rushthatspeaks: (Default)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
I knew, when [personal profile] octopedingenue sent it to me, that I was saving this book for a special occasion.

Happy birthday, [personal profile] rachelmanija! I hope it was a wonderful day, and I hope it leads into a wonderful year. As it is difficult to send an iced cake through the mail and not have it turn into a mass of crumbs and goo, I have read this impressively terrible book in your honor-- a book which honestly, in my opinion, also turns into a mass of crumbs and goo, but at least an entertaining one, although with less chocolate.

Okay, so.

It is difficult to know where to start with this book. There are so many amazing things about it.

The protagonist, Lucius Wolfe (Note Subtly Symbolic Last Name), is entering a new high school as a sophomore. Because he can't stay at the old school any longer. Because everyone there thinks he's crazy. This would be because he started an explosion which blew off both his arms, indicating somewhat that they all have a point. Of course, no one has offered him any counseling for this. His parents have merely placed him in a new school and informed him that if he does anything to make them mad ever, ever again they are shipping him off to an institution for the criminally insane FOREVER AND EVER. You know, like you do, when apparently there are no social services curious about why a teenage boy might blow up his house and what his state of mind might have been at the time, and when no one apparently has even asked him what was going through his head. Nope! Total normality or straitjackets forever!

And on the bus to school on the first day he meets A Girl. Her name is-- please note the upcoming subtle symbolism-- Aurora Belle. Did you miss the symbolism? In case you missed it, allow me to inform you that her father calls her 'princess' and that she has Cinderella wallpaper. THAT'S RIGHT. THE HEROINE IS A DISNEY PRINCESS. SPECIFICALLY A DISNEY PRINCESS. (Apologies for lapsing into all-caps. I can't help it.) DISNEY. PRINCESS.

Also she has... uh, what was the color-word? Oh, yeah, eyes "the color of the serene ocean". And she thinks the protagonist's eyes are "the color of topaz", except that she also thinks they're "the color of mahogany", which means that she may need to upgrade her internal color words dictionary somewhat.

So they Meet Cute and they Fall In Love At First Sight, but they don't actually talk, because their social strata are Too Separate. From that point on, in a beautiful example of Overexaggerated Inappropriate Capitalization, he thinks of her (for the entire rest of the book) as his Dark Angel. Because uh she has black hair which means she must be dark despite being the nicest, sweetest, sunniest person anybody has ever met. Ever.

But, oh woe! Their social strata are not only Too Separate, there is another guy who likes her. He is of course Evil. He almost certainly kicks puppies premeditatedly. But he gets the lead in the school play opposite her and wacky hijinks ensue and oh god this whole thing is too dumb to keep summarizing. I mean, what do you think happens? The girl goes out with the protagonist, the evil guy is publicly proven to kick puppies, the girl's father who has been unjustly kept from seeing her in the school play is allowed in to watch her at the very last moment...

At any rate, the plot is not what makes this book really amazing, and amazingly bad. Nor is the sentence-by-sentence writing, although it has a great many color words for people's eyes and hair which do not, actually, occur in nature.

No, there are two things that elevate this book into the realm of the desperately memorable, one fairly minor and one gigantic. The fairly minor one is that the book shows an ignorance of teenagers and of teenage pop culture that is simply mind-blowing. Here is what I mean about the pop culture. Please bear in mind this came out in September of 2009:

"I know I should get rid of the dog alarm [her alarm clock is built into a stuffed dog] and get something cooler, something more suitable to my age. But I don't even know what that would be. My friend where we used to live, Gracie, had a Hannah Montana alarm clock, but I don't even know if that's something a kid my age would have anymore. What would girls our age have now? A Lindsey Lohan alarm clock?"

SHE IS SUPPOSED TO BE SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. SHE IS ALSO SUPPOSED TO BE POPULAR. Which is to say, no, she's not going to be caught dead with Miley Cyrus anything, although I suppose Justin Bieber might be marginally acceptable, but honestly I am thinking, like, Beyonce. Also, 2009 is not 2007.

