What is an effective plot twist?

Book Discussion, Uncategorized

Happy 2019! I’ll be honest I debated whether or not I even wanted to continue this blog after 2018 ended. I had lost some of my motivation to blog but I knew in my heart that I would want to continue discuss and write about the media I consume every time so it’s still in me to continue. How I want to change this blog however is by writing more discussions and analyses instead of reviews and wrap ups. I’ll still do a monthly wrap up (there may be a new format for this too) but for the most part, I really want to analyze what I read by analyzing the writing or seeing it through a social lens etc. I’ve always been passionate about this but I’ve just never found a lot of the motivation to put into words what I thought.

I’ve been reading a lot of books that feature plot twists lately and it got me thinking about some of the plot twists I’ve read. Plot twists manipulate and confuse but they can make the story so much more exciting and complex. What are the most effective kinds of plot twists? What makes a good one?

Spoilers below for:

  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • The Wicked King by Holly Black
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • Big Little Lies TV series
  • The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

In The Cruel Prince, Jude is a human forced to live in the Faerie world after the murder of her parents by Madoc, her “foster” fae father. In Faerie, her confidants are her sisters, cowardly and invisible Taryn and rambunctious Vivi. Her enemy is Cardan, a cruel Faerie who bullies and torments everyone but especially her. She spends the entire book trying to gain any semblance of respect in a world that sees humans as inferior by default. She eventually gives up this quest and instead chooses to gain power any way she can and force them to give her respect: “if I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse”. Because this book is based on political maneuvering and the subtle acquisition of power, it is a fair mine field for all kinds of plot twists, some better executed than others. One of the best plot twists occurs near the end of this book when Jude uses her mithridatism to thwart Madoc. It is a brilliant plot twist because for one, Jude has been working up to this. We, as the readers do not know how she was going to use this skill only that it would be of use later on. Secondly, she is thwarting Madoc her sort of “foster” father whom she already has a tense relationship with. Although he is her parents’ murderer she still remembers the times he taught her to fight or told her bedtime stories. She understands that he loves his family but is ruthless in his teachings and knows his love comes with a caveat. Jude was raised by Madoc so how can she possibly hope to defeat him? Both have different goals and it’s tense because you question who is going to win out this fight. And even if you do know, you don’t know how. The twist is also revealed at a crucial point when we think all hope is lost with Jude. Another feature of a good plot twist demonstrated here is that after the fight, no matter the end, the character dynamics are going to change drastically.

I think the change in character dynamics is so important to a good plot twist. For one, it changes the plot hereafter and it changes the emotional stakes for the characters AND the readers. In the last heart pounding plot twist of The Cruel Prince, Jude schemes for Oak to crown Cardan as High King. Now we know that in this entire book, Cardan has been this cold blooded bully but in the past chapters, we have caught a glimmer of the humanity inside him especially when he was captured and had to confess his feelings and when he was beaten by a servant glamoured by his own brother, Balekin when he refused to practice his swordplay (fuck Balekin btw) But we know he does not want to be king at all. So the fact that the person who he has bullied, a human of all things, crowns him to be something he hates is going to drastically change things in the next book. This plot twist has great timing because we now have slightly shifted our emotional stakes on Cardan. We get to see Jude in the power position which she has wanted so badly this entire book but it came with a catch, she only has the power for a year and a day. I also really like this plot twist because it makes both characters equally vulnerable. There is a million possibilities that could potentially happen on both ends, so it makes it fun for us as readers. It also changes a lot of the emotional stakes. Whatever trust we put into their burgeoning relationship, it has been slammed down. We don’t know whether to trust in their relationship now or not or whether we can even trust what we know and believe either character will do. In the next book, we anticipate Cardan and Jude will go to even further means to get what they want.

Now let’s compare that explosive ending to the one the weakest plot twists in the series so far: the Ghost’s betrayal in The Wicked King.  In my opinion, this was not nearly as effective as that plot twists in TCP. Although it does change character dynamics, the Ghost was after all part of the Court of Shadows, it is definitely another thing to have a spy spy on you. However, we barely know anything about the Ghost! It definitely did not change the emotional stakes for me. Although it is certainly a betrayal, it is a betrayal of little consequence. Sure the Ghost bombed the quarters but what were the real repercussions of that? I didn’t remember any. Why did the Ghost betray them? Other than just for a plot twist. He was barely present in the last book too and did not seem to develop in this book. I barely even remembered that he was in this book so how am I suppose to feel anything if the Ghost betrayed them? It also feels a little cheap as of course this would be the perfect time to pull the carpet from underneath Jude just because. It changed little of the characters’ mental state just introduced a new obstacle for Jude to solve and deepened just the plot. But with Holly Black, I know that the little plot twists are only a set up for another bigger and deeper plot twist.

Of course, you don’t have to have all of these parts of a plot twist in order for it to serve well. Rick Riordan, for example, is a master of solely emotional plot twists. As demonstrated in the Mark of Athena, his cliffhangers are deadly because of the emotional stakes the reader has placed on these characters, in this case Percy and Annabeth who we have followed now for more than 5 books and are arguably the most beloved characters in the series. In Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, Riordan uses one of the most common plot twist tropes, that of the person you thought was on your side but turned out to be the bad buy aka Luke. We see this plot twist all the time especially in children’s movies, Wreck it Ralph, Spiderman: Into the SpiderVerse, Toy Story, Big Hero 6 etc. I think the problem with this plot twist is that it tries to establish those emotional connections too quickly and then the betrayer disappears only to reappear again kind of randomly but I understand it’s significance for the main character’s development. They are often role models or epitomes of good in the main character’s eyes and although I may have my problems with its overuse, I understand is importance to the character themes.

