The greatest curse for an author to bear, especially a debut author, is popularity. Sudden, explosive popularity. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,The greatest curse for an author to bear, especially a debut author, is popularity. Sudden, explosive popularity. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, and one has only to read the reviews posted here to see why. And these are ten times more civil than the hate mail random readers tend to send.
Quite honestly? This book does not deserve to be ripped apart to the extent it has been. It is not that bad. It may have inspired fanfiction as bizarre as Fifty Shades of Grey, but Twilight itself? It’s nowhere near those disturbing depths. Twilight is not that bad, so people need to just chill out.
Yes, some aspects of the story are problematic; Bella's blind devotion and obsession, Edward's outward "perfection," his stalking, and most notably, what becomes Bella’s greatest desire later in the series is really not role model worthy (but Bella isn’t role model material in the first place) etc. But do we need to go deeper, root out the psyches of their characters? Is this really an abusive relationship? Is Bella’s “lack of feminist depth” really an affront to literature, on the whole? She’s a simple, boring character; yes, it’s annoying to be in her head from the moment she meets Edward, but she’s not that bad. It’s not what we enjoy reading about, but her mind is a pretty accurate portrayal of a besotted female teen.
But even so. Twilight is not that friggin’ bad, guys. Just because it’s popular, we examine the heck out of it and become super offended when we don’t find elements of the greats, the classics—how dare it be popular to this extent and not embody all the things that make a book great?
Those things being?
For everyone, it’s different. There is literally no way to write a book everyone will be happy with. Another curse of popularity is it makes people, who don’t read YA and would probably never read romance, let alone a vampire novel, wonder. It makes them curious and they read the book themselves. Then they get offended and fling poison the author’s way. “This book is popular,” they must muse, “but I think it’s garbage. People need to agree with me. I’ll write an essay about how there’s an abusive relationship.”
Digging to unrealistic depths and inventing notions based on your unique translation of the text is what studying literature is all about, and it’s fun. But sometimes people go nuts with it, and then they just need to calm down. Twilight wasn’t written to be studied, or to be an inspiration, or a relationship one should strive towards. Clearly, that’s impossible to begin with, since one of the party is a vampire.
Mental health is about the ability to separate what’s real and what isn’t, what’s graspable and what isn’t. People who cannot need therapy. Twilight is escapism; it stops there. It isn’t a metaphor for anything, it isn’t a life lesson, it’s just fantasised fluff, like romance novels. If someone wants to jump off a bridge for Edward, why is that Meyer’s fault? If someone is that mentally unhinged, she'd do well to not read fantasy at all, let alone escapist fiction. She needs help; it’s she who is clinging to unrealistic fancies, she who is translating the story in an unhealthy manner. Anything can be taken out of proportion. Anything can be made toxic, based on how it’s used.
Some books, yes, should be avoided entirely for inappropriate content. But this isn’t mindless erotica. Literally the only reason people are railing against Twilight and not the wealth of worse and extremely unhealthy YA novels that glorify described sex, emotional disconnect, true abusive relationships (physical and emotional), profanity, etc, is because Twilight is massively popular. Compared to a lot of the crap out there nowadays, I’d vastly prefer my teenager daughter reading this. See it as escapism, light pleasure reading, and not something that’s out to get the human race on the whole and transform the minds of young girls into wanting someone who (heaven forbid) ...will want to wait until marriage before having sex! Cripes, that sounds dangerous.
This series isn’t bleeding with profanity, there’s no described sex, nothing is overtly disgusting (except the violence of the birth in Breaking Dawn, which is a separate issue), nothing made me stop and think “wow, that’s the author pushing a contrived sociopolitical notion onto me.” I never once, while reading this book as a teen eight years ago, thought that Meyer was trying to brainwash me into anything. I still don’t feel that way on the reread. She’s just writing a story, a story that she enjoyed writing, before she made the unfortunate decision to see it published.
A mentally healthy teenager who knows reality from a dream has nothing to fear from these books. I definitely don’t agree with every choice the characters make here (nor do I even like any of the characters, particularly), but my main point is this:
This book is not that bad. Could we stop being so offended by its existence?
On that note, I have seriously wondered about the origins of its popularity. I first read Twilight in January 2008, before the film was released. The film just isn’t good. That’s easy enough to recognise, but it doesn’t stop me from periodically rewatching it. It’s so cheesy. The acting is so horrendous. The book, though not amazing either, gives the leads several times more personality. Yet the film just proves what’s at the core of the draw to this series—it’s not amazing writing, characters, story. It’s the emotional aspect. Escapist fiction works less through enduring elements such as sweeping storylines, well constructed characters, the beauty of friendship (unhindered by sexual attraction), or keenly imagined settings—instead, it usually focuses on cliches and easy-outs.
