The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight: Jennifer E. Smith

Right off the bat, I will tell you that I rated this book 3 stars not because it was written badly (I really enjoyed the writing), but because I do not agree with the message, and the message that the book sends is an integral part of any novel. So there’s that. But otherwise, I read it in one day, so it kept my attention! Haha.
Ms. Smith is also author of Windfall, which I really adored. I believe this is one of her more popular books, and the interesting thing is that the first quarter entirely takes place within an airplane. It follows the story of Hadley, a young woman whose family is torn apart, and Oliver, a young man whose family is torn apart. Both of them are headed to London, the land of torn-apart families.

Hadley’s struggle is based on the contentious relationship she has with her father, a professor who spent four months in London only to fall in love with a woman there, have an affair, and abandon their family. Hadley is on her way to her father’s wedding to his second wife, all at the encouragement of her mother (who is the strongest woman in this book). She’s clearly struggling from both having to watch her father form a new life and also due to her claustrophobia, and the tiny space of the airplane.

Luckily, she bumps into a young man named Oliver, who’s on the same plane and her seat partner. Oliver is a native Britisher and returning home for some ~mysterious~ event. He and Hadley quickly hit it off and the book cycles through both Hadley’s past and her present, with Oliver. She and Oliver discuss their screwed up families, their hopes for the future, the animated duck movie that’s playing on the flight. Lots of things.

So there were a lot of things I enjoyed about the book. It’s written in third person omniscient, which is always a good perspective.  Oliver is a well-developed character rather than a meaningless plot device. Hadley’s rumination over the breaking of her family and her emotions are written very poignantly, so you can really empathize with her. Ms. Smith manages to craft an engaging narrative that takes place entirely within the tiny confines of a plane, and not only that, but she also manages to weave a love story that takes place over 24 hours and doesn’t seem ridiculous or contrived.

The message of this book, as I interpreted it, is “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” 
At least, that is the philosophy that Hadley’s father lives by, and excuse my language but it’s complete bullshit. You can absolutely help who you fall in love with. The trick is to – it’s crazy, I know – remain faithful. If you really love someone and want to make them happy forever, the first step is to take yourself off the market. Don’t return flirtations. Don’t engage in romantic tomfoolery with someone other than your partner. You can still check people out and find people other than your partner attractive – that’s only human nature – but there is a distinct line between admiring someone from afar and engaging in an affair. Hadley’s father, “The Professor” (whose name I didn’t even bother to remember because he and people like him disgust me) has the impulse control of a three year old. For all of his intelligence and worldliness, he is a selfish, spoiled, and utterly unapologetic asshole. He ruins their family by falling in love and having an affair with a woman he’s known for four months. That’s twenty years of marriage down the drain. He excuses himself with “you can’t help who you fall in love with.”
Really, man? Because I think that’s just a half-assed excuse from someone who checked out of their marriage as soon as he could put some distance between himself and his family. He didn’t have to deal with the consequences of his actions immediately and so, like the miserable excuse for a father and a husband that he is, he feels fine pursuing a relationship with this British woman.

And Charlotte. 😡
Charlotte made no sense to me. There’s no sense of apology about her, like, oh sorry Hadley, I know I took part in breaking your family to pieces and I hate that this is how it happened but I’ll give you time to come to terms with it on your own. No. Charlotte immediately tries to drag Hadley into her new, fucked up family. Excuse me again. I have no patience or sympathy for cheaters or “other” people. Other women, other men, whatever.
Obviously, it’s not Charlotte’s fault that Hadley’s father cheated on her. But I’m assuming she found out at some point that the dude was married and decided, anyways, that hey! This is fine. It’s okay if you completely tear a family apart because they’re all the way across the ocean! One phone call and it’s over. These guys piss me off to no end.

Also everyone treats Hadley like a kid but expects her to take this tragic news like an adult. She’s not allowed to choose for herself whether to go to the wedding or not, nor is she allowed to make her own decisions regarding how she feels about her father abandoning their family, but at the same time her mother forces her to attend the ceremony and encourages her to act cordial because “suck it up”??

I’m kind of tired of talking about this, so moving on.

Overall, I actually did enjoy the plot and the characters. The only thing that annoyed me was the take on love and forgiveness. I think Hadley was absolutely justified in her reaction to the shattering of her parents’ marriage and the invitation to her father’s wedding. I think it was a pretty realistic, though depressing, take on marriage and infidelity within a family. And on a last note, I fully expect Hadley’s father to get tired of Charlotte in a few years. If they’ll cheat with you, they’ll cheat on you.