Plot twists can be built on top of each other and offer a look into thematic elements of the story, a definite tactic of psychological thrillers like in Big Little Lies. We have little plot twists and surprises in Big Little Lies but it culminates to the series’s biggest twist. This serves to put those other surprises into perspective and forces the reader to reevaluate what they know about the story and about their world. The plot revolves around the community finding out who choked Renata’s daughter Anabella on the playground. We follow the mom’s lives separate from that. With Celeste, we get a glimpse of the repeated abuse she suffers from her husband. The plot twist of Max being the one who choked Anabella reinforces the the overall theme and confirms Celeste’s worst fears, that her son will become just like his father. She cares most about her children and her denial about the abuse her husband perpetrates will extend beyond him and into his children even though they did not explicitly teach them to abuse. In this case, the plot twist serves more of a thematic element which I think is one of the best qualities of a plot twist. In The Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner (my master of political intrigue) has one of the best crafted plot twists that I’ve read recently in a book. The plot twist in question is when Eugenides confesses his love for the queen of Attolia, you know, the same one that cut his hand off. At first, you reel in shock wondering how in all eternity this could make any sense. How could you be in love with someone who has done irreversible damage to you who has captured you, imprisoned you, and proceeded to dump you back with only one hand. But you realize Turner has never lied to you, that this plot twist didn’t come out of nowhere, she was subtly slipped in what you thought was irrelevant and made it relevant. It is not only shocking and surprising but delivers an intense glimpse into the characters’ psyche -Gen’s near perfect ability to lie to others to himself and the queens ability to receive love but denying that for power and control. And of course, in the end, you don’t know whether it’s true or not, you can only go back and reinterpret what you thought you already knew. It is absolutely brilliant and of course, it changes the interactions hereafter immensely with the intertwining themes of love and power at play.

Of course, most of the plot twists I mentioned to some degree depend on the reader surprise. It is a very delicate balance of reveals and misdirection. The more intricate and layered these misdirection the more likely, I think you have of having a well crafted plot twist. Can a plot twist be good if you have predicted it? Of course you can know when a plot twist is coming intentionally, usually happens when the reader knows there’s going to be a confession or a secret of some sort that needs to be revealed. I like this one because it affects every decision the character makes stringing along a low grade sense of tension throughout the story. So overall, if a plot twist can somehow combine the elements of shock and surprise, but also can shift emotional and plot stakes for the characters and the reader, the plot twist can be more effective.

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An Analysis: Sexism in Harry Potter

Book Discussion, Uncategorized

I’ve reread Harry Potter about a million times now but during September/October I reread Harry Potter for probably the first time since I started college which was 5 years ago. As I’ve become more and more involved in feminist theory and pop culture, I wanted to see if Harry Potter live up to the heralding feminism that it has been known for all these years especially in its feminist icon, Hermione Granger.  I will discuss some observations I’ve made through a feminist lens.

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Harry and Ron flying the car to Hogwarts in the HP & the Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition

Let’s first talk about Lily Potter. For all intents and purposes, Lily Potter is a Mary Sue and used essentially for man pain. In fact, Snape’s entire backstory, present, and future was dependent entirely on his love for Lily Potter. That love manifests through him. Yet Lily Potter is never truly presented as a true character separate from her relationship with either Harry, James, or Snape. For most of the series, she is used as a symbol of love. As it is stated repeatedly, it was her love and sacrifice that has allowed Harry to be safe from Voldemort this entire time. What was she good at (besides Potions as Slughorn consistently repeats)? What were her dreams and aspirations? You could argue that she is not alive in Harry’s world and therefore not truly a character anyways yet why does James Potter and the rest of the Marauders feel more like real characters? In The Order of the Phoenix, Harry realizes that what he has always thought his father was: courageous and selfless turns out to be a lot more complex. As we know from experiencing Snape’s memory, James Potter is rather arrogant and honestly a bully.  You get a real sense of who he was mainly because it is mirrored through Harry but do we really know who Lily was? Not really. She is seen first and foremost as a mother who sacrificed her life and love for Harry and is defined by this throughout the series as a beacon of those symbols instead of a person full of love and sacrifice. There’s a difference.

I think my frustration with it stems from the fact that a lot of the male characters are allowed to be morally grey. Sirius, James, Snape, Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and Draco Malfoy are allowed to have morally ambiguous storylines that never undermine who they are as characters and are always offered some sort of redemption. Meanwhile I rarely see the female characters if any straddle this fine line. They are either solely on the good side or the bad side. Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Professor McGonagall, Aunt Petunia, Luna and Hermione are all placed firmly on this “good” side. Although they are distinguished characters, they are by no means ambiguous. The only ones I would consider to be so is Umbridge, Merope, and to some extent Narcissa. Although if we are judging by moral ambiguity, Umbridge is not really an ambiguous character so much as a “good guy” in the loosest form of the word who is highly, highly annoying and just plain ignorant but really does nothing to redeem herself. The only one that does so in story only is Merope who uses a love potion to manipulate Tom Riddle Sr. to fall in love with her. Though this is incredibly manipulative, the reader understands that she is misguided and the product of an entire life’s worth of abuse. But still that’s really only 2 female characters who would be considered morally grey but that is very little compared with the plethora of ambiguous male characters. 

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Phoenixes in HP & the Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition

It wouldn’t be the only example of female characters being erased from having a personality and a character arc. Hermione, herself, the feminist icon, although she has her flaws and her strengths does not have much character development. She is always selflessly serving the main plotline. 

She oftentimes feels like a plot device especially in the last book where she repeatedly gets them out of sticky situations but never actually solves anything. One example is in the Chamber of Secrets where she discovers that the monster in the chamber of secrets is a basilisk. The paper that she finds it in is conveniently discovered by Harry who then proceeds to fight the Basilisk while she is Petrified in the hospital wing. Another prime example is in Luna’s house where they somehow get out with Hermione’s ability to know more spells and assess the situation before the others as well as conveniently having everything in her little bag but the real solutions to kill the Horcruxes come from Harry and Ron even the information to actually kill the Horcruxes came from Hermione. It is clear that Harry and Ron would not have survived without Hermione but it feels like she is being used more as a useful tool than a real person. In terms of character development I have a hard time understanding what Hermione’s ambitions are. To be fair, we don’t really get a good grasp on Ron’s ambitions either but somehow Hermione’s seem more vague to me. It is adamantly clear however, that Ron definitely has more character development. He is allowed to walk out on them and have his own time to figure things out for himself. Hermione does not get that luxury. We also, barely know who her parents are and what they are like which is essentially the character development. On the other hand, we get to know Ron’s brothers and Ginny and how they have shaped Ron’s life views. The only time it has ever been clear has been when she was in the throes of SPEW.