As a writer, it isn’t difficult to recognise escapist fiction—its roots don’t go all that deep. It’s less about knowing the characters, about them existing separate from the reader, and more about the reader’s ability to project themselves onto one or more of the characters. It’s about living vicariously through them. Escapism has less substance, it often follows tropes and the deep, well-trodden grooves of popular cliches, and Twilight is very much built on cliche.
But that’s just the thing. Cliche can endure. Love stories, and certain elements of them, never get old. People keep going back to romance novels and reliving passionate relationships over and over again. At the heart of Twilight’s popularity is probably an emotional deficiency; we long to be loved and needed in a fierce and passionate way. Even if it’s unhealthy.
Wow, yea, I’m getting into this. I mean, this time around, I rated the book two stars. It was okay. It wasn’t riveting, it was boring at times, and the second half I had to slog through. I didn’t not enjoy it, but I sure rolled my eyes a few times, and I’m just no longer into it. But I remember and salute my first impressions all those years ago, and maintain that this book isn’t filth. It’s aimed at a certain audience, and people outside of that audience should stop curiously reading it and trashing the author for writing it.
Seriously. That annoys me the most. Just leave the author alone, for the love. What is wrong with people?
Review for reread of Price of Privilege. My first review is here.
(view spoiler)[ "He bade me not weep, for if I didn't step forward and take this mantlReview for reread of Price of Privilege. My first review is here.
(view spoiler)[ "He bade me not weep, for if I didn't step forward and take this mantle, no one else would, and those dearest to him would be left lost and broken."
"... I owed him anything he desired."
The Price of Privilege series always wrecks visceral havoc in me. It breaks me to be immersed in such rich storytelling--to inevitably draw comparisons with my own characters as I consider fates here, and to think of the rending heartache the author must have endured to have poured herself into a character such as Isaac, only to write the unwritable scene of his calculated sacrifice and death.
It kills me to read it, to even think on it. I have never read a better tragedy, and I highly doubt I ever will. I'm anxious and I can't stand it, feeling as though I've lost a cherished friend.
And yet, though I feel it so deeply, I recall its fiction and applaud its craft for its realistic and flawless execution. Even as I despise it and tremble and want to spontaneously combust for my own inner conflict, because I cannot do what she did.
I don't know how it's possible. To cultivate so rich and realistic, so unique and so wonderful a character, so flawed and yet flawless in his characterisation, and then end him. I am awed by this woman, and I cannot help but idolise her efforts as heights I aspire to, yet know I may never achieve.
As an author myself, it makes me feel like authors don't always write their own stories, as if a divine hand is directing our thoughts, our motions. As though where we begin dictates where we will end, and the "choices" we are led to along the way lead to one end, and there is no way to properly execute a story if we avoid it.
Again, that visceral pain.
I can't think of being led to the deaths of main characters. Sacrifice can be appealing; it's the truest expression of love, yet also the worst, because we don't all rise from the dead. And those souls that do will never retain their original bodies. Will never return to this place.
There is no shortage of tragedies in fiction. Character deaths happen all the time--side characters, main characters. Meaningless deaths that don't even brush a deeper part of me. Tragedy is almost never done well, or done to the height of its potential. Characters that I could care less about die in impotent sacrifices, or loose their souls to fate.
Not Isaac. He is an inconceivable character. He is a character I cannot release, because I've spent too much time with him; along with Julia, I am cheered, strengthened, tormented, hopeful at his presence. He is a character that cannot die, and it will never stop tearing into me that Dotta spent so much of herself meticulously constructing his character only to end his story in such a way--in a way I rage against even as I can't fault it, even as I admire it! And frustration returns again.
But I can't help reading between the lines, feeling a kinship with an author who sheds her soul onto the page in the rendition of a character, who works so hard, pulls each thread of the pattern so tightly that it appears flawless to the eye. To every eye but the author's herself. You run yourself ragged in the proper construction of a character; timing and executing every event, every thought, writing up page after page of backstory, personality, emotional makeup, half of which doesn't make it into the story. But you know your character to the point you have stepped into this freefall, and you can now do nothing but go forward. If you know your character would make a certain choice, what can you do to prevent it? Can you deny their personality? Rewrite it, cause them to act against the nature you painstakingly constructed?