If you like fluffy romance and introspection, and maybe a hint of misery, I would encourage you to check this book out.

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How to Break a Boy: Laurie Devore

I recently wrapped up How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore, author of Winner Take All (which I have not read but plan on doing eventually); I have so many books to read. :’-)

Our story follows Olivia, the secondary Queen Bee at Buckley High, and her miserable, dysfunctional life. As she tries to separate herself from Adrienne, Mean Girl #1 and a possessive, manipulative, unforgiving narcissist, she finds herself slowly digging her own grave and pulling resident Good Boy™ Whit DuRant along for the ride.

Edit: 4/19/2018. I started writing this post a long time ago and was having issues with the WordPress system, plus just school stuff was keeping me away from this website, so I’m going to try to write as much as I can about How to Break a Boy as I remember. Sorry, guys.

I thought that the way Olivia and Adrienne’s relationship was written was really interesting. While it wasn’t the most poignant example of a toxic relationship that I’ve ever seen, it had its moments. Adrienne is definitely a neurotic girl and she needs some sort of psychological intervention. I mean, Olivia does too. Most of the characters do. I can’t remember if Whit was the catalyst for Olivia’s decision to become a better person, but I hope that’s not the case. It would be more meaningful for Olivia’s realization to come from reflection on her own actions – that’s not to say that it would be totally unacceptable for Whit to have had a hand in the betterment of her person. Sometimes you meet people who help you change. That’s not a bad thing.

I remember there being a secondary character (Bethany??) who was a mutual friend of Olivia and Adrienne’s; the third Musketeer. Her big secret is that she’s gay, and a lot of issues crop up in the second part of the book after her sexuality is unwillingly outed to the widely conservative small town they live in. I think this girl, who I’m calling Bethany because I’m pretty sure that was her real name, was a very realistically-written highschooler. In the end, she doesn’t side with Olivia because she’s afraid of retribution on Adrienne’s part. But she doesn’t abandon Olivia either.

I don’t remember much about this book 😦 but I would say to give it a go. I remember my favorite thing about it being that you get to read a villain’s perspective, basically. Also, Olivia is not a conventional bad guy turned good guy. She’s mean, she knows she’s mean, there’s no underlying “heroic goal” that justifies her being mean. She’s just a generally terrible person. So watching her turn better is very satisfying.

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares: Krystal Sutherland

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is author Krystal Sutherland’s second book. I read this a while ago, actually, over Christmas break, but I was too lazy to write it up. That’s been getting to me lately – being lazy. I’m also trying to write independently and working on artwork on top of preparing for graduate school and finishing up my bachelor’s, but those aren’t excuses haha. I have had plenty of time to write up a book review– I just haven’t been able to muster up the motivation. But here we go!

I’ll admit that, reading the summary, I was totally unimpressed. After first being introduced to Esther Solar, I readied myself for an arduous journey with the epitome of the manic pixie dream girl trope, and a crew of characters straight out of a Tumblr user’s greatest fantasy.
I was also entirely wrong.
(Also I was being pretty judgmental).

Instead, I was met with an engrossing tale about a broken family, a decades-old curse, and the girl who’s going to fix it. Esther Solar’ s grandfather befriended Death, and from that friendship bloomed a tragedy; each Solar is cursed with one great phobia that will be their undoing. Mama Solar fears bad luck and Papa Solar has been confined to the basement for years due to agoraphobia; Esther’s twin brother, Eugene, is terrified of the dark. Esther hasn’t discovered her great phobia and mitigates the damage it will cause by avoiding anything that makes her uneasy, which might unfurl into life-destroying fear: this means avoiding things like lobsters, moths, geese, and other tools of the Devil. Each of these things to be avoided is printed into the titular “list of semi-definitive nightmares.”

Then she meets Jonah.

Jonah is a conman. He swindles Esther and so begins a beautiful friendship in which Jonah challenges Esther to face one fear from the list every week. Each Sunday of Esther’s proceeding life consists of marking a fear off of her list, and Jonah records their escapades using a stolen Go-Pro, with a promise to show Esther the complete product at the end of their journey, when she defeats fear fifty of fifty – the one which will be her undoing.

My favorite part of this book was the characterization of the relationships between each character – Esther, Eugene, Jonah, and Hepzibah (Esther’s childhood friend, selectively mute). The interactions that they engage in and the “nothing” scenes – scenes in which there is not really any action, but you see a lot of character development, are beautifully written. It’s hard to make “nothing” scenes interesting, but Ms. Sutherland manages to map out the intricacies of the four in casual dialogue, setting and mood.