It’s kind of funny that Ron and Hermione are prefects. For all intents and purposes, it is not a surprise that Dumbledore chose Hermione to be a prefect, however, Ron? It is unclear why Ron should be prefect, not because he is incapable of being one but because throughout the series, he has never shown a tendency to rule following or even particularly any tendency towards leadership. His grades aren’t the best either. It was even more uncomfortable to me when Dumbledore told Harry that he did not make him prefect because he thought Harry “had enough to be getting on with.” Harry would literally make the worst prefect ever! He is always getting himself into trouble and getting into other people’s businesses including but not limited to getting out of bed at night, going into Hogsmeade without permission. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do these things if I were in Harry’s shoes but the fact is is that it’s not prefect material. Meanwhile on the other hand, Hermione is the perfect prefect material. She is dedicated to her studies and to the rules making her the ideal role model for young first years. I think it speaks to how Hermione who consistently uses her intellect to get shit done is consistently overshadowed by the boys who dont’ have much but their own intuition to follow. I think it’s a consistent pattern that I see in books and movies where a boys intuition and recklessness is valued over a girl’s intellect.

Dumbledore tells Harry to listen to Hermione when he was talking about Sirius and Kreacher and Occlumency. Time again, Hermione’s opinions are valued less than the boys’. Whether that is a statement on sexism in the world in general that JK Rowling wanted to bring to light or if JK Rowling is subconsciously projected some ingrained sexism into the books, I don’t know. I have a feeling it’s a bit of both although if it is a statement what we only get from it is that Hermione is obnoxious and Harry continues to not listen to her anyways so I’m not exactly sure we are suppose to be siding with Hermione. 

Just because female characters are badass and take no names does not mean that the context itself is feminist. Hermione may be smart and kickass and someone every little girl wants to be, it doesn’t really focus on the fact that she is treated through a feminist lens. She is often seen with the other women of the books as naggy and a complete rule follower. More and more, the male characters are seen to have more distinct personality traits. It also does not negate the fact that although JK Rowling has mentioned in interviews that when you take away physical strength from the equation, witches are just as powerful as wizards. Yet most of the major players of the Harry Potter world are male, the ones who propel the story forward, the ones who have higher positions of authority and even the ones that are deemed the most important to the narrative of the story. For example, the Mauraders are all male. We have Dumbledore (who is essentially a father figure to Harry), Snape (the most tragic of the series), Voldemort (the main villain), most of the people in the Order are male including Kingsley, Moody, Mundungus, and Moody. Most of the Death Eaters are male, Lucius, Wormtail. All of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers were male. So really all of the major, major players are male so this statement does not really hold up does it. I also found the characterization of Lavender Brown to be slightly off putting. From someone who has always makes sure her characters are well developed and distinguished it is odd that she would make Lavender Brown such a hysterical, ditzy female. The characterization when even compared to the other small male side characters is jarring. Seamus, Dean, and even Wood have, throughout the series, become more and more complex however small their role is in the book yet Lavender Brown, Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson, and Katie Bell have no distinguishing features. Even Ernie Macmillan who we only saw briefly in the fifth book is more distinct. The lack of distinguishing characteristics to females as opposed to males is disheartening and negates female characters to certain roles rather than seeing them as distinct people on their own.

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Reading Harry Potter again through the feminist lens has made me realize the extent that the books do not live up to feminist critique. It can be said, however, that the book definitely have feminist aspects to it which I totally agree with but it is not entirely faultless. I will always love these books but I bear these in mind that Harry Potter is not infallible.

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Discussion: Gratuitous Violence vs Conservative Sex in (mostly) YA

Book Discussion, Uncategorized

I was inspired to write this post after I was listening to a recent Writingexcuses podcast featuring the very popular horror author, Darren Shan who as you might know wrote the Cirque de Freak series which is a horror series for a middle grade/YA audience along with a series of other adult and YA horror. Brandon Sanderson posed the question, “Is there anything you can’t do when writing horror for children? and Shan’s responsImage result for lord loss darren shane was:

One thing I’ve found with my editors and publishers is sex. You can be as violent as you want. [I wrote a book called] Lord Loss and [there’s a scene where] a boy walks into a bedroom, his father’s hanging upside down from the ceiling and his head’s chopped off, his mother’s ripped to pieces, his sister’s been cut in two and a demon’s behind her back moving her hands like puppets and that was all acceptable.

It seems to be this growing trend or existing trend I suppose that the more grittier and violent a YA book is, especially SFF and horror, the more authentic it is. This was some of the praise for An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Laia exists in a world where you see violence around every corner and promises of rape at several points. It’s not the first YA book to do this although I have to admit I think An Ember in the Ashes is the more graphic than most other YA fantasies out there. This was only confirmed in the sequel, A Torch Against the Night. Tahir is definitely not afraid to chop off some heads and cut off some fingers. But usually a statement like that has been met with praise. But now I wonder, is it something to praise? In some ways, I attribute this Image result for game of thrones season 6 postertrend to Game of Thrones. Now I’ve read the first book but haven’t read the rest nor have I seen the TV show. I don’t mind hearing spoilers so usually when my friends tell me about last night’s Game of Throne episode, they’re usually talking how violently this person was killed or how many people died this episode. I learned to equate, “that episode was so good” with it’s probably because something really violent happened. Everyone tells me not to get attached to the characters because they’ll die but the thing is I like getting attached to characters and honestly what’s the point if everyone dies? What’s the point of showing such an overtly violent world? I understand I’m really oversimplifying GoT, but I’m only talking specifically about the violence. I see the appeal of dark and gritty fantasy worlds and seeing characters pushed to their limits. It’s in fact, why the stakes feel so high in An Ember in the Ashes. but at the same time aren’t there other creative and interesting ways to develop a harsh world, a cruel character without just escalating a narrow definition of violence?

