So let’s begin this thing. (Links to all recaps here: So I shall recap and comment on after by Anna Todd)
I usually like prologues, but this one is pointless. A first-person present tense book really shouldn’t have a prologue talking about the future. In present-tense, you can’t know what will happen later on since you haven’t experienced it yet. Reflecting on things that happen in the book only works if the story is past tense.
It’s an ominous sign when the narrator, Tessa, even asks if she’d make the same choices if she knew what would happen, and isn’t sure. I made bad choices in my life that led me down the path to meeting the man who became my husband. Know what I know now, would I make those same choices? YES, because he’s worth it. But for Tess, one half of this supposed wonderful romance, she’s not sure. That is such a bad way to start a book, and plants the question of “is this really worth it?” in the reader’s head.
When the story opens, she’s getting read to leave for college. Like Twilight and Fifty Shades, the story is in Washington. Can we pretty please stop having books set in Washington? I live there. In Vancouver. The same Vancouver where Fifty Shades’s Ana is from. The same area where Twilight was filmed. People aren’t so thrilled to constantly have our state bastardized and misrepresented (Fifty Shades portraying OHSU as she did, a real hospital, the one where I go…). How about setting a book in Idaho? Or Nebraska? Just give Washington a break.
And please, PLEASE, can we stop having idiots for protagonists who we are supposed to believe are smart when we’re shown the opposite? “I had no idea that there would be so much more to college than academics.” She’s going to be living in a dorm. How can there not be more than academics when you’re literally living at your college? Your entire life will be college and what goes on after and in between classes.
Speaking of, her college, which is the only one she applied to, is called Washington Central University. C’mon, Todd, you’ve got internet access. It’s Central Washington University. Get the name right if you’re going to use a real school. CWU is Ellensburg, a little over a hundred miles south-south-east of Seattle.
Once more, we’ve got an English major on our hands. Can we stop it with characters always having just one hobby? Especially when it’s not believable? We saw Bella “Beautiful Swan” Swan reading for pleasure just once, and she fell asleep doing it. There’s no sense of Ana Steele-Grey enjoying it either. For the love of the gods, can books stop dragging in Jane Austen? More on that later.
Do we really need a play-by-play description of getting ready? Multiple pages of it. Hot water ran out. Shaving. Blow drying her hair. When she zips her dress up. Getting her favorite sweater. Sweater has a tear. Throw it back. Info that adds nothing but word count without showing us anything at all about the character. At least Bella’s shaving scene after her wedding showed that she was nervous about having sex and was procrastinating due to those nerves. But all this for nothing?
When she heads to the kitchen, we do get a good way of adding physical description without a bunch of exposition or a mirror.
“Hey.” I give him an equally bright smile, trying to hide my nerves, and pull my dirty blond hair into a ponytail.
Good job casually dropping in info. But then she looks into a mirror. Because
Once she gets to school with her 17-year-old boyfriend, Noah, and her mother, we find out she hadn’t ever even been there before, despite it being just two hours away.
It looks just as great in person as it did in the brochures and online, and I’m immediately impressed by the elegant stone buildings.
If a school is local, you’re supposed to visit. That’s logical. Logic is lacking in this book.
Nothing to this point indicates she brought stuff for her dorm. We read pages and pages about her getting dressed, but nothing about her packing anything. It does turn out she brought a few clothing items, a blanket, and some books. A little tip: Get the image in readers’ heads, even if you need to cut some stuff that’s not relevant to nothing. Until this point in this story, a reader won’t be imagining the characters carrying anything. There’s no reason to. Have a character grab her duffel bag, making sure her favorite book is in it with her blanket and some clothes, then head to the car. Another little tip: Cut that irrelevant stuff anyway. If it serves no purpose, don’t serve it to the reader.
We are introduced to Tessa’s judgmental side, which will be a character on its own. She sarcastically notes that her mother watches QVC for beauty products, notes that her mother was “careful” not to mess up her makeup when she was teary-eyed since it’s apparently a bad thing to not want makeup-streaks, snaps about her mother wearing heeled shoes. Once they find her very small dorm room, she then tears apart her new roomie for being covered in (years-of-work’s-worth of) tattoos, wearing eyeliner, and wearing something that shows a bit of cleavage. Her mother openly gasped, so I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
“Hey, Tessa, nice to meet you. Welcome to WCU, where the dorms are tiny and the parties are huge.”