Esther is a force to be reckoned with. Undeniably weird, and from an undeniably weird family, she’s got a lot to deal with: the curse of Death, her family’s fears, the enigma of Jonah, her dying grandfather… Esther carries a lot of weight on her shoulders and deals with it in a decidedly avoidant manner. This book delves into mental health from the point of view of someone in denial of their own psychological problems, and the psychological problems rife within her family. Esther creates complex stories around her underlying issues, marketing herself as the hero in a story, battling a decades-long evil, rather than facing the reality of the situation, and all of this leads to a central theme in the story: coping. Esther finds a way to cope with the unconventional habits of her family, though it’s not the most healthy manner of coping. She’s obsessed with finding “Death” and getting him to remove the “curse” on the Solars.

Mental health, of course, is a sensitive topic. You can’t force someone to “face their reality” or spring a reality-check on them. That’s unethical. They have to want to change for the better on their own. And another thing is that if the way that they are living is not harming anyone else, and is maybe beneficial to them, then why force them to change? If they’re happy the way they are and not being a detriment to themselves, then it’s not anyone’s place to step in and say “you’re wrong and you need to be different.”

Esther, however, is not living in a healthy household. Her family is crumbling, as is her life. Her brother, as we see later in the book, is suffering deeply and takes drastic measures to escape his life. Her father won’t leave the basement. Her mother’s gambling issues and obsession with luck are tearing the family apart. So there needs to be a change, Esther needs to make a change, and change comes through the course of the story.

One issue that I had with this book (that I can remember – I might be forgetting others, haha, but I did read this a while ago), is this whole thing about Eugene and his therapists. Apparently, he can’t stick to a therapist because the things that he tells them are so scary that they are too terrified to treat him or something. Basically, he scares them with his dark thoughts. And I thought that was kind of ridiculous. A professional therapist has probably seen a lot of things and knows that they’re dealing with someone who is not entirely emotionally stable. So I personally will choose to believe that they refused to treat him because the treatment wouldn’t work without his wanting to be treated. It needs to be a mutual relationship between a patient who wants to get better and a therapist who wants to help them.

Anyways, overall, I would recommend this book! It’s more about a journey of self-discovery and friendship than it is an adventure tale, and it’s not what I’d usually read, but variety is always good. And I’m going to try to get back to writing reviews more consistently!

The Cruel Prince: Holly Black

I’ve been waiting for The Cruel Prince by Holly Black to come out for such a long time, and I finally got my hands on an ebook from our local library! If you haven’t checked out your library’s ebook collection, I would highly recommend it! There’s always such a vast ocean of books to choose from – and you get them immediately! Magic.

So I liked this book a lot! We read about Jude, the daughter of two mortals, who finds herself being raised in Faerieland after an unfortunate incident with her real parents. Jude is raised alongside her twin sister and their elder half-sister, who shares their mother but whose father is fey. Jude and the other girls are treated well; their father, Madoc, is kind and just and not at all the evil-stepparent stereotype. But not everything is as it seems in Faerieland.

Jude struggles in this place because she’s mortal, and mortals are looked down upon. Most of her trouble stems from Cardan – the wickedly beautiful and just plain wicked youngest prince of Faerieland. Cardan has several elder brothers and sisters, all in line for the throne, so he’s not getting his hands on it anytime soon. In the meantime, he entertains himself by tormenting Jude and her sister and hanging out with his crew of fairies, all of whom treat the mortal girls with either indifference or disgust.

I made a lot of guesses as to where the book was going and I’m pleased to say that most of them were wrong. A lot of the plot twists really did surprise me, which is always nice. Jude’s suffering is neatly detailed – it never feels overwhelming or ridiculous – although she has an infuriating penchant for being totally ignorant to very obvious things. Like the whole situation with Locke. He hangs out with Cardan, people have warned you about him, and you still think he’s some sort of misunderstood Prince Charming? And I wish Taryn wasn’t such a pushover. She was probably my least favorite character, especially due to her actions towards the end of the book.

I hope we find out more about Vi. She was present as the rebellious daughter, the one who doesn’t fall for her father’s kindness and holds the murder of her mother and stepfather against him (a totally justified grudge). And I want to see more of Vi raising Oak in the mortal realm! That’s super cute. I also really enjoyed Oak’s presence – he’s a good comic relief although, like most things in Faerieland, his loveliness is tinged with malevolence.