I’m currently reading Half the World by Joe Abercrombie and it kind of proves my point of the “narrow definition of violence” where a harsh world is depicted only through how violent (how many stabbings, killings, deaths) it is. Many reviewers have praised that the more violence there is, especially in YA, the more realistic it is. But it’s funny because the amount of violence portrayed versus the amount of sex portrayed doesn’t feel like it’s correlated at least in YA. In adult books, there seems to be a more equal balance between the two.

Darren Shan mentions that all that violence in that one particular scene of his book was allowed but what about sex? He elaborated that:

In my vampire series Cirque Du Freak, at one point there’s this process that vampires go through which I had called vampuberty and my publisher said no, you cannot say ‘vampuberty’, we must not mention anything that has any slight sexual connotation whatsoever.

I found that disheartening because that means it’s ok for kids to read about heads getting chopped off and people being cut in half but it’s not ok to mention puberty? A confusing but natural process that affects every kid at some point? Now my problem is not with how much violence is portrayed but the fact that such a triggering scene was assumed to be well handled by kids but things like puberty were supposedly “too adult” and must be kept in the dark like a bad secret. According to Shan, the reasoning behind the ban on vampuberty was because “teenage boys [didn’t] want to talk about sex or read about sex” which is an assumption that is laughable at best. I think it’s a shame to be honest, because this is a real opportunity to teach young boys (and girls) about something that is in reality, just very confusing and maybe something like that mentioned in a book would have helped them better understand it. Even in YA books with copious amounts of violence, the romances are, for the most part, conservative and chaste eImage result for wither lauren destefanospecially regarding the main character. Think of The Hunger Games trilogy where kids are literally killing each other to the death (Rue!) but the romance itself is almost too afraid to show itself. I cannot tell you how many times the main character “blushed” or how much they made puppy eyes at each other in YA. To be fair, it might have to do with the fact that violence is prevalent at any age but the concept of sex is relatively new to teenagers. By the way,
I’m mentioning this under the assumption that the more violent a world is, the more sex there should be although that theory is probably inaccurate. I’m merely pointing out the trend that it is perfectly acceptable to input more violence into a book but the amount of sex or even sexual connotation has stayed relatively the same. In the YA novel, Wither by Lauren Destefano, a man marries 3 girls including our main character. He proceeds to have sex with his other two wives (consensual if I remember) but the main character never does have sex with him or vice versa because that would just be distasteful wouldn’t it.

I suppose it also has to do with the fact that America is in reality a conservative country. I’ve heard of many libraries that ban books with consensual sex in them but allow books that have graphic rape in them (a lot of these books were for required reading) because that totally makes sense. Even in books like Divergent, sexual assault is more graphic than the actual romance. Let’s have high schoolers learn about rape but not about consenting and pleasurable sex between two people!

It obviously looks like I’m advocating for less violence and more sex in this post..lol..but my point is that maybe that the more violent a book is does not make it any more authentic and realistic and that sex should be more openly talked about because consensual sex is kind of important, ya know?

Let me know your thoughts on what I’ve discussed!

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Discussion: Is Age Just a Number?

Book Discussion, Misc, Uncategorized

I finally convinced my sister to read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and she came home one day after reading it and she asked me “Did you know Kaz was 17?”

Subconsciously I probably did. Out loud, it just sounded weird. He is the head of a renowned gang and is suppose to commit a heist of one of the most secure prisons in the Grisha world which is a pretty heavy burden for a 17 year old if I do say so. I think in my head, he was around my age (22) although I inadvertently make a lot of YA protagonists my age in my head especially in YA fantasy and scifi because if I’m to be honest, I sometimes think YA protagonists are a little young in proportion to the things they have to do. This is more in regards to YA fantasy because in YA contemporary, the protagonist is usually dealing with real life problems while in high school. If any older, it would just be New Adult, more or less, although there are obviously exceptions.

Because I was curious as to the number of protagonists belonged to which age category, I made a little infographic sampling a number of YA books and the ages of the main protagonists, their age on the left and their pictures on the right.

 

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Some disclaimers:

*Books chosen pretty much randomly out of the YA books. This is a very small sample of YA SFF out there and is not an extensive representation of the genre as a whole. I know I’ve forgotten a lot, books like Shadow and Bone trilogy, Bitter Kingdom trilogy, Clockwork Princess, Twilight etc. etc.

*Included only YA fantasy and scifi

*All pictures from Google images. 

*All ages found on their respective Wikias. There may be some discrepancies.

First of all, I think it’s worth noting that these people–kids–essentially have pretty intense responsibilities and have already gone through a lot in life. Sharzhad already has her best friend killed and has already found her true love. June has a freaking government position basically while the other officials are adults if I’m not mistaken. Katniss is the face of a revolution. Caelaena is considered the best assassin in the land. And of course, Harry defeats Voldemort at the old, old age of 17. 17.

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That’s pretty crazy if you think about it. I understand in fantasy that usually kids grow up faster than usual because the world they live in is usually very harsh like in An Ember in the Ashes. But still it makes me wonder why these ages were even chosen. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Caelaena to be a little older in order to really be the best assassin in the land. Sixteen is definitely the most popular age in YA which is understandable especially if you live in America. Even Veronica Roth once mentioned that she chose to make Tris 16 because it’s sort of a coming of age age, an age where everything changes and you are faced with a lot of decisions. But what does it say when the peak of your experiences in life happen in your teenage years?

