Lissa Notreallywolf's Reviews > Marked

Marked by P.C. Cast
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's review
Mar 09, 2012

bookshelves: fantasy, ya
Read in March, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Now if I had a shelf entitled "plain brown wrapper reading" these ya novels would be on it. First off, I'm no vampire fan because I hate the elevation of the cosmetically endowed to divine status, and I am no big fan of paracites, especially paracites who use sex as a means of sedating people. Even leeches aren't that gross or hypocritical. I'm also older than Grandma Redbird.
So with that said, how did I get started on this series? I was in isolated circumstances in extremely cold temperatures, and disinclined to read about early American medical history. The prior tenant had left behind Marked, which I found infinitely more accessible. I read Marked with a certain sympathy, knowing that the juvenile owner had a checkered reputation (note: large holes kicked in the walls and a reputation for boozing and boying). And yes, regardless of the illiterate dialogue of the novel, I got hooked. I could see the appeal of these books to someone who was young and troubled. Zoey is removed from a broken home where she suspects her mother's loyalties have been transferred from her children of a former marriage to her new zealot husband. In being Marked, Zoey can leave her sluttish older sister and her brother who has become addicted to violent videogames. She's a cut above, a good girl who hasn't given into to her quarterback boyfriend Heath, and she's shunning him because he's experimenting with drugs and alcohol. She has a spiritually transcendant experience after she is identified as part of a subpopulation of vampires. When she arrives at the finishing school for vampires, The House of Night, where she is set apart by the fact that she has precocious facial markings of an adult vampire despite the fact her body remains pre-transitional. Zoey is the archetypical wise child who knows and experiences things before her time-the bulk of her remains immature while she has certain accelerated attributes. She is able to recognize the bully-girl Aphrodite, and reforms a corrupt power structure, while saving her former boyfriend Heath. She is helped by her new posse of friends, all socially remaindered in The School of Night. So, the first novel reads as an emergent hero story, and Zoey is able to recover what she likes about her heredity-her Cherokee ancestory and her grandmother. She rejects the religious fundamentalism of her stepfather and her mother's passivity. She is clued into her gifts by a spiritual awakening, and is able to carry that forth into action without loosing connection with her dependence on a social network. She in intolerant to exclusion, and her friends include a fashion-impaired and probably working-class roomate, a gay boy and two close friends who share everything but race. So far, so good.
But having finished more of these novels than I can explain, the foreshadowing are already present:
Zoey's been Marked as someone with, shall we say, an eating disorder (blood appetite and a possibility of dying of hemorrhage.) Here, I think of Porphyria, one of the other models of vampirism. As some of the other more shocking and humorous reviewers have noted, the Casts are not very sympatheitic to people with anorexia and dish Paris Hilton for her bouts of excessive thinness. What is rarely mentioned in these reviews is the "castigation," if you will, of people/fledglings like Elliot who are unbeautiful and pudgy. Elliot is killed off early, and we are warned that the fat and unattractive will not survive the transition into adult vampirism. Elliot in someways reminds me of Ron Weasely in his most unattractive moments. Other children who die are the conscientious Elizabeth No-Name, an intelligent girl. By the end of the novel we know that Neferet, the beautiful and wlcoming Neferet is probably the title material for the next novel, Betrayed. She hasn't been all that nice to Zoey's corrupt rival, Aphrodite. And she arrives too late to doing anything except formalize the shift of power in the student organization Daughters (and sons) of Night.
If you were looking for the shift into an idyllic and advanced society the vampires would seem to be it-they live for hundreds of years and are fantastically gifted and gorgeous. One would think with all that priviledge that they would have honed their perceptions beyond the point of an adolescent fledgling who seems to have the character depth of a teaspoon of sleet. But nooo, one Zoey's gifts is that Neferet cannot read her as she can her other less endowed friends. At the end of this novel we are puzzled as to why Zoey can conceal her spiritual link with Nyx from Neferet, her high high priestess, or even why Zoey is guided by Nyx's voice in her head not be forthcoming about their relationship. While it's possible that Eric will betray here, we already know that the School will not be what it should be. On the hopeful side, the book does point out something I had never considered--possibly something the authors never considered either--the temporal nature of the gift of healing. Healing is something that steps in after health has been compromised-in it's most limited capacity it does little to encourage defense. Now this is denied by the all the healthy snacks, PE classes and Sociology 101, where the attributes of vampire society are extolled. But the school rules seem to evade Zoey entirely conflicting with her chronic judgments of others, morals which seem to belong to her stepfather denomination, which I recall to be "The Children of God," or perhaps more accurately, "The Children/Sinners of the Hands of the Angry God." Neferet claims to know all, but cannot see that Zoey has just been rattled by witnessing some sexual behavior in the hall, she can tell she is nervous about meeting her roomate, but still turns her over to the alpha-girl Aphrodite. She's all together too willing to deligate to others. We already have a sense that The House of Night isn't that much different than the usual s0chool. Neferet is an emblem of blindness caused by egocentrism. Unfortuately she also embodies the demonic professor who canabalizes Aphrodite's gift to curry favor with humans.

