The Bore Season

ImageThe Buzz: “GUYS OMG THE NEXT HARRY POTTER IS HERE” … said absolutely no one once they actually sat down to read the latest cheap marketing ploy to be vomited out by Bloomsbury Press.

The Booze: Seriously, I don’t even know where to start. Besides by chugging half a bottle of shitty gin straight, of course. Whose fucking brilliant idea was it to even publish this tripe, let alone allow the hype to get that carried away? I don’t even blame the author or the fucking editor at that point. Marketing team, WTF mates. W.T.F. I’ve seen some over-hyped YA in my time, but this takes the cake. Or rather, the cow-pie (cause it’s shit! get it?! okay, too much gin too soon, sorry guys).

But let’s get down to the book itself. Because it’s not the book’s fault that some drooling genius with no better ideas decided to just start name-dropping instead of bothering to market the actual book (the Bone Season’s NYT review neatly details the problem with all this “next Hunger Games Twilight Harry Potter Game of Thrones Lord of the Rings” talk surrounding the book: namely, that nobody even mentions the book or the writing, they just think the author seems kinda sweet and super young and also she got paid an awful lot of money for this book, so it must be good right!?).

So anyway. I will stop feeding the media fervor and cut to the chase. Because The Bone Season‘s real problem is not that it’s over-hyped, or that Bloomsbury shelled out a criminal amount of money for it. The real problem, is that this book is complete shit.

A (not so) brief summary: In the opening of The Bone Season, our intrepid heroine, Super-Special Snowflake and otherwise Obviously Srsly Privileged White Girl who got Bored With Being Rich and Shit, Paige Mahoney, is working for a clairvoyant street gang. Clairvoyancy is illegal, so these badass thug types have banded together to avoid the police in Scion London, aka SciLo, because everything and everyone in this book has at least 3 names. We are treated to 50-some pages of incomprehensible slang speak about said gang and its working life, but don’t bother flipping back to the 15-page glossary, because by the time you think you’re starting to maybe understand wtf is going on, it’s made obsolete anyway. Paige is captured by some of the aforementioned cops, drugged, and dragged off to what used to be Oxford. Now it’s Sheol I, a prison city for the alien race known as the Rephaim, who are secretly controlling the Scion government from behind the scenes, while enslaving clairvoyants like Paige to help them fight off flesh-eating monsters that threaten to destroy the Earth.

Confused? Yeah, me too, and I read the whole damn thing. But it sounds like an okay sort of synopsis. I mean, aliens are cool, right? Kanye West would have sex with them, at least. And gangs are fun, and even if we’ve seen the whole speshul snowflake/Mary Sue character all over the damn place in YA, they keep popping up (presumably because people like to read over and over about the exact same tough streetsmart gal with no weak side except for the first hot male with smoldering eyes who comes along). So this book could be marginally enjoyable, right?

Wrong. Why?

Well, first there’s the writing. I tried to skim through the book to find some quotable moments, but my eyes kept glazing over in protest at the utter dullness of the words they were being exposed to. Normally even mediocre or downright terrible books have some quotable moments (even if you’re just quoting them for the sheer over-the-top hilarity factor). None of that here. Every sentence passes in the kind of monotony that will make you wonder why the fuck you picked up this 450+ page book in the first place, even if massive fantasy tomes are normally your thing. The only moments that vaguely stood out, stood out in bad ways (mostly because Shannon has an intense need to tell her readers over again what they’ve only just seen play out). For example, when one of the marginally less boring characters, a rebellious young man, is speaking to our main character (her name is 40 now, by the way, or technically XX-59-40, though we never learn why the 59 was necessary, since only 40 people showed up during the XX Bone Season, and also how the fuck do you pronounce XX anyway? It’s a Roman numeral, so do you say “20”? If so, why not just put 20, since the other numbers are written out, and they go around saying them out loud all the time? Or do they pronounce it “Ex Ex” in the story to differentiate from the other numbers, so that everyone in the story understands that if they have to sign a piece of paper as XX-59-40, it should be spelt XX? … I digress, on to the quote):

“It’ll happen one day, 40. We’ll be the ones experimenting on these bastards, not the other way around.”