Such is the case with Isaac. Perhaps Dotta didn't choose his fate, but it felt perfectly in line with his character. If Isaac hadn't acted in such a way, if he hadn't done all that he could, she would have cheapened his character. That's the risk in inventing a character like Isaac in the first place.
Yet I could never do it. I couldn't stomach it. My thoughts get dramatic, as if I'd rather take my own life than the lives of specific characters. It's one thing for the thought to occur: this character will die. Whether or not this end is affectual (that word needs to exist) to its fullest degree depends on how much time an author has spent structuring that character, how important they become, how vital.
I was writing my own Isaacs even before I met this one, but never with the intention to lay them down. Never. How could I bear it, even if God did sweep in and still my hand?
On a completely different note, I maintain that Mr. Macy's story was not resolved to my satisfaction. In my second reading, I still didn't find enough evidence to condemn him. He is the worst at "evil," yet he is the best, most cunning and flawless villain I have ever encountered.
Ordinarily, there are two categories of villains. One, the guy who's really evil and just wants power and to blow up the world. Motivation: greed.
Two, the guy with a tragic past who was pushed into this; he's probably mentally unstable, but the hero is capable of reaching him, by which time it's too late and he's already dying.
Oh, Mr. Macy, you fascinating anomaly. He doesn't delve into the depths of being a "misunderstood" evil, nor do we ever witness him engaging in any "evil-doings." Oh, Julia's thoughts are plentiful: she grasps onto unconfirmed rumours that she, in reality, has no way of proving, and through her panicked thoughts Macy is ramped up to be this mega-evil, final-boss esque villain--which I didn't buy for a second. It's difficult to trust Julia's emotions, even though we exist inside of them for the whole of the series, so frankly, I didn't. Her thoughts were as flighty and ever-shifting as Canadian weather. I read Mr. Macy through his appearances, and constructed what I hope is a truer vision of his character. I apologise, Ms. Dotta, as I did see your effort to lead the reader down a certain path of belief, but I am afraid the manner in which you built his character refused to hold up that construction. By exempting his presence from the entire third book (until the last 50 pages?), forcing readers to rely on Julia's impressions of him, it was a nice effort. But to say it feels forced, this "let's force evil on him, pile it high, make him a crime lord!" is an understatement.
I say I don't buy it, and I laugh, because the only reason I'm bothering to critique how this was handled is because he was, is, a fantastic character. Dotta didn't necessarily unravel the work she had done in the first two books, and the unsolved mysteries and lack of proper resolution connected with his character don't terribly dampen the prior impact of who Dotta imagined him to be. Which is an extremely odd thing, but the choices she made for the series' plotline as a whole worked. Exceedingly well.
Really, it exhausts me to think of the work that went into this plotline--resolution is, literally, impossible in every single crevice of this thick and complex web she wove.
Needless to say, my feelings conflict (and mostly in a good way), but ultimately, I am insanely satisfied with this series. Thank you, Ms. Dotta, for writing the first ever series that shook me, made me feel so deeply it's been marked into the fibres of my being. I love books. I read a lot of them. But none of them are even close to this good. (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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
(Review for my reread of Born of Persuasion: my first review is located here. This one contains spoilers. I'll tag spoilers that relate to the end of(Review for my reread of Born of Persuasion: my first review is located here. This one contains spoilers. I'll tag spoilers that relate to the end of the series, but the few spoilers for the first book are out in the open.)
"Closing this book is like coming up for air. I feel like I haven't breathed properly for a few hours." - me, reading this book for the first time.
During this second read, I'm so amused at my initial comments about Jessica Dotta's Born of Persuasion. I was so startled to even find a book that hooked me to this extent that my comments retain this sense of being lost: "holy crap though, I just can't peg this book." Nervous observations; oh no this book is really good, it's bound to taper off and lose its shimmer. I am suspicious of everything.
And the silliness in my comments too of course: "I just can't I feel like I haven't even read a historical novel better than this one AND I'VE READ A LOT OF HISTORICAL NOVELS how does this book even exist, it's a paradox of life and blue and RAINBOW oh my gah"
What am I supposed to do with this book, books are never this good, not even close. Well, sometimes. But very rarely. Yet Born of Persuasion never loses its shimmer; my expectations, so rarely unfulfilled, were never fulfilled in this story. That alone makes me panicky and antsy as I wonder for the billionth time: how in the world does this book exist? I love it so much. It is my favourite book. It's easy to say that. For me, no book is as good as this book, which is such a delightful melange of everything I love.
