I just wanted to make a quick post as to why I didn’t write anything yesterday or why I’m not doing a normal post today. Yesterday I started a new job! Starting next week, once I have a more set schedule, I plan to once again continue on like I have been. I’m super excited to keep going, so thanks for reading!
The most common critique of horror and thriller stories often stem from a seemingly “dumb protagonist,” and Deadly Little Secret is not above this criticism. In the last chapter, Camelia found a “present” left for her outside her window on the second floor of her house. She also received ominous calls from a blocked number that warned her to be a “good girl.” Now, usually to back up the protagonist’s choice not to report the situation to the authorities, the stalker/killer would threaten them or someone they love, but that did not happen here. This raises the question: why does Camelia feel that it is appropriate to go to her friend for help instead of her parents? She doesn’t have a strained relationship with them to any degree, so it just doesn’t make any sense. Thus why she would fall into this “dumb protagonist” cliché.
One way that could have made this a bit better would have been to at minimum have Camelia give an actual reason as to not go to authority figures. It is widely known now, thanks to the information age, that women who are often put into these types of situations are not given the justice they deserve because of the questionable system that often does not give the situation the care that is necessary. Now, when I read this book originally, I was unaware of these injustices because, to be quite honest, I lived a very sheltered life. To make Camelia and her choices feel more real, I think it would have been best to either give her a background where something happened and authorities didn’t believe her or to have her go to them and write her off as overblowing the situation. Then this would make her a stronger character that no longer falls into the “dumb protagonist” trope (even if younger me likely would have just thought it was the “incompetent police” trope because I didn’t understand where that came from).
Since last weeks post, I have finished the in-between content of A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. Because of this and my praise for the game in my last post, I want to talk about the problem with the writing I have noticed that is something that can be used in all forms of writing.
First off, there is the problem with spoilers in the trailers and openings of the game before you can even make it to that point as a new player. I found a spoiler in a video by a player, but my boyfriend’s brother found that same spoiler in a trailer for the Heavensward expansion that we are now playing through. Then, because I bought the complete edition, I have been seeing the Shadowbringers expansion’s opening, so the seeming death of two main characters at the end of the between content has also been spoiled for me because, since they’re in that opening, they obviously are very much alive.
Speaking of deaths…the biggest problem with the writing I would say is the games inability to kill off main characters. Multiple side characters have died by this point, and many of them were meant to have a big impact, but because of their placement it just doesn’t. For instance, in this between content, there are two deaths that occur in the Scions and the Crystal Braves. One of them is on screen and is supposed to pull at the heartstrings, and, to a degree, it does because this character was really interesting and a lot of fun, but she was so new to the player that it didn’t have the impact it should have. As for the other death, it was a murder off screen that made me more sad because this was a person that had an actual miniature arc in the base story. We watched as they made mistakes and learned from them to the point that they wanted to make a difference by joining your cause. I was truly sad to see what became of them because it felt like, in a way, it was our character’s fault. As writers, we have to be more aware of how time and arcs effect the perception of a story.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have been playing Final Fantasy XIV, which, for anyone who knows me, is odd because I am not a multiplayer person. I am an RPG type of gal, though, which is why it was not difficult for my boyfriend and his brothers to talk me into joining them. This is not my first MMO, technically, as I did play Star Wars: The Old Republic for a little bit in college, but that was for a class, and a friend of mine wanted me to play Guild Wars 2 with him, but we only played once and then work got in the way. So, for all intents and purposes, this is my first real delve into an MMO and, to be honest, it was probably the best choice for me.
The best part of this game is that it still feels like a Final Fantasy game. All the usual suspects are there (we went through a whole dungeon full of Tonberrys [what is the correct spelling for the plural of Tonberry!?] and it was the best type of mild chaos and fear), so if you’re a fan of the franchise as a whole you won’t be disappointed. Even though gameplay is not the standard turn base that so many people associate with the series (even though Final Fantasy games have not been turn based in years) it still feels like a return to form with the setting and story. The most JRPG thing that could have happened did—there was a “my friends are my power” moment and I loved every second of it.
The weirdest part for me story wise has to be the idea that there is no end. I finished A Realm Reborn a couple days ago, but the story is still going. I have multiple expansions to play through, including one that is set to release in November. I’m used to single player games that make me wait years for more story content with whole new full game purchases and potentially new gaming systems (I’m looking at you VII Remake). The problem is that this type of release likely wouldn’t be widely accepted by the majority of the gaming market. I think VII Remake is kind of trying to go with this way of release and it may have been better received, but the Yuffie DLC is only available on the PS5 even though the base game was on PS4 and the system is almost impossible to get your hands on.
As for my big dive into multiplayer content, it’s still a hurdle. Many things, as a gamer, just seem obvious, so gameplay wise it is not much different from a standard single player game. Though I am playing on a PS4 (because it’s impossible to get a graphics card nowadays), I’m still able to use a mouse and keyboard, which was the biggest shift, especially because I started with my controller (which wasn’t terrible, but selecting non party members in a fight in the wild was almost impossible which is no good as a white mage). I’m still learning and getting used to it all, but I definitely want to keep going because the story, though a basic JRPG, is wonderfully done and, as a whole, I’m having fun.
I won’t lie, I’m writing this post today because I am disappointed in the book with its exceptionally boring and obvious mystery and I just want to play some Final Fantasy XIV. Because of those things, I didn’t want to read today. The book is small; it has fewer pages than The Fault In Our Stars did, but when a book feels like it’s moving as slow as it is I can’t help but start to, once again, not care. I’ve mentioned before that I think this may be because of my change in understanding and taste, but I’m just not sure. Is it because I grew up and understand the techniques of writing more? Is it because I expect more from others than what I have found? Is it as simple as that change of tastes? I don’t know, but I have noticed nostalgia has made some things (like Twilight) more enjoyable than the rest (or it could just be that Twilight, for the paranormal romance genre, is just somehow better than the others even though it’s known for being terrible).
