(Links to all recaps here: So I shall recap and comment on after by Anna Todd)

Yeah, yeah. it’s been a few weeks.  I’ve been busy doing stuff that pays bills, like making a wedding gown (on less that two weeks’ notice), a gown for someone’s upcoming trip to England, and a few corsets.

Because this is something I do.

And I also thought it might be fun to gouge by eyeballs out as an excuse to not ever have to read back stuff again.  Alas, I like being able to see good stuff.  I’m tempted to crack open a bottle of African wine that I bought in Amsterdam, but then I might get drunk on top of angry, and that’s not good times.

Chapter 21
Well, here we go.  Tess, Noah, and her unnamed mother, who I’ll just call Ma, are having breakfast.  Tess tells the she wants a job in publishing or writing.  Because she’s Ana Steele.  Duh.

As I put my fork into my mouth, the metal reminds me of Hardin’s lip ring. And I pause for a moment. Noah catches this, too, and looks at me with questioning eyes.

Is that supposed to be sexy?  It’s not.  And what the hell kind of face was she making if Noah would be able to notice?

More of details no one cares about…do we really need to be told that Noah really wears loafers?  I mean, I was a nerdy kid in high school.  I did math for fun, and wasn’t trendy at all.  You could tell I was a nerd from half a block away.  I was known for always having a journal with me and for snapping at anyone who even tried to touch it.  When I accidentally left it in the cafeteria. no one touched it.  Instead a bunch of people ran to find me.  I was that much of a nerd that it was unquestioned and damned near respected.  Nothing about me was trendy.  And I liked it that way.  But damn, she’s making Noah out to be a loser with his finger and his thumb in the shape of an L on his forehead….  Yeah, I went there.

She just neeeeeeds him to kiss her, and he’s all kinds of shy about even a small kiss because people might see, and that would be scandalous!

Her mo takes her to get her hair trimmed with more detail than we need, she gets back to her dorm, falls asleep, and…that’s the end of chapter 21.

How are these chapters?  They’re so short!!!

Chapter 22

“Before heading to my first class, I stop to grab my usual at the coffeehouse, where Landon is waiting for me with a smile. After our hellos, we’re interrupted by a girl asking for intricate directions, and so we don’t get the chance to catch up until we’re walking to our last class of the day. The class that all day I have been dreading, but anticipating.”

Filler.  This book is mostly nitrates and horse meat or whatever they use as filler in bologna and non-kosher hot dogs.  (Not Jewish, I just don’t trust hot dogs that aren’t kosher, like Hebrew National, even though they’re ridiculously expensive.)

A better way to do that would be to have her meet up with him, and when a girl asks for directions, Tess makes some comparison to how Landon is treating her when she asks for directions to how Hardin treated her.  That would be relevant to the plot.  PRO-TIP: If it’s not relevant and can’t be made relevant, CUT IT.

Anna manages to do that in the next bit, where Ana…Tessa, and I’m leaving that typo in, asks Landon about his girlfriend, and he lights up when he talks about her, which results in Tessa wondering if Noah is like that about her.  There’s still a bit of padding, but not as much.

They get to class, Hard-on isn’t there, and they read Pride and Prejudice, which Anna Todd tells us through Tessa that everyone should read.  $10 says she herself hasn’t read it critically, and only perused a bit of it because it’s trendy right now.

After class, Landon and Tess run into Harry, I mean, Hardin (I feel so bad for Harry Styles), and it’s quickly revealed that Harry’s dad and Landon’s mom are dating.  Tess is confused since she thought Hardin’s British, and it didn’t occur to her that PEOPLE MOVE.  Yeah, Hardin moved from London, and so did his dad.

In a totally out-of-place place and with a wall o’ text, Anna thinks about the night her dad left, when she was in “the greenhouse” (what greenhouse?) and she heard plates shattering in the kitchen, and when it stopped, footsteps that she thought was her father, but it was Noah.  Not really relevant here, but okay.  I don’t feel any sense of distress or fear that she tells us she had.  It should be easy to get me to feel that.  I grew up in a house with alcoholics, and am not going to get into it right now.  But let’s just say I have a box of Budweiser-battered cod in my freezer, and I won’t be making it unless my husband is home in case they smell like beer, which would kinda be a hard thing for me.  I don’t taste beer in battered things that are cooked, but if I can smell it, that’s not gonna be good.  So it should be VERY easy to get me to feel the feelings of someone who is supposed to be the child of an alcoholic.

She lays down for a quick nap, which Hardin interrupts, and she decides to study, and how did all of this crap take up so many pages?  Hardin does what Hardin does best, and is an asshole.  He grabs all her notes and starts throwing them around.  She gets upset, understandably, and he shoves her against a wall and pins her arms and is inches from her.  I guess this is supposed to be sexy?  But when they hate each other and he has no consent, this isn’t okay.