What does this show us about the roommate, Steph? Only that she’s trying to greet the person she’ll be living with for the next nine months and is making small-talk. No big deal, right?
Well,Tess, boyfriend, Noah, and her mother don, as she puts it, “three horrified expressions.” Over an innocuous greeting.
I feel bad for Steph.
A couple of Steph’s friends, some One Direction members come in (I don’t now who they are, so can’t tell you the real names of the characters, nor do I care to go find out). One is so covered that literally “every visible inch” is covered. We come to find out later that they’re sophomores (colleges don’t dorm freshmen and sophomores in the same rooms…). So they’re 19ish. Tattoos take time. Large tattoos, which would include full sleeves, are done over several sessions with long breaks between so that the skin can heal. Getting so many tattoos would take longer than these students have been adults who tattoo artists could legally work on. The laws of the UK, where 1D is from, might allow tattooing people under the age of 18, but this story is set in the US, where it’s a criminal offense to tattoo someone under the age of 18 without a medical reason.
Regardless, one of the two kindly greets Tess, and the other is quiet, yet Tess’s mother calls them “punks” based solely off of how they look, and insists her daughter get a new roommate. Steph hasn’t even had a chance to do anything wrong! She’s got tattoos, and, as far as we know, none say MAGA, have swastikas, are gang-signs, or anything to indicate alliance with hate-groups or gangs, and the same goes for her friends. I’m pretty sure my dad’s one tattoo is “worse.” He had the Pink Panther on his right arm with “Budweiser” above, and the panther was holding a can of beer and smoking a doobie. Nothing wrong with it, but I’m sure the Judgmental Asses Three would think he was the antichrist if they’re freaking so much about tattoos of fairies and flowers. At last, two of them leave, and Tess decides to go take a shower.<
Didn’t we already go through the play-by-play of a shower? We get another. The word “naked” is used overly much.
The showers in this dorm building are co-ed. I’ve never heard of a college for where everyone showers together. The reasons to not have people of mixed genders running around undressed are so obvious that I’m not even going to say it.
For actual showering, there are stalls. However, the stalls are so small that Tess can’t straighten her arms. So there’s no way around having to be naked in front of men. How safe do you think it would be to have a 18-year-old teenaged woman naked in a teeny shower stall having to get out and be naked in front of, say, a bunch of guys like Brett Kavanaugh? And the only option is to not bathe?
Tess tried to do it all in the tiny stall, but knocked her clothes off the rack, and so runs back to her room wrapped in just a towel. He finds a guy in there, not one she’s met before. Tattoos, a British accent…it’s Harry Styles! I mean, Hardin, as he’s been renamed.
And he is a grade-A asshole. She wants him to leave. Understandably so! But he won’t. He laughs at her discomfort. Mocks her. She has no choice but to get dressed in front of him. The word “naked” is used overly much.
Any reasonable person wouldn’t find a guy like this attractive. He’s rude, he forced a woman to be naked in front of him, is getting some sadistic pleasure out of her discomfort… Naturally that means he’ll be the one Tessa’s going to be in bed with very soon. When Steph gets back and tries talking Tess into going to a frat party, Hardin amps up his mocking. Since Tess isn’t reasonable, of course she decides to go.
Anna Todd is clearly trying to make us hate everyone and see everyone except Tessa as whore-bags and bad people.
“The dress—no, piece of scrap material—she chooses is a black fishnet, which lets her red bra show through. The only thing keeping her from showing her entire body is a solid black slip. The dress barely reaches the tops of her thighs and she keeps tugging the material up to reveal more leg, then back down to reveal more cleavage. The heels of her shoes are at least four inches tall. Her flaming red hair is pulled into a wild bun with curls escaping down to her shoulders and her eyes are lined with blue and black liner, somehow even more eyeliner than she had on before.”
That’s sex-club attire (nothing wrong with those, and I used to go to them…TMI?), not frat party stuff. But remember, Steph is a bad person, a whore, a punk. That means dressing her unreasonably scantily.
Meanwhile, our gentile, demure, chaste good girl shows up how good people dress in dresses….
The maroon material is soft but sturdy, the same material business suits are made of. The collar goes up to my neck and the sleeves are three-quarter length, hitting just under my elbows.”