I suppose in many ways I find it unbelievable because of my own experience. I mean I didn’t know what the heck I was doing when I was 16. I was young and very naive. I suppose the age debate in YA can go both ways. It’s true that I could have found some good role models who have a greater maturity level (for the most part) and are faced with life and death situations that I don’t have to think about but could still help me with my own decisions. Also, the sense of power and control that we have as teens isn’t very much so to see these protagonists take control of their lives and discover who they are is very gratifying. On the other hand, what is up with all these kids that apparently rule the world and all the adults are just really dumb entities that are just there.

It’s also worth noting, even though I don’t know what to make of it, that most of the female protagonists are on the younger end of the age spectrum, most being 16 and 17 with none that I can think of being 20 and older and still be considered to be YA. Most of the male protagonists are on the older end of the spectrum. Making this infographic also made me realize how odd some of the relationship age differences are. For example, Cress is 16 but she’s in a relationship with Thorne who is 20. And most weird is probably Rose who is 17 but becomes romantically involved with Dimitri who is um, 24 (lol).

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*copied again so you don’t have to keep scrolling up to peruse the graph

The teen years are very different from your 20’s and in my opinion should not be interchangeable but oftentimes, when there are YA adaptations turned into movies, Image result for four and tris divergentthe actors are usually a lot older than their supposed age in the books and sometimes the characters’ ages are even changed in order to correlate more with the actors’ ages. For example, Four is suppose to be 18 in the books but he’s 24 in the movies, a significant age gap. Percy Jackson, played by Logan Lerman, was suppose to be 12 in the books but changed to 16. I’m not sure how old Clary Fray is suppose to be but the actress playing her in Shadowhunters is 20 and the actor playing Jace is 26 which is at least 3 years older than they should be. Image result for miss peregrine's home for peculiar children asa butterfieldThe show looks like a bunch of 20 year olds hanging out instead of teens. And most recently, Jacob from Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is suppose to be 16 but he’s played by the lovely
Asa Butterfield who is 19 (although to be fair, Asa looks really young). I understand that there’s a bunch of schooling issues that go on with child actors but one wonders what it would be like if they had cast actors that were the correct age or would it have  been too jarring to see?

I suppose it all comes down to realism for me. Some characters could be 16 but are very mature. I think what is off-putting to me was the fact that a lot of the characters surrounding these very young protagonists are actually adults. It’s realistic to me when it comes to Harry Potter because he always has guidance from the more experienced people around him and you can feel what a burden he has at such a young age while dealing the usual “teenage stuff” like crushes, homework, and first kisses; although I do admit it’s a very first-world teenage experience. In many ways, I could interchange these protagonists’ age to something older because their experience is not specific to the teen years like Harry’s is. Scarlet could very well be a 25-year-old instead of an 18-year-old who goes off with Cinder and company to defeat Levana. But what do I know? I mean there are 16 year olds who have gone to the Olympics and have been to war so maybe I’m just too narrow-minded to get out of my own experience.

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I know that this post literally gave no answers to the questions I posed. But I want to know what you think about age in YA.

  • Are these YA protagonists too young to be saving their worlds?
  • How do you feel about the age gaps and the ratios of girls and boys on the age spectrum?
  • Are some of these ages realistic to the story?
  • I didn’t mention this in the post because it’s too broad a topic but what are your thoughts on the uneven amount of violence versus the relatively chaste sexuality of YA protagonists? Is it an age thing? Societal?

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Discussion: On rereading and how a 4-star book became a 2-star book

Book Discussion, book review, Uncategorized

15753977Author: Marie Lu

Categories/Genres: YA, scifi, dystopian

Pages: 305

Previous Rating: 4/5

Reread Rating: 2/5

VERY MILD SPOILERS BELOW

 


I have very fond memories of Legend by Marie Lu, an action-packed dystopian YA novel set in future LA. June is one of the Republic’s best students. Day is a wanted criminal. June’s brother, Metias, is killed and June wants revenge. They discover government secrets. While this is happening, a rebel group called the Colonies is always mentioned and there’s also a plague going around because why not. I’m pretty sure it was one of my favorite books at one point and I considered it one of the better YA dystopian books around.

Before I reread it, I only remembered that I liked the romance and that I really liked the conspiracy elements. I thought it was well-written and that the world was well-developed for such a short book.

So I decided to give it a reread and in a surprising turn of events (a rude plot twist), I ended up being severely disappointed to the point where I wanted to time travel back and slap my old reading self and ask myself why I was reading this.

old self: *On the computer* *sees present me*

me: so why exactly did you like this book?? I don’t get it??

old self:

WTF who are you??!!!

me: GET MORE STRICT WITH YOUR RATING SYSTEM.*disappears*

old self

she looked a lot like me..

That’s probably one of the sad things about rereading. Sometimes your favorites just don’t hold up and then you realize your nostalgia was filling in the gaps for you once you get further away from the book. You remember the feelings but you don’t remember much else. 

Granted I did read this book almost 6 years ago so the experience of rereading was almost like reading a new book. Almost. It’s more like slipping on an old Halloween costume and finding out that it’s too short and tight now. But anyways this book is classified as a dystopian and now that I’ve reread it, I struggle to really comprehend why it’s classified as such because honestly, nothing about this government is explained. Here are some worldbuilding things that irritated me that I did not notice the first time I read it.

  1. You have to take a Trial test (which sounds like the SAT–I would definitely fail that) and that basically determines whether you get a good or a bad job which I feel like is logistically kind of hard. I mean is it a scantron test?? What if the grader grades it wrong? What if it doesn’t go through the machine right?? What if someloses it ??What if I bubbled in incorrectly but I knew the answer?? So many things could go wrong..

2. There’s also no sense of what the hierarchy of this government is. Like there’s an Elector, also a Commander but no one else?? Like is LA run by two people?? Damn, this is basically hiring a 16-year-old to catch a notorious criminal..makes sense.

3. Oh, there is also a plague which does not seem to exist out of the confines of the plot. The plague affects one person in this entire book and there’s not really any mention of the plague ever..like ok..