The Rephs (aka the aforementioned bastards) had been foolish to make this man a red-jacket. It was clear that he despised them.

NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. YOU DON’T SAY. Because normally when I talk about experimenting on bastards, what I really mean is that I totes love them. THANKS FOR CLEARING UP THAT CONFUSION.

“But there are plenty of badly-written books that could have potential in other areas!” say some fucking nubs who want to convince me that Twilight has any sort of merit. But even accepting that hypothesis for a moment, this book still fails to accomplish… anything.

The world-building makes no sense. The plot is so full of holes you could plant a full-grown Redwood tree in there and still have room for a vegetable garden on the side. Every character besides the main character is not only a flat cardboard cutout, but they’re the SAME flat cardboard cutout. There are the evil ones. They’re evil. And there are the nice ones. They’re nice, and usually seem to exist solely to die and/or be threatened with death to spur on the narrator.

Then we come to the narrator herself. You don’t even need to read the book. As much as I hate to link anyone to the vortex known as TV Tropes, this really is all you need to read to understand Paige. I will now wait 10 minutes for you to return from the vortex.

Back? Okay, good.

There are other points about the book that annoyed me, but if I harp on much longer (the aliens’ eyes change color and they are freakishly cold and only sleep during the day for no apparent reason and they may or may not drink the human characters’ blood/life force, I’M JUST SAYING, if you want to write a book about vampires, fucking man up and write a vampire book), I’ve a feeling I’ll be guilty of the same endless rambling this first-time author was for some reason allowed to indulge in (EDITORS, HERE’S LOOKIN’ AT YOU).

Final verdict on this one: Just don’t.

But if you must…

The Prescription: 1 ounce of Jägermeister + 1 can of Red Bull. That’s right. In true Jersey Shore (or Geordie Shore? Shannon’s a Brit, after all) style, Jagerbomb this shit. You’ll need the caffeine to slog through the neverending continuity problems, and the booze to… Well, I don’t need to explain what you need that for, do I?

Cover Snark: RED

Sorry, fellow alcoholics! SMERSH had a henchman strike at the secret volcano lair where I’m being imprisoned, and when you only have scab henchmen, no one thinks to restock the poor prisoner’s vodka cabinet. One simply cannot expect me to endure the latest crop of trainwreck YA novels within a stone’s throw of sobriety, now can one?

However, there are two covers that are so offensively, egregiously horrid that my anger at their awfulness outweighed my anger at not being able to fix up a proper martini. Once I looked further into these two festering herpes outbreaks upon the acne-scarred face of today’s YA offerings, I realized that the covers probably are meant to serve as some kind of early-warning system for the vomit-inducing plots contained therein. Should I be doubly outraged that they’d not only publish such awful covers, but also such dreadful-sounding books? Or should I thank them for saving me the hassle? You decide.

First up on the shitshow: RED by Alison Cherry.

Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.

Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:

I know your secret.

Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say “strawberry blond.” Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.

Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?

Let’s start with that cover, shall we? This is just a dirty-bomb of artless Photoshopping. The background photo is so obviously not related to the primary girl in any way, shape or form. But primary girl–she’s rather a Frankenstein monster of everything that’s wrong with YA messaging for girls, isn’t she? The face and forearm of an anorexic mid-20s supermodel has been stitched onto a teen girl’s body with little regard for skin tone matching or HSD values. If I saw a 17-year old with that woman’s face, I’d assume she was the product of the Toddlers & Tiaras circuit and punch her mother for child abuse.

But then we have a third cadaver donor in the form of that hair! It’s obviously not the 20-something supermodel’s hair–you can see the bad attempts to blend the too-large face along the hairline. Then, topping everything off are two fonts that should have restraining orders on each other–overly frou-frou and boringly “edgy.”

Come the fuck on. If you were really having that much trouble stitching together a redhead shushing you, couldn’t you have sprung for a one-hour photo shoot? It’s almost like… they didn’t want to invest that much money in this book…

Hmm… on second thought, after reading that blurb, I can see why.