It also goes below the knee. Steph calls it too formal for a frat party, and it is. But we simply must know that Tessa is good, and Steph is bad, and Anna Todd doesn’t know how else to show different personality types than polar opposites, and anyone who isn’t a pure little virgin is bad.
Does anyone else get tired of non-virgins being vilified? It’s fine if someone is a virgin at 18 because they don’t feel ready. My character of Juliette in Sacred Blood was, because she wasn’t ready due to circumstances in her life, but it wasn’t to show her as a better person than anyone else. It wasn’t put on a pedestal with a spotlight and people praising her for never having touched a penis in any way. It wasn’t fetishized. Yet many books make virginity out to be what makes someone a good or bad person, clean versus dirty. Virginity is used to assign value, and sex before marriage means that the good lil’ virgin has fallen thanks to the hero character, or, if they wait until after marriage, it means that they’ve got the good morals. I’m sick and tired of sex being used this way.
Also, Tessa doesn’t wear makeup aside from mascara and lip balm. Because she’s a good girl.
One of the nice guys she met, Nate, picks up Tess and Steph, and Hardin is in the care. He mocks her for being uncomfortable. Can we expect anything else from him?
At the party, she does do a smart thing in not drinking from a random cup some random guy shoved into her hand. But then she finds tattooed people and judges them. Since they have to be the bad guys, one calls her a priss for not drinking. She’s sad, and instead of trying to find someone else to talk to, she goes upstairs to find a bathroom, but finds Hardin in a bedroom making out with someone, which Tess says is “practically having sex.” A girl in a guy’s lap, fully-clothed, and just kissing is not “practically having sex.” Be reasona–oh. Right.
When Tess doesn’t leave, the girl asks, “Can I help you?” which results in Tess telling is the girl is rude. No, the one staying is rude. Hardin was rude for staying where someone doing something personal didn’t want him. Tess wasn’t rude for telling him to leave. But now that the tables are turned, the one telling the invader to leave is suddenly the rude one? We shouldn’t have double standards, but Tess always has to be the one in the right, even when she’s wrong.
She finally goes back downstairs where she sees a guy holding a girl’s hips while dancing. We aren’t told that that couple is twerking or that hands are under clothes. We are only told they’re dancing and his hands are on her hips. This is scandalous to her because she and Noah have been together 2 years and haven’t done that much. Because she’s the good girl. It’s too far for a guy to touch a girl’s hips. I’ve getting very Duggarish vibes from her.
It hasn’t been that long yet, yet Steph is so drunk she’s about to throw up. Nate and Tess get her upstairs to a bathroom just in time for her to make an offering to the porcelain god. Tess tells us how much she already cares for Steph. You know what? This book is one of those lessons in what NOT to do as a writer. Don’t show us the thoughts of the first-person narrator where she’s thought nothing positive about someone, not one thing, literally not even one single positive though, then tell us later that that person actually really does care. If you show and tell different things, we will believe the show. The actions must match, and if you put us in the narrator’s head, you must show is thoughts that align with what we’re told later.
She and Nate then lay Steph down in a random room, and she starts reading a book. Wuthering Heights. Can the Brontës and Jane Austen please be left out of this stuff? These books have become cliches at this point, misused by writers who don’t understand them. I’ll get back to that later.
And shit, Brontë names. In my current WIP, the children of one man all have literary names, though there’s a reason for it. The main protagonist’s best friend is Emily, after Emily Brontë. Her brother is Byron, after Lord Byron. I was inspired to use these names when I found a 19th century copy of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in an antiques shop, and the engraving of Lord Byron looked exactly as I’d envisioned my -then-still unnamed male lead. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by the way, is a long narrative poem about a restless young man traveling the world, and reflects Lord Byron’s travels. This is the work that made him incredibly famous.
Using literary names isn’t new for me. My dogs always get literary names. My golden retriever who died last year at the age of 12 was Emma, after the Jane Austen character. My 12-year-old golden, Emma’s daughter, is Luthien Tinuviel, one of Elrond’s ancestors in Lord of the Rings. My Norfolk terrier is Juliet, after Romeo and Juliet. My Yorkshire terrier is Ella Ophelia, a name that reflects the E and L for my goldens and yet is a nod to Cinderella, and a nod to my Norfolk with another Shakespearean name. Even my daughter didn’t escape the literary naming. Charlotte.
Back to the story, if we can call this thing a story. I’m not going into overly much detail. We are in chapter 9 right now. Yes. 9.