Later on the protagonist has so impressively never heard of either the movie or the play of Grease that he spends a page and a half theorizing about why somebody would try to write a play about rendering fat. This book takes place somewhere in the U.S., so any high school student of the (white, rich-ish) demographic this book has as a setting who hasn't been subjected to the sight of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John performing a terrible travesty of nineteen-fifties rock and roll about seventeen times probably even before getting to high school is... well, profoundly lucky, but also kind of amazingly hiding under a rock. I should know. I lived under a rock for most of my school years, and my high school showed that movie in assembly. And I had already been forced to watch it four times in various other social situations. Maybe in the intervening years it has gone out, but it was one of the cultural touchstones of, like, the entire state of Ohio as of oh five years ago and I have great doubts. So the entire book is like this about all pop culture at all times. It's like being in a dimension where everything is tinted slightly puce, or something, it's just a bit wrong.

But that's not the major thing about this book. No. The thing about this book that elevates it to its realms of glory is the way the protagonist is about his hands.

You see, you must not be allowed to forget for two entire sentences that his hands are missing and he has hooks now and everybody finds them SCARY. I cannot adequately describe the way the book dwells on this and the specific school of emo it is following, so I will quote. He has just spilled orange juice on his father's newspaper. Emphasis mine because I cannot help it:

"Gee, if I'd known spilling my orange juice was this effective, I'd have spilled it in Dad's direction every day when I was younger. Then maybe he'd have made time to do things with me like, I don't know, play catch in the yard. Not that I'm complaining or playing the neglected child card. I'll never do that. I know what I've done. I know who's responsible for everything in my life, past, present and future. Still, a little catch would have been fun, when I still had hands."

THE ENTIRE BOOK IS LIKE THIS. THE. ENTIRE. BOOK.

I am not going to type out the sequence in which he concludes that he is forever! going to have to be! celibate! because with his hooks! he cannot possibly! put on a condom without puncturing it! except to say that both myself and the book's previous owner were screaming at him in all-caps about how maybe a girl could put a condom on a person once in a while and there are better uses for a mouth than angsting interminably.

Oh, also, did I mention that he tells his tragical backstory to the girl, and she is all sad for him, and then later on he reveals that the explosion happened because he was thinking about maybe blowing somebody or other up, you know, no specific target in mind, and she recoils in horror and runs away from the Awful Truth despite the fact that this being his reasoning is absolutely the only logical conclusion to come to given everything else he already said about his backstory and therefore she should have figured it out twenty pages ago? Yeah. That.

In conclusion: this book is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. I am not managing to tell you about half of it. You should all read it. It is a real treasure, a thing of great rarity and magnificence, and I could not remotely have put it down. It is the worst book I have read in at least a decade. I wish I could really manage to communicate its essence to you, but criticism can only go so far.

DISNEY. FRICKIN'. PRINCESS.

Date: 2010-10-30 12:49 pm (UTC)
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
From: [personal profile] rydra_wong
I am not going to type out the sequence in which he concludes that he is forever! going to have to be! celibate! because with his hooks! he cannot possibly! put on a condom without puncturing it!

*is deeply disappointed by your refusal to share this gem of literature*

Date: 2010-10-31 08:56 am (UTC)
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
From: [personal profile] rydra_wong
By overwhelming popular demand, I see! Thank you!

Date: 2010-10-30 12:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nineweaving.livejournal.com
Thank you. That is the silliest thing I've seen all month, and I needed it.

Nine

Date: 2010-10-30 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
I am glad it was helpful.

The entire book achieves degrees of silliness that should not be possible without at least bending the laws of physics.

Date: 2010-10-30 02:15 pm (UTC)
sovay: (I Claudius)
From: [personal profile] sovay
except to say that both myself and the book's previous owner were screaming at him in all-caps about how maybe a girl could put a condom on a person once in a while and there are better uses for a mouth than angsting interminably.