Prediction: Red will be an overly pedantic morality play, of the variety usually reserved for finger-wagging picture books, where the painfully delivered lesson about the need for diversity and acceptance will be grossly overshadowed by the complete lack of non-white characters in the entire fucking town of Scarletville. Unless there’s some even more painful scene in which Felicity gets lost in the ghetto (because all black people are poor, and only black people live in the bad part of town) and befriends some wise-cracking street-smart black guy, and HE’S the one who delivers the overly pedantic finger-wagging lesson. No, what could we do that’s even better? I know: have the message of diversity and inclusion be conveyed by the talking computer belonging to the wheelchair-bound black lesbian with ALS. The only one in the town of redheads, of course.

Next week: aliens are just like us, only prettier and with worse Photoshop filters.

I wish I could forget you, False Memory.

FALSE MEMORY by Dan KrokosThe nicest thing I can say about Dan Krokos’s debut YA “sci-fi” novel FALSE MEMORY is that it’s mercifully short.

17-year-old Miranda North wakes up in a mall with her memory wiped. Well, just the autobiographical stuff—she still remembers how to do parkour and unleash blasts of psychic energy, amongst other handy things. Miranda’s Sweet-Ass Powers derive from a combination of being an Orphan/Child Soldier raised in a Cliche Underground Training Facility, some requisite Genetic Fuckery, and my personal favorite, Virginity Preservation. (Virginity is the fifth and most powerful force of nature. Fact.) After blasting—and inadvertently killing—several people with her Psychic Fear Ray, Miranda meets Peter, a boy who claims to be part of her elite Teens With Sweet-Ass Powers squadron. Peter is an Exposition Fairy who promises to help Miranda get her memory back. But Miranda’s memory may be missing because she holds a Dangerous Secret.

Blah, blah, blah. It’s like someone threw darts at TV Tropes and called it a novel.

Krokos’s spin on the familiar is to up the ante in sheer ridiculousness: the plot ticks the boxes not just for amnesia and superpowers, but motorcycle chases, clones, helicopters with blazing miniguns, vehicles bursting into flame, masses of cannon fodder civilians dying, etc. etc. It’s a checklist of comic book/bad action movie cliches and offers about as much pathos and gravity as a Michael Bay film.

This girl is approximately 7500% more badass than Miranda.

This girl is approximately 7500% more badass than Miranda.

The characters are hollow shells with no sense of interiority. They glide through the plot without any sense of personal agency, transparently maneuvered by the hand of the author. Miranda likes two boys because there has to be a love triangle. Miranda does badass things because it’s badass to be a badass and this book is BADASS ENOUGH FOR BOYS, guys. There’s no evidence of Miranda’s inner drives or motivation. She is Spunky Teen Girlbot, Kicker of Asses, Lover of Two Improbably Attractive White Boys.

During the long, talky exposition scenes, where we learn Shocking!New!Revelation! upon Shocking!New!Revelation! (because infodumping is okay if you do it via dialogue, right?), you could hide the names and not be able to tell which character is speaking. They’re all stereotypes: Fiery Redhead, Token Asian Badass Chick, Boy Next Door, Bad Boy—all helpfully color-coded by hair and race, lest you forget which vertice of the love triangle is randomly kissing Miranda when they’re both drowning at the bottom of a river. Miranda, of course, is a passive audience for the romantic overtures of the boys, and reacts with all the enthusiasm of a frozen side of beef.

If the heroes are interchangeably bland, the villains are worse: they’re cartoonishly Eeeeevil and prone to pontificating about their Evil Plans at great length and with conspicuous clarity. Miranda watches people die before her eyes with about the same vacuous boredom as she observes the paint on her toenails. It’s all so thin, one-dimensional, and strangely lifeless. The explosions and the bullets have more personality than these drones.