Well, the room is Hardin’s, and he’s pissed she’s in his room, his personal space. Pot, meet Kettle.
He corners her physically, she’s scared. Yup. It’s gonna be looooooooove. We can’t have a love story without the guy being rude, doing something that can be argued as sexual harassment, denigrating the woman, scaring the hell out of her, and making her cry because what he enjoys doing hurts her. She manages to get away, and he continues mocking her as she leaves.
I miss the days when Edward Cullen was seen as bad. He’s so kind compared to this. And THIS, folks, is how these books are dangerous. Edward’s not a good guy. He’s a controlling ass, and yet he looks positively charming compared what we’ve got now. His behavior is no big deal compared to this. His behavior has become acceptable, and he changed nothing about his actions. Society is what got worse.
In chapter 10, she ducks into the bathroom because she realizes she doesn’t know where her dorm is, had a quick thought about Hardin having books…
There is no way a rude, disrespectful, tattooed jerk like Hardin could possibly enjoy those amazing works. The only thing I can picture him reading is the back of a beer bottle.
(I do like the line about the beer bottle.)
She has a very quick call with Noah to slam Steph, then opens a door to see Hardin.
That’s all of chapter 10.
In 11, he is standing in front of her, asks if she’s been crying, and tells her she can sleep in a room down the hall. She starts walking down the hall. End of chapter. No, really.
The next day, she finally decides transit is a thing, and runs into Hardin. Again. Of course. She’s so judgmental that this exchange…
“Is there a bus that runs close to here?” I ask, not expecting an answer.
“Yep, about a block away.”
I follow him around the kitchen. “Could you tell me where it is?”
“Sure. It’s about a block away.” The corners of his mouth lift, taunting me.
…has me on his side for a moment. No, she doesn’t deserve abuse, but she’s just so unlikable that I can get behind sarcasm meant to annoy her. Also, it’s sarcasm that matches my own.
Someone must have told Anna Todd not to give us every single detail because she actually skips time. She gives us a paragraph or two about Tessa shopping for more clothes, and then it’s Monday. School time.
Tessa dresses in what can best be described as Mormon Summer Camp chic: White button up, tan pleated skirt, etc. Y’know. Good girl stuff. I’m mildly surprised it’s not a tan jumper to really play up the innocent good girl angle.
In her fifth class OF THAT DAY, she meets a nice guy named Landon. They only talk for a page, but in that time, we are shown that he’s a nice guy, and has a girlfriend named Dakota.
Did I mention yet that Anna Todd and EL James are friends? No? Well, they are. So. Dakota Johnson. This book really has a lot in common with Fifty Shades, just with 1D names.
And five college classes in a day? That’s a full course-load, in just one day. And Tess is glad she doesn’t have to stand in front on the classes and introduce herself “like high school teachers make you”? Did Anna ever go to a school in the US? What high school has teachers who make everyone go to the front of the room to introduce themselves on the first day?
Hardin’s in this class as well, because of course he has to be in the lit class, and he scares Landon off. Great sign there! Landon’s so scared that he actually runs off. Hardin is isolating Tess from potential friends. He mocks her more, they walk back to her dorm while she’s thinking about how “attractive” he is…fucking hell.
What have we need that could make him the least bit attractive? He’s mean. He’s rude. She’s dreaded seeing him because he’s so cruel. He mocks her. He makes her cry. We have literally seen absolutely no nice actions from him. Toward anybody. He’s the worst to her. But he’s attractive now?
Another little tip: What you show and what you tell HAVE TO ALIGN. Otherwise it’s not believable!!
We begin walking along back in the direction of my dorm and get about twenty steps when all of a sudden he shouts out, “Stop staring at me!” turns a corner, and disappears down a pathway before I can even think of a response.
Now it’s Friday and she plans to work ahead in her courses because I guess that’s how college works…? You can just work ahead? In the class with Hardin, because all classes are five days a week…because that’s how it works now…?, they’re going over Pride and Prejudice.
I’ve got words to say in a moment.
After class, Hardin does what Hardin does, and he mocks her some more, and says every woman who has read the book is in love with Darcy. Actually not… I’ll get back to this in the aforementioned moment.
“I’m sure you aren’t able to comprehend Mr. Darcy’s appeal.” My mind goes to the massive collection of novels in Hardin’s room. They couldn’t possibly be his. Could they?