So this copy did have the marginalia?

Also, wow.

Date: 2010-10-30 06:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
Yes. I am going to go over it and scrawl all-caps marginalia all over it myself, in addition. IT IS THE ONLY APPROPRIATE RESPONSE.

Date: 2010-10-31 03:34 am (UTC)
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I am going to go over it and scrawl all-caps marginalia all over it myself, in addition. IT IS THE ONLY APPROPRIATE RESPONSE.

Pass it on!

Date: 2010-10-30 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
am not going to type out the sequence in which he concludes that he is forever! going to have to be! celibate! because with his hooks! he cannot possibly! put on a condom without puncturing it!

No? Pretty please? It would be a thing of beauty and a joy forever, just like this review... though clearly not like this book!

Also, thank you. This was excellent.

re: icon

Date: 2010-10-30 05:32 pm (UTC)
octopedingenue: (hiro OH THE HUMANITY)
From: [personal profile] octopedingenue
Beside Lucius Wolfe, season1!Zuko is a model of calm optimism and good sense.

Re: icon

Date: 2010-10-30 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
And advance planning.

... all right. You asked for it.

Date: 2010-10-30 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
Our protagonist is in the locker room on the first day of gym class. The Villainous Guy Who Likes The Girl has just asked him how he manages to masturbate. The dazzling inappropriateness of this goes unremarked by everyone.

"All I'll say on the subject?

It does present its challenges.

Life is full of challenges, made more difficult when a person does something stupid, like blowing off his own hands.

Guys our age also fantasize all the time about being with girls. Unless of course we fantasize about being with other boys, but I'm not part of that second we, no offense to anyone who is.

Actually, I've been fantasizing about girls for pretty much as long as I can remember. But I always knew it was fantasy, with no basis in reality. I mean, it's not as if I was ever what you'd call a real popular guy in my old school, not even before I blew my own hands off. [SEE HOW HE HAS TO SAY THAT EVERY OTHER PARAGRAPH?]

Hell, I've never even kissed a girl.

But I have had my crushes and my fantasies. I have had those. And I even used to dream that one day fantasy would become reality. But how is that possible now? [NOW THAT YOU'VE BLOWN YOUR OWN HANDS OFF WE GET IT OK]

I've tried to imagine what that would be like now if it ever did finally happen: being with a girl-- you know, really being with her. How would I touch her the way a guy is supposed to? [Marginalia from book's previous owner: ... with a penis?]

Even the most basic things are mind-boggling. For example, I know everyone's supposed to use condoms these days. It's the thing to do unless you're-- oh, I don't know-- older and trying to make a baby. [Marginalia and my brain in unison: OR PERFORMING CUNNILINGUS.] In fact, I'm pretty sure it was the thing to do even back in my parent's day-- you know, that despite smoker's lounges, walking to school in the snow, free gas, and people liking you if you "just be yourself," condoms were the way to go. [There are so many things wrong with this sentence I don't even.] But how would the logistics of such a thing work?

Believe me, I have given this a lot of thought. And all I can think is, either I'd poke a hole in the condom with my hook or I'd be so nervous and excited and eager, I'd accidentally cut off my own penis with my pincers while trying to roll the condom on.

Yes, for some lucky girl I will be a real prize..." [Marginalia: Clearly he needs to date Rogue.]

And then he rambles on for four more paragraphs of Angst before answering the evil guy's totally inappropriate question.

The thing about this book is, you could write a good YA about this. It is reasonable for a person in this situation to have sexual worries, no matter how good he is with his prosthetics. It's just that he's as dumb as a box of rocks about it and therefore it is totally impossible to work up any sympathy at all. Instead, there is only incredulity, wincing, and CAPS-LOCK OF DOOM.

Re: ... all right. You asked for it.