Early on, when Miranda meets up with her squad, she simply accepts the fact that the Bad Boy WIPED ALL OF HER GOL’ DURN MEMORIES in order for her to escape their Cliche Underground Training Facility because of Reasons. Bad Boy and Token Asian didn’t have to lose theirs to escape; why did Miranda? Well, Bad Boy doesn’t explain and Miranda doesn’t ask and the reader facepalms. Minor plotting inconsistencies and implausibilities like this abound, and it’s all delivered in brisk yet stubbornly dull prose that describes forests as “trees” and characters as faceless bags of clothes and meat. Everything floats in a kind of vague, motion-blurred haze.

Also, for some reason, the protags and antags mostly fight each other with wooden staves. Not, y’know, guns, of which there are endless amounts.

Someone played a little too much of this while writing.

Someone played a little too much of this while writing.

I’m reminded unpleasantly of James Frey’s YA classic, I AM NUMBER FOUR. If you like that kind of screenplay-esque novel on training wheels, this is right up your alley.

At least this doesn’t fail in the same way as, say, Karsten Knight’s misogynistic WILDEFIRE. Krokos shows no capacity to write a believable female voice—let alone a believable human voice—but at least he fails in a sort of bland, inoffensive way. It might have been more interesting if he had been offensive. Throw in some slut-shaming, or internalized misogyny. Something!

FALSE MEMORY could have been a fun dark comedy. It possesses all the elements of comedy except humor. Teen boys would probably devour this when the Call of Duty servers are down. Anyone else will find themselves experiencing similar symptoms to Miranda when it’s over: forgetting all about it.

Gorgeous: Inner Beauty Wants to Stab Itself

The Buzz: Everyone reading says it’s hilarious! David Sedaris blurbed it! It can’t be that bad, right?

The Booze: Wrong. Look, I know the protagonist is borderline illiterate white trash from a trailer park, and since I’ve watched a lot of Toddlers in Tiaras with my sadistic roommate, I understand that this style of writing is pretty much exactly how borderline illiterate persons from trailer parks talk… But there’s a reason you don’t write prose in exactly the same way that people speak, and that’s because it makes for some fucking terrible writing.

Every goddamn sentence in this book is a runon so long my eyes were watering by the end of it. I don’t think it would be physically possible to fit any more “and like” clauses into this book without the entire story devolving into something slightly less intelligible than The Jabberwocky as read aloud by a foreign exchange student.

Not to mention the cognitive dissonance I experienced every time I tried to envision where the fuck the bloody characters were or where they were going at any damn point in the novel. I called this phone number from my trailer and this lady on the other end told me she would give me a thousand bucks and fly me to New York City, so I went to Starbucks with my friend and asked her what I should do and my friend said are you an idiot of course you should go and so now I am on a plane to New York. That’s only a slight exaggeration about the pace at which we flip through 30 different locations in under a single page, with nary a word of scenic descriptors, background information, or, y’know, plot.

Not to mention how badly my head hurt when, after the character is picked up in a Mercedes at “the New York airport” (huh?), we get this gem of a sentence (trimmed for ease of comprehension):

“and that was when I saw the New York City skyline and I felt like I was drunk and like I was about to cry and like I was really far away from East Trawley. Then we began gliding along what Drake said was the West Side Highway and he said that I could see across the river to New Jersey.”

OKAY. Now look. Either a) your main character the country bumpkin just drove through midtown Manhattan for the first time ever, and you decided it didn’t merit a single word of description, b) your characters just teleported to the WEST SIDE from JFK/LGA, or c) you came from Newark airport IN New Jersey, in which case, why is the main character’s escort only just now pointing it out like some mysical far-off land, and why did your character say she was in the “New York” airport?

There are too many books set in NYC for you to be this lazy about geography. Not to mention, I just googled the author and he fucking lives in NYC. Um… Dude, even I know this and I only visit twice a year. Fucking googlemap JFK if your sense of direction is that bad, Christ!

Also, really, David Sedaris? I laugh out loud when I read YOUR books. But did you actually think this was funny? WHY DID YOU DECEIVE ME SO?!

Other people on Amazon seem to agree that it was in fact hilarious, so maybe my humor detector has just broken down after so many hours of trauling through utter shite, but… C’mon: “Tom Kelly was like sugar, or TV or God. He wasn’t a man, he was a thing, and he’d always been there.” Is that supposed to be funny? Or was that just a serious observation (and he’d always been WHERE?! In alternate reality NYC where JFK is to the west of town?!)? Seriously guys, I CAN’T TELL if funny or not. Let me know if you can, or something.