The appeal is a wet shirt…wait for it.
“A man who is rude and intolerable being made into a romantic hero? It’s ridiculous. If Elizabeth had any sense, she would have told him to fuck off from the beginning.”
YES. Thank you for lampshading the problem! So tell Harden to fuck off now! This self-awareness makes this book’s direction more aggravating. The oh-so-romantic hero is an ass who needs to be told to fuck off. So why is that not happening?!
Then Hardin calls Elizabeth an idiot, meaning Tess is an idiot by proxy.
Tess says she’s “one of the strongest, most complex characters ever written.” Hate to burst your bubble, it no. But I’m sure we’re supposed to see Tess this way since Anna’s trying to not-so-subtly tell us that they’ll be Darcy and Elizabeth, only it doesn’t work here. Elizabeth was stuck with societal limitations….
Part of what annoys me and many, many long-time fans, about Austen’s works being used so often is how many people don’t know what they’re about. Pride and Prejudice isn’t a romance any more than Romeo & Juliet, another story that is misunderstood too often. Jane Austen wrote books that were satirical with a large heap of irony. P&P opens: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This is intended to set the tone of the book. These books became so popular at the time because of how much they lampooned societal issues of the time. She didn’t like that women were supposed to be subservient. She didn’t like that women were property, more commodity than person. “Well, a rich guy wants to buy himself a woman ’cause that’s how the world works.” That’s the tone. Try reading these books as if they’re being acted out on Saturday Night Live. SNL is never serious, and neither are these books. They’re not love stories. They’re not romances. Elizabeth Bennett submitted to Darcy because that’s what women ultimately had to do back in a time when Jane Austen’s books had to be published under the name of one of her brothers because women weren’t allowed to be published writers (the Brontë sisters used the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Belle, for Charlotte, Elizabeth, and Anne Brontë, and when Wuthering Heights came out, it was believed that women weren’t capable of that sort of writing).
At the time, women weren’t allowed to have their own income, and credit for accomplishment belonged to men. Anything a woman earned belonged to whichever man had possession of her. We saw Elizabeth be a strong person on her own, but in a time when women has strict limits, her long-term survival depended on finding a man to marry. Darcy was jerk enough to basically dominate her, and her initial refusal to marry him made her a challenge. When these books were written, contemporaries understood this. Even in the book, other characters acknowledge it, and call him selfish and unpleasant. Being strong on her own was a luxury not available to Elizabeth. It was a fantasy, and knocking her down to a submissive wife drove home the desire versus the reality in stark contrast.
As far as Darcy, what regency enthusiasts get hot and bothered over is Colin Firth and his gratuitous wet shirt more than anything, and when it’s not the infamous wet shirt scene, it’s an openly-acknowledged-as-modified version of Darcy, an Austen-fandom-creation of Darcy, not the Darcy as written. We aren’t under the impression that he’s a romanic nice guy. When played by Firth, he’s an acknowledged jerk in a wet shirt. The Darcy-love is Colin Firth fandom. A few years back, the Washington Regency Society held its annual retreat, that year at Tokeland. We had a ball one night in our regency ball gowns, drank a lot of port, flirted with the inn’s silver fox of a chef, and had a photo of Colin Firth in a clawfoot bathtub above the shared clawfoot bathtub (ver old inn, built before in-room bathrooms). Darcy-love is Firth-love, and it’s an inside way to bond. You have to remove Darcy’s many jerkish thoughts (I will be generous and excuse his sexism to an extent considering the era, but when he’s jerk enough to be called out in the book for it…) to find Darcy himself so desirable these days, at least you do if you understand the motivations for what he was doing. He wasn’t changing. He was manipulating. Him changing would have been emasculating. Christian Grey admitted his own faults, and never changed. Ana just learned to manage him. Darcy was “the man” to other men, and Elizabeth was relatable to women with Darcy as a man who they could openly laugh at while acknowledging that they, too, would likely have married him despite him being a joke of a man. Read Mr Darcy’s Guide to Courtship: The Secrets of Seduction from Jane Austen’s Most Eligible Bachelor if you want a modern satire about how much his methods are made of fail.
If anything, Austen’s huge show of genius with him was writing a character who women of the day would want because of his ability to give financial stability, as well as one who, as time went on, would have qualities that readers would strip away to see only what they wanted to see, despite many still being able to see the full package that he is.