I suppose I’m just more way more picky about worldbuilding now. What once was merely an annoyance is now a nuisance that I can’t brush off. It’s also interesting how much scientific inaccuracies bother me now. Take, for example, this quote:

I have what the Republic considers good gene–and better genes make for better soldiers make for better chance of victory against the Colonies.

Do you know how many genes there are?? What do you mean good genes? Genes are good for some things, not good for others. And if she’s talking about intelligence, there really is no such thing as an intelligence gene and even if there are, it depends on the type of nurture you had. Nature vs. nurture and all that.

But honestly, the real question is should I even be bothered by this? I mean so what, if there are scientific inaccuracies. I suppose I care because there’s already a lot of misinformation out there. Maybe it’s an aftereffect of being a science major for four years.

And the thing about reading action-packed books is that the second time you read them, you know what’s going to happen so that air of surprise and anticipation is just not there anymore. You should come for the plot but stay for the characters. Except the characters aren’t the best either. I actually should applaud Marie Lu a little for creating such believable characters within such a short span of time (this book clocks in at 305 pages with a pretty big font too). But that does not stop me from being bored by these characters. June and Day also basically kind of sound the same. June and Day do sound different in the sequels but that does not really come across here. I also read reviews about people complaining about the “instalove” between June and Day and I really didn’t think so back then but now the instalove was hitting me in the face and I’m wondering how I didn’t see it before. They basically start trusting each other like the day after they meet each other. And it’s just basically smooth sailing from there. Now I don’t mind instalove, as long as you build conflict even after they fall for each other like for example The Wrath and the Dawn. I suppose in 6 years I’ve met so many different characters that these characters just don’t cut it anymore.

So after this enlightening experience, I suppose I am now

  1. a more picky reader
  2. I care a lot more about worldbuilding
  3. I need more complexity in my characters
  4. I’m also more attuned to an author’s writing

 

But here are some questions I’m curious about: when you read a book, are you more attuned to certain aspects more than others? Does your profession allow you to detect some types of inaccuracies more than others? If so, do they bother you while you’re reading? Have you reread a book recently that disappointed you? How much of your preconceived notions when you read it the first time affected your reread of it? How much of nostalgia affected your view of the book after you’ve read it? I would love to hear your thoughts =)

 

 

Book Review (In Graphs): Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Book Discussion, book review, Uncategorized

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Title: Me Before You

Author: Jojo Moyes

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Pages: 369

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar  (4/5)


 

Characters

me4u6

me4u2

Dialogue

me4u10

My experience

me4u

*Considering I knew pretty much what was going to happen at the end. I mean, EVERYONE kept telling me about how much they cried and I think I was so determined not to cry lol.

me4u3

The Writing

me4u4

me4u7

 

me4u5

 

Final Thoughts: A conventional love story with some insightful commentary about the everyday struggles of a paraplegic and what it means to make decisions for someone else and an unconventional ending. From a writer’s point of view, it wasn’t all that great but I still found myself enjoying it and I had a good time with it. You win this time, Jojo Moyes. Side note: Sam Clafin and Emilia Clarke are really good casting choices for these characters. I kept imagining the characters as them while I was reading. Granted I did watch the trailer first before reading the book but whatever..What did you think of this book? And how much did you cry?

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Spoiler Discussion: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Book Discussion, Uncategorized

This post is just gonna be me ranting about this book. I finally read it and I ended up giving it a 3.5 stars. It would have gotten a 3 stars if it hadn’t been for the pure enjoyability of it. I’m sorry if this post makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

-Was it just me or did this book just scream The Hunger Games to me?? Like screamed, like in your face, screamed. Except the entire revolution was squeezed into one book. Just no. It was so generic and cliche.

Here are some of the similarities I found:

-rich, ignorant people wearing funky clothes check

-a tyrannical ruler who is so cruel check

-the ruler’s henchmen (aka the thurmaturges) who need to enact extreme violence and murder on the innocent people in order to make Levana seem more evil blah blah blah check

-Different sectors (aka districts) with the outer sectors being poor and the closer ones being rich..There’s even a lumber and agriculture sector (i mean come on really??)

-Cinder is like the face of the rebellion (aka the Mockingjay)

The thing I really liked about the Lunar Chronicles is for one the characters. I think the characters are endearing and fun without being too cliche and cheesy. It’s like the equivalent of Disney characters and despite knowing that, I found myself really annoyed with them in this book. Well, not annoyed, more like bored. Their actions just had an air of predictability to it. For example, when Thorne kissed that Lunar girl because she manipulated him and Cress got really angry and I just knew that the Lunar girl was glamoured to look like Cress. I mean, come on, it’s pretty obvious.

And then the whole conversation that happened after was annoying too like

Cress: I don’t want to be just one of your other girls.

Ugh, can I just roll my eyes. One of the most cliche lines of all time.

reaction nicki minaj ew disgust roll eyes

Also, when Wolf was modified with something I already forgot and it made him kind of forget Scarlet or made him think that Scarlet didn’t like him. He only forgot Scarlet for like a hot minute and then he was already fighting by her side. Why so much buildup for so little conflict?? Where is the tension?? Anyways I think Wolf and Scarlet are still tied with Cinder and Kai for my favorite couple of the series with Thorne and Cress being my least favorite. IDK WHY, everyone loves Thorne and Cress a lot and I just am kind of meh about them.

funny pitch perfect i dont care

I feel like the couples didn’t even spend that much time together and I would have liked more of the friendships to develop and play off each other like Scarlet and Winter. I really liked the interaction between Thorne and Kai but that was only one scene!!

I also couldn’t really get on board with Winter and Jacin as individual characters. I really don’t know why. There was no history to Jacin except his childhood with Winter. It was all fun and cute at the beginning but when I realized that was all Jacin was..I got bored. And I couldn’t really get a good grasp on Winter’s character.

