I don't care if this is supposed to be kinkily unrealistic, it wasn't marked as dubcon or fantasy and so I'm taking at face value. Face value says: Ca...moreI don't care if this is supposed to be kinkily unrealistic, it wasn't marked as dubcon or fantasy and so I'm taking at face value. Face value says: Carson is a giant creep. He should be fired from his position and banned from teaching. He likes to use his authority to coerce sexually-inexperienced teenage addicts (mentally teenage, at least) into intense BDSM relationships with him instead of encouraging them to get, say, therapy; he has no sense of boundaries and can't keep his professional life separate from his personal/sexual life; and he's intensely inappropriate and abuses his power constantly, so much so that he has a reputation for it around campus. Creep, creep, creep.
Eeehh other than that, the sex was warm if not hot and the writing was fine, but Carson creeped me out so much I couldn't get into things. He did last book, too, but this one was worse. I hope somebody reports him to the dean, my sweet. (less)
As other people have said, it was paint-by-numbers sci-fi. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, and it kept me reading until the end, but there wa...moreAs other people have said, it was paint-by-numbers sci-fi. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, and it kept me reading until the end, but there was nothing especially innovative or fresh about it, either. I ended up skimming through most of the sex scenes, because they were repetitive and because I wasn't very invested in the two leads' relationship (a day after reading, and I've forgotten both their names). The plot itself was also standard, and the mysterious third traitor was obvious from the get-go. Again, nothing egregiously awful, just... bland.(less)
It wasn't horrible, though there was too much sex and Adam started to really annoy me after a while. The villain of the book is shallow and boring, an...moreIt wasn't horrible, though there was too much sex and Adam started to really annoy me after a while. The villain of the book is shallow and boring, and it was hard to understand why he was so obsessed with Adam, even though that was one of the driving forces of the book. My main issue is something else, though, mostly centered around Louisa and the (mentioned but never appearing) psychiatrist, Sig.
(view spoiler)[I found the portrayal of trans* characters a little odd. Not transphobic, per se, but still weirdly othering, especially poor Louisa. The author kept referring to her height, her strength-- her implicit "manliness"-- in a way that kind of jarred. Observe (emphasis mine):
"Slender, careful hands pressed against his shoulders, steadying him with significant strength. “Easy. Deep breaths. Focus on the sound of my voice.” Adam did, as best he could. The voice lilted, but it had an odd edge to it, as if it were wavering between high and low."
"There—again, the voice dipped too low, unmistakably this time, and the disparity made Adam frown and increase his focus, trying to figure out what was going on. His vision began to clear as his breath steadied even more, and he became aware he was sitting on a bench beneath the coat racks, staring into the beautiful made-up face of a woman who appeared to be in her early thirties.
With an Adam’s Apple."
"[T]he fact that Louisa said it and that she forgot herself and let her voice pitch low in her fury made Adam feel very loved and cared for."
"As if to drive that point home, by the end of that tirade, Louisa’s voice had pitched so male it was almost jarring. That, combined with her height and natural strength—well."
"Sig got some of the challenges of being male that the best educated and most well-meaning female therapists never could, and yet he had the same kind of empathy and instinctive compassion that in Adam’s vast therapeutic experience came a little easier to women. Maybe that was his own set of stereotypes talking, but whatever it was, he was glad for it, because Sig was on track to being the best therapist Adam had ever had."
I'm not going to go as far as calling this offensive, but it's weird. There's almost this implication that trans women aren't "real" women, and (a little more explicitly) that trans men aren't "real" men. How nice, Sig can understand being a guy (because he's a guy) but he also has the "empathy and instinctive compassion" that "come easier to women," because... he's partly woman? I mean, no, he's not, he's a dude, so why is he said to have this (apparently) "womanly" quality? Leaving aside the general problems inherent in saying that empathy comes easier to women (hello, fucked-up gender dichotomization), he isn't a woman. If you're gonna say that all women have X, and then say this guy has X, you're implying that he somehow possesses "womanly" qualities, which in turn draws attention to the ways in which he is (apparently) "womanly." This is kind of gross when we're talking about a trans guy, because it contains a nasty undercurrent of invalidation. He's a guy-- of course he is!-- but because he's not a cis guy, he also has the natural caring that women are born with. ~The best of both worlds~
Similarly, when discussing Louisa, why, why, why did the book have to include lines like "her height and natural strength"? The way Louisa is portrayed occasionally verges dangerously on caricature, as though she were some 1970s nightmare of the freakish, cross-dressing drag queen. She's gentle and beautiful-- but she's tall, physically powerful, has an Adam's apple, and her voice is deep and rough! It's just--- sigh, I just wish the author hadn't chosen to reiterate Louisa's more "masculine" qualities every other line.