This book reminds me a lot of Creature of Moonlight by author Rebecca Hahn; like ACoM, The Cruel Prince doesn’t have any totally good or totally evil characters. I mean, obviously a lot of books don’t polarize their constituents but ACoM and TCP make good use of ambiguity, where you can’t really tell which side of the spectrum any person lies on. Jude’s not completely innocent and Cardan isn’t completely evil. There are other characters who present this similarity but I don’t want to write in too many spoilers.

Overall, I give The Cruel Prince 5 stars. I really enjoyed how fleshed out the world was and I liked the relationship between Jude and Cardan. Hatred is a fun emotion to play with, and both characters possess a lot of it. I enjoyed the fact that I can’t get behind any one character for the aforementioned reasons. For a long while, in fact, I wasn’t sure that Jude and Cardan were going to have their romance. I figured, from the summary, that they would – and they did, although I’m still not sure where it’s going. The whole situation with them is complicated, but I love that by the end of the book, there’s still animosity between the two. Jude isn’t so willing to forgive him for everything he’s done to her and Cardan is furious with her for tricking him.

One thing to remember, I think, while reading this book, is that the creatures here are not mortal. They aren’t constrained by our morals. Kindness and goodness are not intrinsic to them, nor are they held in high regard. Everyone is all about laughing and partying and having a good time. I’m saying this because I can easily understand readers hating Cardan and the other fairies, and sure, they’re weird, but that’s because we’re human. We have different ideas about life than immortal creatures. Of course they feel superior to the humans – they’re infinitely more powerful, they can enchant them, and they can live forever. They’re always young and beautiful. It’s not right, but Jude and Taryn are a serious minority in Faerieland; they don’t really have the option of making a stand.

So, kind of to summarize: the fairies are pretty abusive but they’re also very emotionally stunted people. I think living for that long, without limitations on their luxury and with all the power of the world at their hands, has affected them adversely. That’s why Gods in literature are also messed up. They don’t have boundaries or limitations.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys intricately detailed stories! A warning, though: you might get anxious and have to take breaks, like I did. There’s a lot of humiliation of the mortal characters and I cannot stand reading people being humiliated, but that’s all a part of the perversity of Faerieland. This is a very well-written, well-planned novel, and Ms. Black is clearly passionate about the world she’s created. I’ll definitely be sticking around for the rest of the series. Happy reading!

Daughter of the Pirate King: Tricia Levenseller

I’ve been waiting to read Daughter of the Pirate King for a while now. I’ve always loved pirate-themed books (although the villains themselves were, well, villains), but the world-building around pirates, their folklore and legends, and their culture, is generally an intriguing one. Plus, I love high-sea adventures. So I was really excited for this book, but unfortunately, it didn’t meet my expectations.

It wasn’t a bad read, and this is Ms. Levenseller’s debut novel, but after reading debuts like An Ember in the Ashes and Song of the Current, I have high standards. DOTPK had a fun story outlined – a tough and fiery heroine – but it lacked the literary finesse of the aforementioned novels. That sounds really pretentious, but what I mean is that it read like a middle-grade book. Everything was told to you in flat, blunt terms; the dialogue between characters sounded contrived, and the body paragraphs were uninspired. I expected Alosa, our titular “daughter of the pirate king”, to have more organic introspection. Instead, her character was presented in a really flat manner. Here are some lines in the book to show you what I mean, because I feel like I can’t adequately describe it:

“I pat my pockets, as though I realize I’ve just forgotten something. I spin around in the wet grass, making a light squeaking noise with my boots. This emphasizes my casualness. I’m not trying to be quiet. My followers won’t think I’ve found them out.”

Lots of lines in the book are written like this – Alosa performs some rudimentary action, and then there’s a good half a paragraph explaining why she performed the action to an excruciating detail. The reader isn’t allowed to make any assumptions.

And the dialogue always runs like this:

“Did you hear the part where I said she’s my assassin? Don’t mess with her. She’ll kill you before you have time to blink.”

So a lot of the conversations are Alosa saying things very awkwardly. Just imagine this girl telling you, “Don’t mess with her. She’ll kill you before you have time to blink.” It just comes off as #IAmVeryBadass to me, which sort of is Alosa in a nutshell. During the entirety of the story, either she is telling you how badass she is, or Riden is sucking up to her with all these comments of wow, you’re not like other girls, you’re a tough girl. And sure, that’s deserved – she is really tough and she does have skills that other girls shouldn’t have. But I need to be able to derive how strong Alosa is on my own; I don’t need to be told that, repeatedly, through every single chapter.