Overall: girl puts on dresses, girl becomes hot, girl discovers that hotness isn’t everything, and it can only get you so far (like, becoming famous and having a super wealthy and coveted boyfriend). Blah blah yawn yawn. Next please.

The Prescription: Mix 1 oz. blueberry vodka, 1 oz. Sprite, and pour over a puff of cotton candy for a drink that’s as sickeningly sugary sweet as this book’s protagonist. Some of you will probably like it, though.

Taken for a Ride

The Buzz: Boy-MC YA! A dystopian that is actually original and fresh! Epic twists and turns to make your head spin!

The Booze:

Well… at least Bowman’s prose was so insipid I was able to burn through this trainwreck in about two hours flat.

This is seriously the nicest thing I can say about this book. That the sentence structures were so brain-scorchingly bland and dull that I could speedread through it like a fuckin’ champion. There was absolutely no meat, no grist, no pockets of deliciousness to trip me up on my jet fuel-powered trajectory to the last page, hell-bent on getting there as fast as I could to put this insufferably unremarkable book behind me.

Which is not to say there are no problems with this book. It is unremarkable, forgettable, and boring as shit, but there are still PROBLEMS, eye-rolly issues that make it not merely unremarkable but disgustingly so. Problems you run into every derivative, terrible book these days, but for fuck’s sake, did it really have to encompass them ALL? Let’s run down the list:

Unnecessary and exploitative sex practices. Oh, boo fucking hoo, we’re supposed to feel terrible about these teens getting Slated to sleep together in a desperate attempt to propagate their society before the boys up and get zapped on their 18th birthdays. But the worldbuilding has been SO FUCKING CONTRIVED to create this exploitative situation, making it feel so improbable and stupid, that I have a hard time giving a fuck.

Insipid love triangle. So our boo-hoo hero, Gray, is in love with the girl who was in love with his older brother before his older brother got birthday-zapped. After some emo tantruming, she falls for Gray, then he LEAVES HER BEHIND in some elaborate escape plan and falls for some equally emo rebel chick. These chicks are fucking trainwrecks. Gray is a trainwreck. The only saving grace is that we’re not inside one of these insipid girls’ heads as they mope and whine over Gray, but really, Gray’s head is just as Bella Swan-worthy as these cardboard ladies.

Insanely convoluted and boring infodumps. The whole fucking plot hinges on “thrilling twists and turns” which are neither surprising nor interesting, and are delivered in the form of boring-as-fuck journal entries and science logs. PEOPLE. I LIKE SCIENCE. BUT THIS SHIT IS BORING AS HELL. We’re supposed to juggle the names of six different settlements in some boring-ass sociological experiment conducted by Emmanuel Goldstein–err, I mean the good guy, no wait I mean the bad guy–to figure out that OH HEY THIS WAS A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT WHICH SHOULD BE FUCKING OBVIOUS TO ANYONE WHO HASN’T ALREADY BEEN LOBOTOMIZED BY THIS INSIPID PLOT.

Blatant Orwell ripoffs. Okay, so every YA dystopian is like this to some extent, because most YA writers are fucking ignorant as shit and haven’t read anything remotely resembling political criticism beyond the time they had to read 1984 in high school, but seriously, this shit is EGREGIOUS. You’ve got the political enemy, Emmanuel Goldstein, who actually isn’t a bad guy, but wait, he actually is!, complete with his posters hanging up everywhere. You have the tragically stunted and idiotic speech (okay, maybe that’s just the writing). You have the brainwashing. BLAH.

LIGHTNING GAS EXPLOSIONS ZAPPING SHIT FUCKYEAHHHHHHH I know science is hard, guys, but fucking seriously.

There is nothing more I can say about this painfully useless book. It was like drinking tap water–almost completely unremarkable but for random bits of nastiness and yuk. And as it’s a trilogy, of fucking COURSE, it’s just a bridge book for the bridge book for the big bridge book at the end. Avoid.