Maybe I'm being a little harsh. I do appreciate the author for including trans* characters, and for trying to make them well-rounded and appealing. But the ways in which these characters are portrayed seem to highlight the ways in which they're different and alien, and that's exactly the opposite of how it should be. A good effort, I suppose, but fumbled. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
**spoiler alert** Something about the vibe of this story really bothered me. I'm not sure it's really appropriate to use the deaths of troubled teens...more**spoiler alert** Something about the vibe of this story really bothered me. I'm not sure it's really appropriate to use the deaths of troubled teens and preteens as the catalyst for two guys getting together, which is exactly what happened.
First West and Olivera discuss the shooting death of a fourteen-year-old, then how four Afghani boys Olivera knew were "cut in half" (a weirdly gruesome and almost morbidly-fascinated description of an awful, awful thing, by the way) by Olivera's machine gun fire, then how it's actually their faults for making the decisions that lead them to situations where they're then killed. They're children. Olivera's pithy comment that "sometimes kids get a raw deal" not only doesn't make him seem the world-weary truth-teller that the author apparently wants him to be; it makes him seem a little psychopathic. Everyone might be responsible for themselves, but you can't kill a kid put into a hopeless situation and then dismiss what you did by saying, "Oh, well, he chose to be where he was and do what he did." It doesn't work like that, period.
THEN they immediately move into sex and joking and catharsis and more joking and then the end-- it's baffling. The tone is jarring, and though the writing isn't bad, it can't hold up to the switches in mood. Their sex wasn't hot, only grim.
I think my main problem was that the entire story was all about West's pain and Olivera's pain and never seemed to approach the pain of the children they killed. They boys-- Lucas Kingsley and the four kids in Afghanistan-- are just the vehicles for getting West and Olivera together. They're speechless, inanimate ghosts, and more than that, there's no sense they were ever anything else. Their only purpose was to embody the ~tough misery~ that West and Olivera suffered so that they could bond over it and get it on a lot. They appropriated the suffering and misery of the children and made it all about themselves in a way that I frankly found disgusting. I don't care about two assholes who murder kids, at least not if they're then so callous and dismissive about it. You know what, yes, Joseph West, it was your fault he died, because you shot him. Were there other factors at play? Sure, but you pulled the trigger and you have to take some of the responsibility for what follows.
This is an issue that exists in the real world; it warrants way more nuance than this story gives it, and more respect, to boot. There are an infinite number of factors that put a child in a kill-or-be-killed situation, and the book doesn't really acknowledge any of those, at least not in any serious way. More, in real life, many times kids (in Afghanistan and in America) are killed who've done nothing except be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the book doesn't acknowledge this, either. It uses this monstrous circumstance to bring the two mcs together the same way another book might use a passion for snowboarding, or attendance at a flower show. It's disgraceful.
In the end, I never got the sense that either character really cared about what they had done to the children, only that dead kids were good reasons to angst and drink and wallow in manpain. I don't care about Joseph West or Pete Olivera, but I felt Lucas Kingsley deserved more than that.(less)
One of the main characters (age thirty-five) jacked off to a "just turned" sixteen year old, and the other (age twenty-one) "lost control" and frotted...moreOne of the main characters (age thirty-five) jacked off to a "just turned" sixteen year old, and the other (age twenty-one) "lost control" and frotted with the poor kid and then left him curled in a little ball on the ground, weeping. Sorry, Trevor, you're probably a shattered emotional wreck at this point, but at least Trent and Matt got together thanks to Matt completely abandoning all responsibility and even basic decency and initiating physical contact with you when he knew very well that it would inevitably end badly? That makes up for the damage done to your psyche, right? Right?(less)
Enjoyable but relatively forgettable. The two main characters have sex a lot, brood a lot, and fight a lot. They go to balls a lot. I found Anderson t...moreEnjoyable but relatively forgettable. The two main characters have sex a lot, brood a lot, and fight a lot. They go to balls a lot. I found Anderson to be a little obnoxious, but it wasn't particularly damaging to the story. The writing is good, though not spectacular. In all, I just don't have that much to say about this book, which I think indicates the core problem: a plot like this requires UST and sparks, and there just weren't any.(less)