(On a semi-related note, in the same era, Mary Anning, the women in the tongue-twister “she sells seashells by the seashore,” was the mother of paleontology, yet her discoveries were published by men without credit going to her. She was an outsider to the scientific field she started while men made the money from her discoveries, and she was resentful of this. That’s the world Austen satirized. Austen’s books were a release and an outlet for venting.)
Now what are we here for? Oh. Right.
Back on Tessa’s and Steph’s room, Steph’s getting dressed for another frat party and Steph’s wearing something Tess tells us “leaves little to the imagination,” envies Steph’s confidence, then tells us she’s she herself has “hips and breasts are larger than most women my age” and that she tries to hide them. Um, there are worse things to be than a thin shapely woman with boobs. I’ve been on both sides. Both sides have drawbacks. Having boobs and hips doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t wear potato sacks. You’re in college. Shut it with the humblebrag about physical perfections. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a physically attractive character who acknowledges it without expecting sympathy for how hard it is to be pretty? Instead of yet another “it’s so hard to be pretty, feel bad for me” character?
Since her laptop breaks, a la movie-Fifty Shades (in the book, Ana didn’t have a computer at all and didn’t even know how to use the internet, which is why Christian bought her a computer that didn’t exist, a point the director changed to Ana’s computer being broken), and she can’t watch Netflix, she agrees to go to the party since she’s the idiot Hardin called Elizabeth. She knows she won’t have fun. But there’s just nothing else to do on a Friday night the first week of college other than to watch Netflix. Or Netflix&chill, though that would probably give Tessa the vapors.
This time she wears jeans she says are “a little tighter than her usual pants,” and a black sleeveless button-up with lace.
The girl who called her a priss the previous weekend and who was kissing Hardin is finally given the name Molly, and she is going to pick them up. Steph says Molly’s “intimidated” by Tess because Tess is “different.” Precursor to “not like other girls”? Yes. Yes, it is. And it’s going to make Tessa better somehow. The “not like other girls” angle really is not a positive one. Because you’re bad if you’re like Steph and her friends and choose to have sex and not dress like a parochial school girl, and good if you aren’t like Steph and her friends. So don’t be like Steph and Molly. Don’t be like those other girls who make different, not-dangerous decisions for their bodies. Just join Tess and Steph as they trash-talk Molly for how she “changes guys every week.” Because she’s not the different one, and what’s good is being different than the other girls, not being like other girls. What’s good is being like the different one, like Tess, and hating the bad “other girls.”
Then Steph firmly and undeniably establishes Hardin as Christian Grey:
“Hardin doesn’t date. He fucks with a lot of girls, but he doesn’t date anyone. Ever.”
Where have we heard something like this before?
Tessa’s not having fun, which we knew would happen. Which SHE knew would happen. Hardin sees her, comments her clothed fit this time…nothing indicated her maroon dress didn’t, despite it being extremely modest. But she’s wishing she was “wearing her normal loose clothing.” Oh! The ponytail. Frumpy clothes. Being convinced she’s less than average in appearance despite being all that and a bag of chips… Hi, Ana! She walks away, and tells us she wished Hardin would follow her.
Why? Why is she so attracted to someone who treats her so badly? Why is ANYONE attracted to this guy? He’s scary and tears her down with his mocking and makes her cry because he hurts her.
Hours later, the “punks,” as Tess cals them this time, play Truth or Dare, and Hardin’s hand is noted as being so large it completely covers his “red cup.” Y’know A Solo cup. That’s a massive hand, a Hagrid-hand. Oh! Replace the G with an N, and rearrange them, and Hagrid becomes Hardin. Tess is invited to play, and does when Hardin calls her “prude.” She defends herself to the reader saying she’s not a prude because she’s “not some cloistered nun.” She’s a prude, by the very definition of the word. It’s not someone who is just chaste. Prudes look down on others for not being as pure as the prudes see themselves. It is a sense of moral superiority. It’s about being judgmental and holier-than-thou against those who make the choice to have sexual contact with others.
You know, I don’t care if someone simply chooses not to have sex. It’s the attitude that goes with it that’s going to make me go to one side or the other. In Sacred Blood, Juliet was a virgin until 21. She just wasn’t ready until then, but she did get horrified at the sight of hands on hips or a couple people kissing, and think she was better than them because she made the “right” choice and they’re “wrong” for it. (She also had a box of adult toys, meaning Tess would probably see her as bad as well. Plus Juliet kisses more than one guy, by choice, in that trilogy.)