The Prescription: Mix a bunch of random-ass food coloring into a glass of tap water. Nope, sorry, no alcohol for you this time. That would be too enjoyable.

Shatter My Liver: A Shatter Me Drinking Game

Yeah, I know there’s a newer cover, but this one is so terribad I had to.

You know how there are some books that you read quotes from, and see excerpts on the author’s blog prior to publication, and you start to salivate with eager anticipation, or whine about the way too far-off publication date, because this concept and this character’s voice and this prose just sound SO FUCKING AWESOME in small contained doses, but then you finally get your grubby little hands on the book itself, and you sit down by your fancy fireplace with some toasted marshmallows to read this, and you get about 10 pages in and you are like THIS IS NOT WHAT I WAS PROMISED?

Okay, maybe that was just me reading Shatter Me for the first time. BUT STILL. In honor of the repetitive-as-fuck similes and overwrought metaphors that drove me to consume way more than my fair share of a bottle of whiskey as I struggled to finish that plotless waste of what could’ve been a great writer’s talent, I give you: Shatter My Liver.

The rules, like any drinking game worth its snuff, are deceptively simple-looking whilst sober. They are as follows:

1. Every time strikethrough is used, take a drink.

2. Every time the word bird is mentioned, take a drink. Drink twice if Juliette IS the bird in this oh-so-creative metaphor.

3. Whenever Juliette’s mouth falls open, try to imitate this facial expression and then take a drink. +1 drink if her mouth hits her lap and/or something about waist-height, +2 drinks if it gets all the way to the floor (is she an anime character? seriously).

4. Anytime someone’s eyebrows are described as rising past the point of physical possibility (i.e. past their hairline/their head/the ceiling/the heavens/god and the cosmos and all that be), raise your own eyebrows and take a drink.

5. Any time the author uses the word “gentle” as a verb, take a shot. Take all of the shots. Sweet Jesus.

6. Just in general, any time the bruise-purple prose leads you to imagine cartoonish violence being inflicted upon the narrator Wile E. Coyote-style (i.e. “I am slapped with a two-by-four”) that isn’t actually happening, but is just in fact her exaggerating HOW MANY FEELS she has, drink. Keep drinking until that scene ends. Trust me. You’re welcome.

Coming soon: Arya reads Destroy Me and Unravel Me, as we all wait with baited breath for the third installment in the not-quite-a-trilogy: Murder Me (Subtitle: Seriously, Please Kill Me).

Otaku Male Gaze Reaches New Levels of Creeptasticness

The Buzz: Patrick Rothfuss. PATRICK FUCKING ROTHFUSS. How could you blurb this book? How could you lure me in with the syrupy scotch-scented siren song of chain-katanas?

The Booze: Stormdancer quite possibly takes the cake for creepiest male-author female-main character YA book EVER.

Step right up, folks, we’ve got a one-two punch of male-gaze-falling-on-female-MC AND fetishistic-fantasy-Asia! In Steampunk Not-Japan, lotuses fuel the industrial revolution but also poison the land and air, forcing everyone to wear face-masks or elaborate full-body suits if they want to breathe cleanly. There’s an asshole emperor driving the economic engine to the detriment of the nation and slaughtering everyone who disobeys him (and who wouldn’t?).

But this is all window dressing; what’s really important here is how Asian it all is. Because the author did extensive research, you see. He recounts spending whole HOURS reading Wikipedia to prepare for this book. He watched anime. Anime! You can smell the Cheeto dust embedded in the book’s spine, folks.

So for the first 100 pages of the book, we’re subjected to boo-hoo Female MC, whom we shall call Kiki because it’s only slightly more cutesy than her actual name, moping around Crap City with her dad and sobbing about her dead brother and dead mother and big-wobbly-tear-riddled-anime-eyes and kawaii-desu-ka green-eyed samurai boy LOOKED AT HER, sweatdrops on the forehead!, and there’s rice wine and pitiful orphans and JESUS CHRIST WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS EVEN I SKIMMED THIS PART OF THE BOOK.