Date: 2010-10-31 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
!!!!

!!

!!!!!!

Except on Planet Equal Rights, in real life, no teenager boy would ask another teenage boy that question in public, even in mockery, because he would instantly be accused of being gay.

...I realize that's the least of it. BUT STILL.

I'd be so nervous and excited and eager, I'd accidentally cut off my own penis with my pincers while trying to roll the condom on.

Who is he, Edward Scissorhands? If not, he'd get no more than a nasty penis bruise.

What happens to the marginalia!edition? It sounds like it deserves to be passed around, then auctioned off.

Re: ... all right. You asked for it.

Date: 2010-10-31 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
Except on Planet Equal Rights, in real life, no teenager boy would ask another teenage boy that question in public, even in mockery, because he would instantly be accused of being gay.

I KNOW. It was juuust a bit noticeably NOT HOW THAT WOULD GO.

He is not Edward Scissorhands. He has, as far as I can tell, a perfectly usual set of pincer-hook prostheses, except that he keeps menacing people with them, despite the fact that I sincerely doubt they actually have sharp edges. He also statedly has the dexterity to type with them and do most things that require fine usage. This makes this section even more WTF, WHICH SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE.

I am going to write my own marginalia and then figure out who to pass it to. If you would like it, I can send it your way.

Re: ... all right. You asked for it.

Date: 2010-10-31 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
Oh, hell yes! And then I will pass it on to some other lucky victim!

Re: ... all right. You asked for it.

Date: 2010-12-03 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mme-hardy.livejournal.com
Pick me! Pick meeee!

Date: 2010-10-31 03:37 am (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
And all I can think is, either I'd poke a hole in the condom with my hook or I'd be so nervous and excited and eager, I'd accidentally cut off my own penis with my pincers while trying to roll the condom on.

I LAUGH HYSTERICALLY AND RESORT TO CAPSLOCK.

Date: 2010-10-31 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
THAT IS TOTALLY FAIR.

Re: ... all right. You asked for it.

Date: 2010-11-08 01:02 am (UTC)
ext_7025: (where's the fruitbat)
From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com
There is not an emoticon suitable to express my horror.

Date: 2010-10-30 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fiddledragon.livejournal.com
Wow...I think I may need to read that. For "professional development". It looks like you can just go through and check off all the key points on How Not to Write a Teenage Problem Novel.

If you want to read another impressively bad and confusing YA novel, I would be amused to see your review of "The Earth Kitchen". It's sort of like Alice in Wonderland, only with less sense. And completely fails to be an anti-nuclear screed, which I think was what the author had intended it to be.
Edited Date: 2010-10-30 05:16 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-10-30 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
Rec/anti-rec noted.

This book is so professionally developing! Clearly you must read it.

Date: 2010-10-30 05:25 pm (UTC)
octopedingenue: (toph CAPSLOCK OF TRIUMPH)
From: [personal profile] octopedingenue
EVERYTHING YOU SAY IS TRUE. I highly encourage you to add your own margin comments, or at least little stick figures expressing disbelief, and pass it on.

Disney Princess! Topaz eyes of a loan wolf lost at sea! I want to do something with this book. Or more like do something to it. An epic fanfic sequel. Fanart with painted soul auras. A lolcat version. A musical version starring Zac Efron and Michael Caine.

a little catch would have been fun, when I still had hands

CRY MOAR NOOB

Date: 2010-10-30 05:35 pm (UTC)
octopedingenue: (ROCK ON.)
From: [personal profile] octopedingenue
p.s. GALLOWGLASS

Date: 2010-10-30 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
IKNOWRITE?

Also, I want a Broadway stage production with a play-within-a-play of Grease.

Date: 2010-10-30 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
Oh, I am so scrawling all over this IN ALL-CAPS IN CRAYON. It absolutely requires it.

Thank you, by the way. This has been an experience I would not have wanted to miss.