The real drama has finally begun; too bad it took over a third of the book to get to it. This book is supposed to be a thriller, so, at least in my opinion, it should not have taken this long to get to Camelia actually being threatened and taking everything seriously. Things needed to have built up better. Have little small gifts for Camelia here and there until it revs up to the PJs she was looking at the other day. Let Camelia know something is wrong before having Ben tell her she is in danger, then it would at least give more to the attempt at his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde feel that the book is going for. This could have been really good, but, like so many other YA novels I’ve read before, it just misses the mark and falls flat.
Note: This post was written yesterday, but I apparently did not hit publish like I thought I did. My apologies.
Today’s reading is difficult to talk about for a couple reasons: there is no real through line between the chapters nor is there a specific thing that happened that really stands out to me. Most of what I noticed are already things I’ve brought up, so I don’t want to be redundant. With that, let’s just talk about the odd pacing of the book so far.
In the story, it has been a week max since they returned to school. The stalker has only done one creepy thing, but the reader has been getting a glimpse into his psyche with the chapters that are dedicated to his journal. This is fair, but I am wanting for more. This is supposed to be a creepy stalker mystery, but it feels so bland. But then there is the switch the stalker just pulled. In all his previous entries, he has sung Camelia’s praises about how much he loves her and will be with her. Creepy, but fair. Now, out of nowhere, he has started calling her things like “slut” (79) because she’s sitting out in front of the school? I think the transition should have happened more gradually. Maybe have him getting upset with little things she is doing, but saying they’re ok and he’ll break her of those problems or something similarly controlling and have it build, then escalate into the extreme misogyny and slut-shaming.
And yet another YA book falls victim to an extremely unkempt timeline. I noticed early on that some things didn’t make sense for a high school and it’s only gotten worse because, in today’s chapter, any inkling of a consistent schedule has been officially tossed out the window. What I mean by this is that, because the book takes place mostly at school, the kids’ schedules are very important to keep track of because, if you don’t, there will be inconsistencies throughout the novel. So let’s talk about what’s messed up.
On the first day of school, before lunch, Camelia and Kimmie are in their art class together. After lunch, three periods later, they are in their final period which is a free period and they skip this free period to stalk outside Ben’s last class so Camelia can talk to him. This all makes sense and is a good setup for the rest of the schedule, but then the next day Camelia goes to Chemistry for the first time and Ben ends up being her lab partner. This, of course, threw me off, but I accepted the idea that this high school may have schedules similar to colleges. That was until it was said they have Chemistry again the next day, which was a Friday. Later that day, she even mentions her free period again. Now, in chapter sixteen, it’s Monday and they have Chemistry again, but it’s the final period of the day!?!? No. Just, no. The schedules, and thus the timeline, is all wrong. Why is this so messed up? This is far from the first YA novel to not keep track of itself, but it really hurts my soul when they do this.
Trigger warning: mentions of eating disorders
Even though I’ve read three chapters today, I can’t help but be stuck on a small detail that was mentioned at the beginning of chapter thirteen. Camelia is once again in Chemistry class with Ben and they’re already working on experiments. This alone is weird because it’s still the first week of school; they’re moving way too fast for high school as that usually was the week used to ease in to real work, but that’s besides the point. The point is the (potential) reference to eating disorders once again in YA novels.
It is said early on that one of the chemicals that they were to be using for the experiment were once commonly used in laxatives. Camelia then goes on a small tangent about two girls in the class known as the “Laxative Twins” and how she wondered if they were going to sneak some of the chemical out of the classroom. There was no explanation for why these girls are known by the moniker, so it is up to the imagination of the reader. Because of this and my background with the other YA novels, I quickly came to the conclusion that it is a reference to the girls likely having an eating disorder and use laxatives to lose weight. I came to this conclusion because I have often questioned in my posts on the House of Night books as well as the Soul Screamer novels why YA tends to have a nonchalant and even joking tone when it comes to eating disorders. It’s not healthy and these mental disorders need to be addressed. If I’m wrong with my takeaway, things like that need to be explained, much like how Wes’s nickname of the Oscar Mayer Whiner was explained earlier in the novel.
I made a mistake. Since I’ve already read the book in the past, I thought it would be safe to look up the reviews on Goodreads to jog my memory on who the antagonist is. I just want to say that I am highly disappointed. I will be very vague about who it is as to not spoil anything so early on, and I updated an older post that I will be referencing for the same reason.
Here’s the things, while reading today I thought my prediction from the other day was wrong because it was just too obvious. The book was trying way too hard to make it seem like a specific someone was going to be the antagonist in the end that it just couldn’t be them, could it? I even have it written down in my notes that it’s trying too hard to make it seem like it will be him, so there is no way that he will be the villain. I was wrong…according to the reviews that gave the spoiler, I was wrong and it is, in fact, the obvious choice.
It’s disappointing, not because I was wrong, but because I was right. This is supposed to be a mystery, but there is no mystery to be had. I turned to talk to my boyfriend about this all excited like, “yeah, this might break the mold. They’re trying way too hard to make it seem like this guy, I can’t wait to see who it actually is” only to have to turn around and tell him about my disappointment. I had hopes, I really did. At least the book has one thing going for it: stating that stalking is wrong.