Having said that, I'm not blind to the flaws of the book itself. We tend to elevate or degrade material based on our capability to overlook, resonate with, or get irritated enough to upbraid certain elements of fiction. People say that our differences are a good thing--I agree with that. But I also think it's an intense study, the endeavour to understand why we translate specific things the way we do.
But anyway. This book's flaws are glaring ones, but they are also some of my favourites. Here, we have featured a weak heroine. From prior experience, we know this is where the majority of the audience will be lost. Nowadays, we have feminism and we have intense hopes for Katniss-like heroines, and there's nothing wrong with such characters (not even closeee). But the thing is, there's a lot you can do with a meek heroine (or hero, for that matter). Sometimes the most irritating (and consequently human) traits in a character are those that instigate the best conflicts and bring out the best in other characters. So she herself is not a good character, but she is absolutely necessary, and in seeing a character like Julia, most people don't look at what her character produces, but rather how annoyingly her personality resembles that of a real human being. The inaction, the nervousness, the inability to make decisions, the insecurity, the worry, the stresses. She's flesh and blood, there's no arguing with that.
But if she had the measure of agency people wish she did, she would render certain characters less potent. This device is employed for a reason; we hate the villain, but the conflict conjured is entirely necessary. We could argue that the main character should be more potent than the other characters, but here, I disagree. It can be done well or extremely badly, and I wouldn't change Dotta's vision of Julia for anything I could come up with myself. She's the way she is for a reason; whole plot threads wouldn't work if it were otherwise.
I like thinking about this sort of thing because it resonates with my own experiences as an author. It began in the early stages of writing a novel, when I crafted a character I didn't at all like, but I couldn't change her, and I didn't know why. So I did a study of her character, traced the threads of her impact and realised how essential her infuriating personality is. Sometimes we gotta do it. Nowadays I don't worry about loving all my characters; I let them tell their own stories, and conflict erupt as it will.
Anyway, there are many flaws in Born of Persuasion beyond what I've mentioned, but the story still works itself into art. It's easier to be critical on my second read when I'm not blinded by mysteries and intrigue and fascination with these amazing characters that Dotta has crafted, and I find myself focusing on Mr. Macy in particular. Chance Macy, and his embarrassing name, is certainly a study of a character. He unravelled me the first time I read this book, and even the second, while waiting for him to appear. This time around, I'm trying to uncover what evokes such an impact, and just why he's the best villain in fiction I've encountered.
- Firstly, he's not a villain outright. (view spoiler)[Even at the end of the series, I was left with the impression Julia was just projecting villainy onto him; I didn't believe in the role Julia imposed upon him, and came instead to my own conclusions. - Yet he IS a villain. I kept waiting for him to 'show his true colours' and morph into your stereotypical hawt-evil dude who tells the protagonist what he really thinks once he's gotten what he wants. This never happens. He is calm and respectful towards Julia to a chilling degree; he is a deeply layered character, sharply intelligent, and his mystery is meticulously executed. I fell hard for this guy. I won't pretend I didn't. He had me on edge the entire three book series, let alone one novel. He fits well into a villain role, but never executes it as the reader expects him to. I found this baffling and delightful both. (hide spoiler)]
I wrote this comment 40% into the book: "... yes, even this time around I waited with baited breath for Mr Macy's introduction. I recall it a little differently, and though it's a bit cliche in its execution, Dotta is a strong writer, so such things are easily forgivable. I think the only reason I was looking on that scene with such a critical eye is because I've elevated Mr Macy to such a position that I've been studying his dialogue, his motions, his every maneuver. I want to study and improve upon in my own works what worked so well in Dotta's writing, and what made me feel so enduringly and potently an attachment to his character."
Oh, the things to say about his misery, his kindness--a stark contrast to Roy, who infuriates me. The second book is all about Julia living under Roy's "care" but her father is the biggest douche imaginable. Why she puts herself under his authority only to be abused after how Macy cared for her is completely beyond me. Dotta writes Mr. Macy as an utterly sympathetic character, with only vague shades of villainy. His reaction after Edward punches him in the nose merely cemented that for me. It really makes no sense why Julia so quickly believes Greenham (even though he's right) about her mother, because we're only afforded the sense that Macy regrets what he's done--he's not the same person NOW, and with how obvious that is Julia's reaction is just maddening. I mean, he even TOLD HER to her face that he has a past, and he offered to tell her about it, and she refused to hear it. gaaaah.