“For a second, I think he might slap me. But his hand moves up to my cheekbone and then he gently tucks my hair behind my ear. I swear I can hear his pulse as he brings his lips to mine—and the fire crackles under my skin.

This is what I have been longing for since Saturday night. If I could only feel one thing for the rest of my life, this would be it.”

I might need some wine.  She’s afraid…that he might hit her.  But he kisses her with nothing at all to lead him to think it was okay.

They end up in a bit of bland foreplay that does make me wonder what’s really going on between her and Noah if they’ve never done more than light kissing, yet she’s so willing to have sex with Hardin already, and yes, that’s where it was heading until Steph walked in.

Spoiler: Hardin has a bet with one of his asshole buddies about who can take Tessa’s virginity.  Just telling you now so you won’t scream when you find out later with another piece of info that is going to piss you off.

Steph asks what happened after Hardin stormed out, and a page and a half is wasted as Tess recaps what we just had to read.  Steph lets her know Hardin has basically fucked his way across the US and back.  Steph says Hardin doesn’t date (hello, Christian), and that it could end bad for Tess.  It’s going to end up with marriage and some kids, but no better than now.  Yes.  They end up married with kids.  Someone call CPS.  Those kids are going to grow up with an abusive-as-hell father.  Hardin is a violent drunk who sexually assaults and thinks he’s owed it.

This is 19 pages.  On the one hand, enough happens that it could have been stretched out more, and well, in the hands of someone capable.  On the other, Anna Todd told us little enough that it could be condensed easily.

Chapter 23
First page is wasted with a bunch of telling about meeting up with Landon to study, but there’s nothing relevant to anything.  It could be cut entirely.

Follow this with a handful of pages of Anna Todd demonstrating not understanding Pride and Prejudice nor the era.  You are really going to miss vital information if you don’t know about the era.  They aren’t able to be separated.  I have the entire works of Jane Austen about two feet from me.  I know this stuff backward and forward, but picking apart why the argument between Tess and Hardin, in class, is wrong would take up far more time than I want to dedicate.  Stuff like, “If Darcy really loved her, he wouldn’t have been a jerk.”  It was an era where men were expected to be assertive to the point of being asses because of social norms, and breeching those norms could cost not only you, but your children and grandchildren, all respect from society, which would have disastrous consequences.

Tess calls Hardin a “manwhore,” and I swear I’d originally written “Steph lets her know Hardin has basically fucked his way across the US and back,” I had “Steph told her she’s a man-whore,” then explained that I’ve got no problem with people having a lot of sex partners as long as there’s consent on all sides, and that I was using verbiage I though Tess/Anna would use, but then deleted it since Tess is supposed to be so purely virginal that the word “sexy” turns her on.  Well, lo and behold.  She said it in class, and everyone can tell that she and Hardin are arguing about themselves, and people are snickering.  Embarrassed, Tessa runs form the room, and Hardin follows, and won’t leave her alone.

I get outside and am crossing the green lawn, about to reach the corner of the block, when he grabs my arm and I jerk away.

“Why do you always touch me like that? Grab my arm again and I will slap you!” I scream. I surprise myself at my harsh words, but I’ve had enough of his crap.

He grabs my arm again, but I can’t manage to follow through on my promise.

This is followed closely with

A small crowd has gathered around us, and I want to curl into a ball and disappear. But I have to know what he will say next.

Why can’t I stay away from him? I know he’s dangerous and toxic. I have never been as mean to someone as I am to him. He deserves it, I know, but I don’t really like being mean to anyone.

Hardin grabs my arm yet again and pulls me into a small alleyway between two buildings, away from the crowd.

This literally makes my heart hurt.  Literally.  This is what is being spoon-fed to young women as good and desirable.  We’ve got a sexual predator for a president and a potential candidate who has inappropriately touched women but who has been excused because he’s old and “hasn’t kept up with the times,” and then women blamed for not telling him “No” over the decades.  Grabbing women by the shoulders and kissing the backs of their necks isn’t okay, and neither is victim-shaming, and neither is any of this.  We should be expecting people to meet high standards, not to sink down and say, “Well, at least A isn’t a bad as B.”  We’re paving the road to hell.  And how are young women supposed to be able to see this stuff is wrong when grabbing women and scaring them and being toxic is romantic?  Remember, this book is a ROMANCE.  Not really, but that’s where it’s categorized.

Hardin starts insisting he turns her on, which he does, but she outwardly denies it and tries to back away, and he keeps stepping closer without regard for her trying to escape.  But she admits she likes it.  He’s toxic and mean and assaultive and she likes it.  He refers to her nether regions as “down there” because “You’re thinking about me and have that feeling” just wouldn’t be complete without “down there.”  Another pro-tip: “Down there” is so juvenile that you really need to either stop before saying it, or get more creative.  