Date: 2010-10-30 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com
I am laughing and laughing and laughing, because a) this is a fantastic and fantastically funny review, and b) I picked the exact same book to review for Rachel's birthday.

I guess it's just inspiring like that!

Date: 2010-10-30 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
It has the inspires-reviews-of-this-sort nature, I tell ya. I look forward to yours very much.

Date: 2010-10-31 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thomasyan.livejournal.com
The world needs Allie Brosh (of Hyperbole and a Half) to illustrate selected passages from this book.

NEEEEEEEDS!

Date: 2010-10-31 02:38 am (UTC)
chomiji: Yukimura from Samurai Deeper Kyo, smiling and clapping his hands. Caption: Happiness (Yuki-happy)
From: [personal profile] chomiji


Migawd, you're absolutely right!

Date: 2010-10-31 05:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
I would pay actual money to see that, yes.

Date: 2010-10-31 02:41 am (UTC)
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (yoruichi-catty)
From: [personal profile] chomiji

The thing that really freaks me out about all these really really bad YA problem novels is that invariably, when I go look them up on Amazon, the page is full of positive reviews mooing contentedly about how wonderful and touching and true-to-life these things are.

D-:

Date: 2010-10-31 05:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
I know. This one has like an average rating of four stars and I don't even.

Date: 2010-10-31 01:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com
Remember when you were twelve and anything that came vaguely close to understanding the churning, ludicrous, melodramatic feelings you were going through seemed to speak DIRECTLY TO YOU? (Think what the Amazon reviews would be for the Deep and Understanding Lyrics of Avril Lavigne.)

Date: 2010-11-01 06:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icecreamempress.livejournal.com
++++++++++++

I remember reading Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones and thinking "OH MY GOD SO TRUE" even though I was pretty certain at that point that I was a lesbian.

Date: 2010-11-03 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com
Anything that was PASSIONATE!! enough qualified for me, IIRC.

Date: 2010-10-31 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com
This review is delicious.

Date: 2010-10-31 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
Thank you! Also, your icon is awesome.

Date: 2010-10-31 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com
Thank you! Toph makes every good laugh more delightful.

Date: 2010-10-31 04:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seishonagon.livejournal.com
God, that sounds awful.

When I first saw your entry's cut tag, I misread it that the boy has "books for hands." Which might actually be interesting.

Date: 2010-10-31 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
See, books for hands, I would read the hell out of that YA novel. This one, well. If the primary purpose of a novel is to entertain, this certainly fulfilled that, but not, I suspect, in any way originally intended.

New party game:

Date: 2010-10-31 01:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] papersky.livejournal.com
What books would you choose, if you were going to have books for hands?

Re: New party game:

Date: 2010-10-31 02:10 pm (UTC)
octopedingenue: Dog!Shigure reads (yay! books!)
From: [personal profile] octopedingenue
To start, a pair of sturdy hardcovers, because mass-market-paperback hands would suuuuuuuck.
Edited Date: 2010-10-31 02:11 pm (UTC)

Re: New party game:

Date: 2010-12-03 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mme-hardy.livejournal.com
Now I am torn between "books I wouldn't get bored by" and "books I could manage to lift on a regular basis". Because clearly the only choice for (A) is the OED. Maybe for (B) a good Victorian poetry anthology.

Date: 2010-11-01 06:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com
So did I. And then I kept thinking, WHEN DO WE GET TO THE BOOKS?

That bit where the young person is talking about the alarm clocks sounds exactly as if the author's thought processes had got into the book. "Oh, no, what kind of an alarm clock would a kid that age have? I have NO CLUE."

P.

Date: 2010-11-01 06:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icecreamempress.livejournal.com
Yes! What is the Turkey City Lexicon for that? A message from Steve?

Date: 2010-12-03 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
I just reviewed this. Amazingly, your review failed to fully prepare me. It is truly special. http://rachelmanija.livejournal.com/885646.html

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