I did really like the whole fight scene at the end though especially how Levana manipulated Thorne to hurt Cress and both of them hurting Cinder; that was pretty epic. And Marissa Meyer really stepped up the action in this book which made it really fun but I feel like she just went through the motions of having a revolution and didn’t really add any surprises..I mean there were surprises just not ones that really surprised me if that makes sense. It just got really boring near the end because they would get themselves into a situation and then escape. Repeat this 500 times. Boorrringg.

And can I just say that the scientific terminology got really annoying. Ok, it might have been me being the science major that I am but when that one doctor says to Winter when she’s on her deathbed: “all her biological systems will shut down.” no one says all your biological systems are going to shut down. That’s just a way of saying you’re dying in a “scientific” way even though it just sounds vague and not scientific at all. Obviously all your biological systems are going to shut down, no one says “biological systems” because your whole body is biological. I really don’t know why I’m ranting so much about this little thing lol.no kenan thompson snl saturday night live swipe left

Also, I can’t really count the number of times, Cinder or someone made a really “inspirational” speech about “omg, no more will you suffer under manipulation from the Lunars if you join me!!@#@#@#$12” like ok cool, let’s move on..

jon stewart the daily show idgaf i dont care who cares

-I really liked all the nods to the original fairytales like the poisoned candy, the kiss while Winter was asleep, how Winter is the fairest of them all and more beautiful than the queen, how Kai gave the cyborg foot back to Cinder near the end.

-And can I just say that I fucking shipped Iko and Kinney from the second they set eyes on each other. Ugh, they would be so cute.

A lot of people have said that they wish one of the main characters had died because the plot was too convenient. First off, did any of the main characters die in Star Wars? That was also an intergalactic war..uh no. Well, I mean does Yoda count? And yet I still got the emotional weight that I should have felt because there was an intergalactic war. This series has a very lighthearted tone to it and if someone had died, I think it would have ruined that tone and feel that the other books had.  What even counts as too convenient? This book was never meant to add to the conversation about war and revolution; it was just meant to be a fun story about good vs. evil. I think it felt convenient because all the character dynamics were really simple.

What did you think about Winter? Did you think some parts were unnecessary? What did you think of the plot and its logistics? The character dynamics? Favorite couple? 🙂

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Does booktube have a bigger audience than book blogging?

Misc, Uncategorized

I watch a lot of booktube and I started thinking of how it’s only starting to become really big in the past few years. Will it overtake book blogging? I realize that there will always be an audience for both but I feel as though booktube has a bigger audience.

 

I’m not sure how many followers some popular bloggers have because I don’t have access to those stats but in terms of booktubers, I feel like they have way more followers. Even when comparing the average blogger with the average booktuber.

Popular Booktubers by the Stats

Abookutopia (started 2 years ago)-228,521 subscribers

Polandbananabooks (started 5 years ago)- 252,035 subscribers 

Katytastic (2011)-193,386 subscribers

Jessethereader (2012)-131,506 subscribers

Peruseproject (201?)-123,556 subscribers

ArielBissett (2012)-85,383 subscribers

PadfootandProngs07 (2011)-71,914 subscribers

CassJayTuck (2011)- 63,789 subscribers

I believe these people are the ones with the most followers and are still pretty active on their channels. Because of these higher numbers, it would seem that booktubers just get more followers more quickly or in a lesser space of time. Of course, that results in a kind of snowball effect of consequences.

With the most popular Booktubers, they’re something akin to celebrities.  They’re invited to do panels at book conventions. Just look at YALLWest and BEA and even Vidcon 2015.

They receive a lot of ARCS (moreso than bloggers I daresay) and sponsored videos. They receive free Owlcrate subscription boxes for review and recently BookOutlet did a permanent feature on their website that features “vlogger friends” where a lot of booktubers and what books they buy from the site are featured. So it’s hard to deny their influence as booktubers. I also feel like more people want to learn about their personal lives as several of them have a separate vlog channel as well to document their daily lives. In some ways, I get it, especially book hauls and unboxings, they’re way more fun to see as a video than in a post just because they feel more personal and exciting because the box is being unwrapped right in front of you.

Another reason why I think Booktube has a bigger audience is simply the medium. It’s just easier to watch a video than to read a post. If I’m feeling lazy or something, I’ll more likely reach for a video. Also, most, if not all, booktubers are on Youtube and Youtube is a big site whereas with blogging you can get many different blogging platforms with not as much traffic. Random watchers are more likely to be on Youtube.

I think with videos especially, the personality of the Booktuber matters a lot to attracting people. And I think if you have that charismatic personality, it’s easier to portray that in videos because in videos you have your face, your mannerisms, your clothes but in blog posts you can only rely on your words. If you watch videos from the most popular booktubers, they are all very humorous and energetic and most of them like reading YA the most. It makes reading YA seem hip and trendy (it actually is) so I think it’s caused this explosive effect on reading YA. I digress but it’s interesting that booktubers who read predominantly adult or literary fiction don’t have as many subscribers as one’s who read YA.

With booktube, there’s also more of an arena for collaborations with other booktubers. Usually they will do tags together and it’s obviously going to attract a lot of people because it feels like you’re watching two friends do fun book games together. It’s different than a collaboration in a blog post because you don’t really get to see the dynamics and interaction between the two collaborators as intimately as you would in a video.

Of course there is no denying that there are pros and cons with both booktubing and book blogging. I’m just trying to figure out if booktubing has a bigger audience and what effect that has had on readers.

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Thoughts: I’ve committed a sin

Misc

I’m going to tell you a little secret..

*whispers* I don’t finish books. *cue dramatic music*

And it happens more often than I’d like to admit. I don’t usually reach a certain point before I quit either; it could be halfway, it could be at the 50th page. Usually I stop somewhere before halfway of the book. It would be nice if I could force myself to finish a book so I can do a full, honest review of it but sometimes I just can’t. It’s even worse if it’s a popular book that everyone and their dog seems to love except me (aka The Martian). But I sometimes feel that I’m DNFing for the wrong reasons, I read Splintered by AG Howard about 3 months ago and I didn’t even finish a third of the book before deciding to quit it. I then started skimming it and stumbled upon this gem of a conversation between the male love interest (who has a girlfriend) and our main character, Alyssa.