He shoves her against a wall while she’s trying to get away…romance?…and tries justifying it by saying she made the first move…when she was DRUNK and he was sober.  Somehow that makes all of this okay?  NO.

He convinces her that they’ll be friends and demands they’ll meet the next day after school, and she gets, in her own word, “dreamy,” and then gets a feeling she walked into a trap.  Ya think?


Chapter 24
Blah blah blah, shower, irrelevancy, a note from Steph that she’s out to dinner with Tess.

I like Tristan; he seems really nice despite his overuse of eyeliner.

Can’t say something almost-nice without something overtly judgmental.

In class, Hardin mentions their “date” in front of Landon, and Landon tells her to be careful.  Landon’s decent.  He’s genuinely concerned.  Hardin is an ass because that’s all he does, and Tess tells him to be nice since they’re “practically brothers.”  Oh, snap.  That’s not gonna go well.

Hardin cancels the “date.”  Okay, that’s ending well.  Because he should end his involvement with her, and Anna Todd needs to be slapped for using “bipolar” as an insult.

Tess gets back to her dorm, and Steph, Tristan, and Zed are on Steph’s bed, and the four of them have a really cute time talking about “weird professors.”  It’s fine, and really is nice.  Something unspecified in the way Tristan looks at Steph shows he is really interested in her.

So Anna Todd either can write good stuff and doesn’t, or else is the saying about a million monkeys at a million typewriters.

Hardin walks in.

Geez, man, you could at least knock for once,” Steph scolds him and he shrugs. “I could have been naked or something.” She laughs, obviously not angry at his lack of manners.

“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” he jokes, and Tristan’s face falls while the other three chuckle. I can’t find the humor, either; I hate thinking about Steph and Hardin together.

I feel bad for Tristan.  Also, I love the name Tristan, and used it in the first trilogy I wrote.

Zed invites Tess to the movies with him and Steph and Tristan.

Before I can answer, Hardin speaks up quickly. “Actually, Tessa and I have plans.” There is a strange edge to his voice.

That’s because the bet is with Zed.

Hardin shoves her out the door (her word), and into his car.  He says Zed “doesn’t have the best intentions.”

He won’t tell her where they’re going.

Chapter 25
For my sanity, I’m finishing this post after this chapter.  It’s 29 pages, and I don’t want to keep killing brain cells.

He turns onto a gravel road, and Tess is nervous.  He quips that he’s not going to kill her.  She’s less scared of being murdered than of what else he might do.  I have a headache.  For real.

The plan is swimming in a creek.  Since she didn’t know, of course she didn’t bring a bathing suit and he orders her to go in her underwear.  Since she won’t, he offers to answer any question she wants, but only one, and she can wear his t-shirt.

They’re in northern Washington, and the creek is supposed to be warm.  Creeks aren’t warm in the fall.  The creeks are melted snow from the previous winter.  I live here.  On hot days, the creeks are still cold, and that makes them refreshing.  They aren’t warm.  This isn’t California.  Also, creeks don’t have a sudden edge, and then you’re in them, like a pool.

She gets in and they seem to hav fun splashing each other.  He’s manipulating her, and she’s falling for it.  For her question, she asks who he loves most in the world, to which he answers honestly.  Himself.  But that won’t count.  So she asks, “What about your parents?” and that pisses him off.  She grovels, and reminds him he did say he’d answer a question.  He throws her in the water again, and Tess is back to stupidly happy.  She wraps her legs around him, and it’s back to boners and near-boinking.

He “begs” her to let him have his way with her.  I guess a point for actually asking.  She’s not under pressure at the moment to say yes, and is just stupid.  She can say no, but she’s saying yes to someone she knows is a jerk.  And he’s an asshole because he’s only doing this to win a bet.

They get out of the water and he asks there or his room.  She wants to do it there so she won’t have time to rethink it and realize she’s making a mistake.

“Do you have a condom?” I ask him, trying to remember the few things I know about sex.

“A condom?” He chuckles. “I’m not going to have sex with you,” he says and I begin to panic.

Even when being stupid, I won’t knock mention of condoms.  EL James got this right as well, at least until Christian ordered a doctor to his place and spring it on Ana that she was getting birth control so he didn’t have to use them.

So on to foreplay.  He kisses her, slips his hands in her undies, and asks her if it feels better than when she does it to herself.  Is anyone surprised that she has never touched herself?  What is it with books putting virginity on such a pedestal that even touching oneself is somehow ruining it?

“You’re so responsive to me, so wet,” he says, and she thinks about how “filthy” those words are.

She has her first orgasm, and he quickly gets up to get dressed.  She thought he’d want her to…ellipses.  She doesn’t know because she’s never seen anything aside from textbook drawings.  She thinks that she wouldn’t be able to stand if if he started treating her badly again.