Zoey is self-righteous in her proclamation that not all teenagers are indulging in oral sex, and she's part of a generation which has reclaimed virginity in a neo-1950's model. It isn't the fact that Zoey surprized Aphrodite trying to seduce Eric on her knees that is scandalous, it's the fact that he didn't want it, and told her no. Aprodite's transgression is not what she was offering, but that she was insisting. Informed by her own senses and the responses of other female and homosexual students, Zoey climbs the same social ladder she has in the past-she has captured the eye of the "quarterback" or alpha male in the school, Eric Night. Her righteousness dissolves as her moral fiber is eroded by various type of appetite. Sadly each of the successive novels portrays her as part of several males desires and involvements, which is portrayed as being part of her role as a vampire high priestess. While I appreciate dealing with conflicting demands is part of leadership or is often part of leadership, I was not satified by how this was examined by the Casts. It's explained as a conflict between the two of them who cannot agree upon who Zoey should be dating. But the men inolved-Eric, Health, Loren, Stark, the icky fallen angel, etc. don't seem to be representative men, or involve anything other than Zoey's desire as an attribute. Granted Heath's human status is contrasted with Eric's Vamp,as foreshadowed by Loren's professorial seduction. And then there is the parallel with Stevie Rae, the Red Vampire Queen, who is dating the son of the fallen angel just as her best female friend is dating a Red Vampire and avoiding the allure of the fallen angel, Kalona. (See Tempted, etc.) But this parallelism between the hokie Stevie Rae and the (theoretically) more cool Zoey hadn't come to any sort of telling point yet. I have enjoyed Stevie Rae more than I have Zoey, largely because she had the winning line " I wish I had eaten you when I was dead." It's the ultimate put down to the oversexed Aphrodite, who seems to delight in saying bitchy things and doing the very good girl things you would expect of Stevie Rae. Stevie Rae's mouth seems to be much cleaner, but her actions are more than a little morbid. Zoey might have been much improved by keeping company with these women, but we have yet to see how that plays out beyond her advocacy for the despised Aphrodite. So far these books haven't lived up to their promise.
I have spent some time time stewing over the religious aspects of the books-in the early novels intolerant Christianity seems to take a few hits- the insensitive parents bringing their religion to their child's combination school and asylum wasn't very attractive. And it seems like these folk might be responsible for crucifying the drama teacher and the poet laureate of The House of Night. But so far that hasn't been resolved. Regardless The House of Night and the Nyxites seem to have no fewer problems than the Faith folks. Religion comes off well only as a personal rather than a corporate experience, something congenial to the "spiritual rather than religious" in surveys.
(Excuse me, but I am old enough to play Grandma Redbird in the movie. If you are a stranger reading my review, just think on this-vampires are immortal, and more recently the notion being moral and immortal. I just might read other vampire series because I am begining to understand that vampires give credence to history and it's effects--in places more thought through than the House of Night series. In the meantime, you can read the review of an elder.)
Still, I was taken enough by Zoe's visionary experiences with the Goddess Nyx and the unresolved questions to continue on in the series.
I will not recap each novel according to plot-see Wikipedia for that service. About novel three I was looking for the pattern lines in the plots and still reading feverishly. Luckily I am accustomed to reading ESL documents, so the intention behind the sentences and the plot carried me, like driving very fast over a frail bridge. Each novel lasted an evening. At some point I read that these were novels for reluctant readers, and theorized that it was the short span of each volume that attracted people with short attention spans. Later I wondered if it might be the poverty of expression the characters evidenced that might have been responsible for the appeal. What began to grate on "my last nerve" to borrow a phrase, was the criticism of the Twins on Damian. There was never a moment when they were a match to his SAT level vocabulary, something I found surprising from rich girls previously enrolled in top prep schools. After establishing that he's literate, and prefers a precision grip, he considered an "honorary girl." Such titles are more for the comfort of the heterosexuals than the homosexuals, yet the Casts don't seem to be aware of that. By the time Jack Quick shows up the Twins are a peristent source of homophobic commentary about the two of them. In Marked The House of Night is demonstrably intolerant of homophobia-Damien is given the option of living with a homophobic roomate who has complained about living with a fag, or living on his own. He has taken the latter option and is kind of a solitary guy because the more flamboyant gays aren't to his take, When Jack arrives he finds that he has someone he lives. But the Twins aren't funny, although they may be chilling accurate to immature people trying to deal with difference. It seems tragically apparent that their dis-ease is rooted in their fear of being accused of being lesbians because they spend all their time togeth and finish each others sentences. It seems like the patent solution to deal with the homophobia issue having a heroic homosexual(male)who dies. Unfortunately the Casts followed tradition, and I knew when one book bore the inscription to GLBT youth, that one of the guys was going to die. If the Casts had any originality, they would have courageously had some lesbians participate in the plot, and dealt with some of the unpublicized differences in the gay experience. It would have been really refreshing But then it would have been more similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the whole Willow thing a friend made me sit through.
I intend to read the ninth novel, although I have read the reviews.


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