my thighs twitch uncontrollably. I moaned and let my arms fall back with my hands over my head. Benji reached for them, intertwining his fingers in mine. He rocked against me, each time making the smallest, most amazing humming sound until he came.
I was seriously waiting for a “he detonated around me.”
“I love you,” he said, brushing my hair back from my face. I wasn’t sure what expression I had, but it made one corner of his mouth turn up. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say it back.”
She can’t say it back. She’s got over half the book left to stretch this conflict over. Tomorrow she’ll probably hate you again.
I closed my eyes, refusing to think too much about what we’d done or what he’d just said, just enjoying having someone so close who loved me that much. I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was love, but I’d never felt this way before.
Meanwhile, back at the space rock, JUST KIDDING HA HA THERE’S STILL NO FUCKING SCIENCE FICTION IN THIS BOOK JUST KISSING AND SURPRISE IMMORTALITY.