Yes yes, all of this is necessary to further the plot, but still. Drives me nuts.
Then, from first read through: "*breathes out* okaaaay. Just that when they entered the Auburn manor and Mr. Macy was RIGHT THERE, I'M LIKE kanfgfhoicxnfnfn but even though he's only been gone for a short while ohh how I have mourned his loss and then his ad in the newspaper? I LITERALLY CANNOT WITH THIS CHARACTER WHO IS HE, WHO?! I CAN'T UNDERSTAND HIM AT ALL AND IT THRILLS ME HE IS NOT DOING THINGS I CAN PREDICT"
That scene, and the one to follow, I read quite a bit differently this time. For one, I wasn't hyperventilating. Mostly, I feel the same about Dotta's rendering of her "villain," and Julia's sense that "oh my gosh this man is poisonous I can feel it in my bones!" and with Edward too they pimp Macy's SUPER EVIL to the skies, and mostly I want to say to Dotta, I know what you're trying to do here, so... if you say so. It's a magical thing for a character to contradict the author's intent for him. Dotta keeps trying to push Macy in a particular direction, but he won't go. That's what makes him so utterly fascinating.
I'd like to emphasise too that Roy's interpretation of Macy IS in fact based on the "man Macy used to be," not his current self. Alas, the cliche of a man's ability to change IS REALLY LEGIT HERE. There's a truth to the fabric of Macy's character that the other characters keep misreading the heck out of, and I feel like only an unbiased audience could properly root it out. Change is a process of stages; you can't just shed your old self like a skin. The important thing is progression, the drive to keep moving forward. I just didn't buy that he was evil.
I can't stress how dazzling it is that Dotta unconsciously imbedded such rich characterisation into this man. Nothing is forced, it all kind of flows together naturally, and it's a treat for the senses. And for analysis. Anyway, the reason this works so well (view spoiler)[after having read the series ending is that Macy proves, at the end, what I'm arguing here. Both how deluded the other characters are, and continue to be, the entire series, and how his change was palpable. It's incredibly disingenuous that Julia refused to acknowledge this even at the end, but hey, it works into the plot. And if the other characters hadn't been as deluded as they were, we wouldn't have felt half of the CRAZY, DIRE impact of Isaac's story. Even mentioning his name destroys me, IT RENDS THE SOUL FROM MY CHEST, man. (hide spoiler)]
In any case, this book was riveting the second time around, as well. Of course. I'm looking forward to being reacquainted with Isaac in the next! ["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm surprised to say I actually enjoyed this one more the second time around. I think when I first read it, three years ago, I must've been paying lesI'm surprised to say I actually enjoyed this one more the second time around. I think when I first read it, three years ago, I must've been paying less attention because when I went to see the movie, I realized I'd forgotten much of the book. Clare's writing style still shines, making me remember the fifth book in this series rather bitterly. Where was this style of awesome then? Swallowed up in fame, thaaat's where. Ahem. Anyway, it's definitely a four star read, despite being spotted through with unsavoury content, like... the characters, for example. Clare's writing style is wonderful, her story is immersive, but her characters... her characters are awful, in my humble opinion. But her dialogue can be great. They say some awesome things, but they are not awesome themselves; they are glowing blobs of neutrality that I neither like nor hate.
Point blank, they are predictable little written mongrels that sometimes spout great dialogue. I... am not even sure how that works, but it's one thing I'm opinionated in. Thinking about it, Clare's characters account for the majority of the cringe-worthy material in her books. Clary says awesome things sometimes, but she is radically boring (much like Tessa!), and, after having watched the movie, it's weird to say I prefer her film persona, but I do. I think it's because, mainly, she's a character I'd rather be outside the head of, personally.
Also after watching the movie, I have a better understanding of the book, which helped me enjoy it a great deal more. I don't remember what exactly I thought of it during my first reading, but I do remember not being terribly amazed, so as to give the book my standard "I enjoyed it" rating of three stars. Anyway, like I said, there's a lot of weirdisms in this world, and a lot of great crap, too. It's just an enjoyable read all around, and I find myself respecting how thought out it is much more after reading the whole of the series (that's out, anyway. I don't think I'll be missing much in Heavenly Fire considering how abysmal the experience of Lost Souls was. How a strong writer such as Clare can put out a book like that baffles me, but it certainly wasn't my cup of tea. City of Bones rather is)....more