Things start to get “weird” between them, “distant,” she says.  And she “feels used.”  Hardin IS using her, but tells her that using her would mean getting something out of it.  Oh, he is.  Money.

She cries.  He fake-consoles her, says they’ll get dinner instead of just dropping her off.

My feelings for Hardin are so confusing. I hate him one minute and want to kiss him the next. He makes me feel things I never knew I could, and not just sexually. He makes me laugh and cry, yell and scream, but most of all he makes me feel alive.

Chapter 25 ends there, and I have this ball in the pit of my stomach.  This reminds me a lot of an ex of mine who used me, and it’s upsetting to me, truly upsetting, that this is going to end in marriage and kids.

At this point, fans are rooting for them to get together.  There’s nothing to recommend this as a relationship that should happen.  Tess isn’t a good person.  She’s judgmental and all too willing to cheat on her boyfriend.  But she still doesn’t deserve what Hardin’s doing to her.  We find out Ana is a bitch at heart in Fifty Shades, but she doesn’t deserve what Christian does.  NO ONE deserves this.  Yet it’s on a pedestal as #relationshipgoals

A relationship that leaves someone in tears and where there is fear should NEVER be a goal.  She’s been afraid he’ll hit her.  She’s cried many times.  She’s been outright scared, scared that what he’ll do to her could be worse than being murdered.

A relationship should make you happy, and the other person happy.  There should be security, not fear.  Being nice most of the time doesn’t buy someone points to be abusive “just sometimes.”  Took me five years to learn that one, back when rape within relationships wasn’t seen as rape since a relationship implied consent.  If there’s ever fear of harm, get out.  If you know someone who is afraid, don’t encourage that person to stay or encourage her (or him) to get with the person causing the fear.  Relationship goals shouldn’t make a person feel like that.

Relationship goals should be like…

No matter what’s going on, they’re there for each other, love each other, try to make each other happy, see each other as equals and partners.  They respect each other, and are passionate and dedicated and actively work on showing each other their love.  When it comes to their children, they unquestioningly support them and are proud of them and are very open about it.  They respect others, even when those others, like Tully and Dr. Pendershlass, are not nice to them.  They embody everything we should look for in relationships.  Watch either of the movies with Angelica Houston and Raoul Julia for the clearest, most obvious depictions of this.  The original TV show (which was based on a comic strip where they had no names) showed it as well, but the movies are the most enjoyable.

Relationships like Tessa’s and Hardin’s should never, EVER be treated as good.  EVER.  And every time young people hear that it is, and that it’s romantic and just so wonderful, the more they’ll believe that this is what is okay in relationships.  This sets young people up to accept abuse.  It’s part of why I stayed in an abusive relationship so long and only got out when I tried killing myself.  Who would help when I had a relationship that was everything society told me was good?  Forced sex just meant he wanted me, getting physical meant he was so passionate he couldn’t control himself.  So who would help?  Who would think I wasn’t a failure if I left?  I didn’t have black and blue marks all over me, so it wouldn’t be abuse, it couldn’t be bad.  Because that’s what we were told.  And now, Christian forcing Ana is seen as consent because she realized trying to leave was futile when her mother and her best friend encouraged her to stay with Christian despite him making her cry and stalking her, which they witnessed.  His force is seen as he just wants her so much.  His and Edward’s physicality has been excused as passion.  They just love their targets so much that they can’t control themselves.  We’re seeing that with Tessa and Hardin already.  Already fear of physical abuse, and Hardin’s plan for sex is through manipulation to win a bet.  WE SHOULD NOT BE CALLING THIS GOALS.

Look at a young person in your life.  Have a 10-year-old daughter?  A 9-year-old cousin?  A 6-year-old nephew?  An 18-year-old sister?  Ask yourself if you want them to be in Tessa’s position, scared and being physically shoved against walls, more afraid of death than what Hardin might do?  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT FOR THEM?  If it’s not, you need to stop holding shit like this up as goals because they hear it.  And they’ll believe it.  And when it happens to them and you wonder how they could have missed the signs, it’ll be on you for holding this stuff up as goals.  It’ll be on everyone who does since hearing it over and over and OVER again will cause them to internalize it, believe it, accept it, and, when they want to get out, they won’t.  Their relationship is like Christian and Ana, or Hardin and Tessa, and those relationships are just so awesome and romantic.  So who would help them?

Please, think critically about the relationships in books that you call romantic, and picture someone you love in Tessa’s or Ana’s position.  Don’t bother thinking about yourself since you’ll look at the money or the orgasms.  Picture someone else there, getting hit or being scared of being hit, and crying.  Still romantic?  Still goals?  Is it?  Is this book?  Is Fifty Shades?  Hm?