Then the evil emperor sends Kiki and Papa-san and their zeppelin full of surly father-figures to fetch a griffin because reasons, but the griffin is wholesome and pure and communicates with Kiki telepathically and wrecks their ship amongst the rebels and yep I’m still skimming here.

Now, this far it’s mostly been eye-rolly fetishization of Asian culture. Whatever, there’s always money in the manga stand, I get it. Legions of Inuyasha and Naruto fans might occasionally pick up a book without pictures, too, so good job capitalizing on that, publishing. So far we’ve been subjected to nothing more than your usual male-trying-to-write-female POV faux pases. But here, in the rebel camp, things get way creepy in that way that only anime can get, when we’re subjected to an overlong passage of boys spying on Kiki taking a bath, eyes lingering on the water dripping over her breasts… yeah. RAPIDFIRE SKIMMING GET ME OUT OF CREEPVILLE HERE.

Unfortunately, Kiki gets even worse from there. She sleeps with green-eyed doucherson to forget her pain, even though he is OBVIOUSLY betraying her to the emperor, and we get more creepy descriptions of her lovemaking style despite the fact that this book is supposed to be from her POV. Despite being one of these alleged Strong Female Protagonists we keep hearing about, she always needs Griffon/Daddy-san/Love-Interest-kun to bail her out of sword fights. (Note: Kristoff’s descriptions of swords and swordery and scabbards and a bunch of Japanese words for these things that I blotted out of my mind with Everclear rival the bathtime scene with the same creeptacular pornographic vibe.)

Whatever, psychic griffin powers assemble, let’s kill the emperor, everyone rides off into the samurai sunset to ogle Kiki’s breasts some more.

Prescription: Sake. All of it. If you are female, be sure you make inappropriate, exaggerated gestures with your plump, fertile lips as you wrap them around the bottle. Then commit seppuku with a chain katana.

Embrace-ing Stereotypes

The Buzz: “Finally,” decry the mysterious “they” who inform us of all the key books we simply must read, “a strong, well-defined, kick-butt female protagonist in a paranormal romance book with angels!” Because apparently we don’t already have enough bland Buffy clones substituting well-timed roundhouse kicks for characterization running around.

The Booze: This is the kind of book that reads more like a laundry list of every YA cliche imaginable than anything resembling a new or interesting story.

Love triangle between some hot dark-and-mysterious dude that shows up and your best friend? Check.
Mysterious and unexplained supernatural rules that dictate She Cannot Be With The One She Loves for no apparent reason? Check.
Survival of the entire world literally hinges upon which dude she picks in her angst-ridden love triangle? Check.
Ridiculously hot heroine convinced she is fugly? Check.
Unique never-before-seen snowflake of a heroine who has magical powers no one in the history of ever has had before? Check.
Abusive past for said heroine? Check.
Blindly helpful best gal pay with no personality aside from totally ignoring her BFF’s mental health and safety? Check.
Deceased mother? Check.
Constantly busy/borderline-deadbeat dad? Check.

Either this author has never read a YA novel before, or has read so many that she decided the key to the BEST STORY EVAR would be taking all of the overused easy bids for reader sympathy ever and stuffing them all into one book. Fine. Plenty of other people have done this (obviously, or it wouldn’t be cliched). You would think that all of these trite appeals to our pity would make us feel some kind of marginal empathy for our heroine, Violet Eden (yep, Eden is her last name, in a book about angels. Subtle, right?! I am only surprised she doesn’t have purple eyes, but there’s always time for those to appear).

Luckily, any sympathy we might feel for any of Violet’s many plights is pretty much immediately killed by her fucking whiney-ass attitude.

The book opens on Violet sitting on the bus home from school, ignoring her “best friend” as she “blabbers on” trying to cheer Violet up (how fucking dare she, that bitch?!), because it is Violet’s birthday, and Violet’s mom died giving birth to her, so clearly all of the emo feels must be had.