So Hardin asks Tess truth or dare, and she picks truth. I always pick that as well, just because I’m one of those people who will devise a dare so bad (never dangerous or illegal) that I don’t want to risk revenge that I’d rightly deserve. So no flack on her for picking the safe option. Hardin’s friend, Zed, butts in and asks her if she’s a virgin. Hardin goes along with the question and demands to know. She nods at them, but says to us,
Of course I’m a virgin; the furthest Noah and I have gone is making out and some slight groping, over our clothes, of course.
See? That’s why she’s a prude bitch. She’s a good girl, see, so “of course” hands are only over clothes, and it’s the only right think and anyone should know that. Because of course. How can anyone possibly think that she might even have touched a tiny bit of skin? What a sick, scandalous thought. “Of course” good people won’t let any skin at all touch. That’s the stuff bad people do….
Still, no one seems outright surprised by my answer, just intrigued.
She’s only met most of these people twice, yet has been so judgmental about things like hands on hips that they can all tell she sees herself as above that. Is this really someone that people find relatable? It’s probably why she doesn’t actually have friends. She thinks she’s better than everyone, and makes no attempt at hiding it. Remember, right from the start, she admitted joining her mother and Noah in making “three horrified expressions” over Steph’s greeting of a hello and a quip about notoriously small dorm rooms. She and her mother and Noah deserve each other and should go live in a cave somewhere.
“So you have been dating Noah for two years and you haven’t had sex?” Steph asks
And now, at the end of chapter 15, Ana…a genuine typo I made without intending to, but will leave there…TESSA is now established as a conquest with some “flaw” that the “romantic” guy will need to “rectify.”
We are 15 chapters into a story in which almost notable has happened, much less enough stuff to take up more than half as many chapters than the average Harry Potter book (those books average 28.4 chapters, 199 chapters total divided by 7 book).
We do get a lot of mixed signals toward the end there. Clearly Tessa’s view is that women who have had sex (or touch each other’s hips…or kiss…) or who do anything she doesn’t are horrid, but it’s going to be made into something that is okay for HER to do, because the rules for her versus the rules for everyone else are going to be different. Tessa will be able to do no wrong. Yet no other girl will be able to do right, because this is chalking up to be yet another book where all the other girls are bad because girls just can’t exist in fiction without having to compete and compare themselves to others with others coming up short.
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Sarah AJ said:
You’re back!!! 🙂
I love reading you eviscerating this story, as it very much deserves.
It makes me so sad to think that this kind of thing is getting published (and getting a movie deal on top of that! Gross!)
I think of all the awesome well written books that don’t get published that I bet I would love to read. Sad that we get this garbage instead.
With your blog posts I can know what’s happening with this without having to read it myself, thank you for doing this!
Author Alys Marchand said:
And now I’m back in the US (I was in Paris for March), and working on the next installment, and new books. 🙂 A friend of mine wrote romance that’s wonderful, but the male protags aren’t trash, and so the books didn’t do well. I’m disheartened at the continued love of abusers. 😦
I’m going to keep ripping into this book, especially now that my daughter is getting trailers for it on YouTube, which is where she watches art videos. I shouldn’t have to sit there with my 9-year-old while she’s watching ART VIDEOS to make sure she doesn’t have to see trailers for After. I still remember her coming into my room upset and near tears because she kept seeing something about “a man beating a lady,” and I figured out if was Fifty Shades trailers coming up in a musical video playlist I made her.
Sarah AJ said:
Wow that’s awful about your daughter seeing those trailers on YouTube when looking at totally unrelated videos!
Is there a way to block the ads before the videos so she doesn’t see that? I can’t remember if using an ad blocker removes them or not.
I don’t have children yet but I’m definitely having to think about the kind of world that this is to be bringing up children in. It seems like there’s so many more dangers now with all the cyberbullying and stuff kids can stumble across online.
Have you heard about that crazy doll thing (Momo? Moko?) that pops up on YouTube and interacts with kids and then starts telling them to self harm. Scary! I haven’t looked into it but heard it mentioned in passing as an example of the things parents need to be aware of and protect their children from.
It’s so depressing that those kinds of things exist!