“Al.” His Adam’s apple moves as he swallows. “I want you to put a stop to this Hitch thing. Whatever’s going on, it’s not worth…” He pauses. “Losing an important part of you.”
Unbelievable. He thinks I’m such a prude, he won’t even say the word. “You mean my virginity?”
His neck flashes red. “You deserve better than some one-night thing. You’re the kind of girl who should have a commitment from a guy who actually cares. Okay?”

I mean the title of this conversation should be” How to Offend Me in a Few Sentences” or just “Sexism 101”. So I quit the book after that.

But is it wrong that I’m basing my opinion of a book because of something a character says even though it was offending? I mean I’m sure there have been and there will be plenty of books that obviously don’t align with my views on life, but that shouldn’t deter me from reading the book, that would simply make me a little narrow-minded not wanting to see from other people’s perspectives. This is definitely only one of the reasons why I don’t finish books. Maybe they’re just boring or I’m not interested but it’s something I’ve thought about and whether or not DNFing was the “right” thing to do. But in most cases, I do feel like I know myself well enough to know if I’ll continue to enjoy a book or not.

Some questions I ask myself before I decide not to continue on with a book.

  1. Do I care about what’s going to happen next? Is it interesting enough?
  2. Why don’t I like this book? Is it the writing? The characters?
  3. What can I learn from this book that hasn’t been done before?
  4. Do I not like it because of preference or because I believe it’s  not a “good” book?

Let me know if you finish books no matter what or you’re ok with DNFing books? If so, how do you decide when to stop? What are the reasons you stop reading a book?

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Spoiler Discussion: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Book Discussion

So I just finished An Ember in the Ashes yesterday and I wanted to spew out my thoughts. I will be posting up my non-spoiler review very soon if you haven’t read the book. But for now, long story short, I gave it a four out of five stars so I really enjoyed it. Spoilers from here on out!

The Masks and the masks

First off, I still don’t get what the masks actually look like…like it would have to be thin I’m assuming because how else would it meld into your skin??

The Precious Cinnamon Rolls aka our main characters

I really liked all of our main protagonists. I have a soft spot for Elias (add him to my list of book boyfriends) but I really liked Laia too. I feel really bad for all the shit she had to go through at Blackcliff but her character development was beautiful. You know, not always believing what people tell her and finding out the true meaning of courage and sacrifice (I sound like a Hallmark card). Helene was understandably frustrating. I mean she has grown up in a world where loyalty to the Empire is a must. I mean you have to remember that the way she thinks about slaves and scholars came from the empire teaching that to her so I can’t really be expected to like her way of thinking. I’m super happy about getting her point of view in the sequel and I almost wish she wasn’t blood shrike because I would want to be at least a 20 mile radius away from Marcus.

The Not So Precious Cinnamon Rolls

I really liked the Commandant’s character and how she showed absolutely no mercy because usually there’s some small chink in the armor with these types of characters or some really tragic backstory but there isn’t with her character and the fact that Tahir was brave enough to push the boundaries on the violence (that “k” scene tho..) really amped up the tension and suspense because I was actually scared when Laia would go off and spy for the Resistance thinking she was going to be caught at any moment. Heck, I was even scared whenever she was talking about basically anything to Izzi.

I also kept thinking something bad was gonna happen to Izzi but nothing happened so that was good..*knock on wood*

The drama! The romance!

I also have mixed feelings about this love square that we’ve got going on or more like two love triangles..I liked that there was a love triangle with a male character but I felt like it wasn’t necessary. Because romantically, there’s nothing really to explore with Helene’s character. I don’t think there was any way it could have worked because Elias doesn’t want anything to do with the Empire but Helene wants everything to do with the Empire. I feel like even if they were good friends, Helene would have still done the deal because that’s how loyal she is. On the other hand, I felt like the love triangle with Laia, Keenan, and Elias was more warranted because Laia feels that Keenan understands her predicament whereas Elias understands her as a person. But I got annoyed with Keenan, mostly because I ship Elias and Laia.. The moon festival scene was so cute *_* and who can forget the scene after the Third Trial..

Also, I low-key ship Keenan and Izzi..

Also, it sounds really harsh but I was kind of annoyed with Darin for going to jail!!!! (jk) But Laia was sacrificing everything for her brother. I just feel like I needed more development and interaction between Laia and her brother for me to be invested in their relationship.

Oh No You Didn’t

I knew that the Test of Loyalty was definitely fighting Helene but I didn’t quite believe it because that is just cruel. Fighting your best friend to the death?? But I think it’s interesting that one of them would have killed the other and there weren’t any real hard feelings after that from Helene. Like ok, you almost killed me!! But that’s ok because you were just doing your job!! ha. ha. ha. I thought one of them would have backed down and say no but I liked that Tahir pushed the characters to their limits (almost).

For the literary critic in me

I have noticed a recurring trend in YA. It’s ok if there’s extreme violence in your book but the romance always has to chaste..like what..it doesn’t fit..

One thing that did really bother me throughout the book was the use of sexual assault. Not in the way it’s used necessarily (although the scene with Marcus and Laia felt a little gratuitous to me), but the concept surrounding it. The Commandant mentions that it would have been better if Laia had been scarred because then she would have been ugly and not be raped. This sentiment is consistently mentioned and it bothered me because beauty does not enter into the rape equation. Being beautiful does not give you a higher chance of being raped. That’s essentially like saying if your clothes are too revealing, you have a higher chance of being raped or vice versa. Rape is about power no matter who it is.

I realized I had a lot to say so kudos to you if you stuck till the end. If you did, comment moon cake below and let me know your thoughts! 😉

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