Violet then goes on to bitch about, in no particular order: her dad ignoring her, her dad paying attention to her, her best (girl)friend ignoring her, her best (girl)friend paying attention to her, some creepy guy hitting on her, said creepy guy no longer hitting on her, her best (guy)friend not telling her he has feelings for her, her best (guy)friend revealing that he couldn’t tell her about those feelings because of angel rules, her best (guy)friend breaking the rules to tell her he wants to be with her, finding out she’s part angel, finding out she has magic powers, finding out her best (guy)friend was forced to lie to her through no fault of his own… And so on. Basically, at some point in the novel, she complains about everything that happens, whether or not it was exactly what she told us she wanted to happen 2 pages ago.

And while we’re on the topic of complaining, may I just complain about the fact that the MC’s glossed-over abusive past experience (the point of which seems to just be Motivation To Become a Badass and also maybe the reason she’s attracted to so many way-older guys) makes the absentee dad a million times more unbelievable? “Gee, my daughter was nearly raped and is clearly still suffering from some PTSD, I think I’m going to go on a business trip for the duration of this entire book! 25-year-old boyfriend, what? Don’t worry, I gave him a stern talking-to about respecting my daughter after they’d already spent 3 years in constant company alone at his apartment!”

On the bright side, I did appreciate that the heroine is shown actually, you know, training in martial arts/running/climbing/general badassery. She doesn’t just magically become an awesome fighter after previously having issues even playing a game of volleyball. The prose was decent at some points, especially when Violet was waxing poetic about her love of art. That may be the only thing she never bitches about, in fact.

My rating? Two sideways thumbs of “meh.” I dunno. If you’re obsessed with angels, sure, give it a go. I still recommend you have a drink on hand. Just in case.

Prescription: Muddle mint leaves with lime juice, mix in equal parts club soda and white rum, and top with a floater of Bacardi 151, which should then be set on fire. Works even better if you sugar the rim of the glass first, because caramelized sugar and flames for the win. And because you’ll need that extra kick of 151 to get through the descriptions of the secondary love interest’s jealous possessiveness, dark sexy eyes and “sparks of energy.”

Some YA That Doesn’t Suck

Some people seem to be under the impression that we hate everything YA and we’re just angry idiots with drinking problems. Only the latter is true.

We’re here because we fucking love YA, people. And we’re concerned that the fugly slush pile, which is getting scarier than a NYC snowplowed street corner in January, might be obscuring some of the real genius out there. That and we’re sick of reading the same thing over and over.

So, if you’re as frustrated as we are — or hell, even if you’re not, but you need a good weekend read, we bring you:

good YA books


Seriously. They don’t suck. We swear. And if you read one of these and disagree, we will buy you a shot on the house the next time we open a bar to make money to pay for our liver treatments. Fair warning though, it will probably be a gay bar in south Germany. Because literature is as popular as drugs there. Truestory.

Why I hate bad books.

Reading is an act of intimacy between author and reader.

There’s the whole exchange of cash first, of course. But ultimately, the greatest investments a reader gives a book–and thus, an author–are time and vulnerability.

When I first start reading a book, I am not hoping to have the next 8 or so hours of my life wasted. I’m hoping to discover something amazing, something that will stick with me for years, something that will become a part of my internal landscape–how I see the universe, and myself in it.

The $10 or whatever I paid for it is no biggie. It’s two coffees.

But those hours of my life are precious. And even more precious than that is my trust in the author. I’m handing my entire brain over to someone for the next day or two, and I expect that someone to do their best to reward my trust. Fill it with beauty and terror and awe. Give me an experience that enriches me in some way, whether it’s a heady intellectual awakening or mere stimulation of dopamine receptors.

Don’t make me regret letting you in. If you do, that’s when I get resentful. And then I break out the Stoli.

Reading is intimacy. It’s passionate. That’s why, when I read a book I find cliche, derivative, vacuous, contrived, or otherwise inadequate, I get angry. It feels like you’re in bed with someone who’s zoned out, who’s just phoning it in. You feel disgusted with yourself for what you’re doing…and for letting yourself be taken advantage of.

It’s okay to hate bad books. Reading is a complex social interaction between two people, and the reader is an equally active participant. The reader’s passion is valid and worthy of being expressed, even if it runs toward hatred.