Riden is one of the worst offenders in dialogue. He’s constantly spouting out sappy and gratuitous stuff around Alosa:

  • “All I can do is take but give nothing in return.”
    • He sounds like the Generic Romance Hero™.
  • “Oh please. We both know you are hiding more than your intentions to get the map. You are skilled, Alosa… No one man could get the better of you.”
    • Again, Riden brown-nosing.
  • “Easy? Do you think it was easy for me to watch you? Seeing you up there, knowing the pain you must be in, it… it made me feel – it would have hurt less if I had been the one hanging.” [PS: he has not known her for very long, like, maybe a week??] “I hated myself for what happened. And the only way I could punish myself was to force myself to watch you in pain. That was my punishment.”
    • Cry me a river, Riden, you self-pitying sad sack.

He wasn’t my favorite. It’s not that he didn’t have a character – after all, he’s our notorious reluctant pirate – but he’s not at all multidimensional. At least Alosa is constantly struggling with the question of whether her father really loves her or whether he’s just using her. She’s suffered a lot at his hands, and getting the pieces to the map is as much proving herself to him as it is proving her worth to herself. But Riden’s only plot point is that he doesn’t actually want to be a pirate.

There’s a whole thing about how Riden’s the only one who can make Alosa the Siren chill out, and how he seems to treat her like a normal human being even after finding out that she’s part Siren, but is the latter really a big deal in the first place?? I mean, no one seems to antagonize her because of her bloodline, so I dunno why his friendliness is even mentioned.

I’m being pretty harsh, so let me lighten up: there were parts of this book that genuinely made me laugh. I did enjoy some of Alosa’s monologuing, especially when she was manipulating Draxen and Rider – saying one thing and thinking another. And her dry remarks on how sappy Rider can be. I also really love the names: Alosa’s is certainly my favorite, but there are some other gems in there, like Draxon and [some of Alosa’s crew, whose names I can’t remember lol].

I also want to recognize that this is Ms. Levenseller’s debut novel. She’s done very well for herself in that aspect; this book is highly rated on Goodreads. So, of course, all of this is my personal opinion, but by objective standards it seems like most people enjoyed the book. I don’t want to deter anyone from reading it, but I’m hoping to see something more like Song of the Current in the next book; more flowing description, less stilted dialogue. Also, the one piece of advice that I would give to the author is to let readers make assumptions for themselves. Not every one of Alosa’s actions has to be explained.

Overall, I don’t know if I’ll be sticking to the series. I want to give Ms. Levenseller a fair chance, so I’ll probably get around to reading Daughter of the Siren Queen whenever my library has it in stock. There aren’t many good books about pirates anyways, so I’m happy that we have at least one YA novel that features them.

Windfall: Jennifer E. Smith

Wow.
I just finished Windfall by author Jennifer E. Smith, who’s also written books like The Statistical Probability of Love and This is What Happy Looks Like. I haven’t actually read either of these books but if they’re anything like Windfall, I’ll be getting my hands on them soon enough.

So the plot of the novel is that Alice buys her friend Teddy a lottery ticket, and Teddy ends up winning an inordinate amount of money. Ridiculous amounts. So much that he would never have to work a day in his life, nor would his children or his great-grandchildren. But, of course, everything changes with the introduction of hundreds of millions of dollars into their relationship.

Just a few days ago I’d heard of a twenty-year old who won the Powerball, so it was funny that this book would come up in my repertoire (as if I hadn’t chose it, what are you talking about Pratyu?) but anyways – the lottery winner’s curse is something that I’ve preached to anyone who will listen. When you come into huge amounts of money, as the Powerball winners do, the universe seems to hand you a slab of bad karma to go along with all the good luck you seem to have stumbled upon. But that’s not exactly true, either. The reality of the situation is that money can bring out the very worst in people; people who never knew that they would do with all the wealth and fame that comes of being a lottery winner, a mega-winner, might let their desires run unchecked. When you soar high and far, you come crashing down just as quickly. There must be some kind of law of physics that coordinates this.

Teddy’s a really kind guy. That much is certain. He’s messed up by his father, an addict who leaves them penniless and heartbroken in his childhood, but he doesn’t let his tragedy get the best of him. Teddy’s fairly poor at the beginning of the book but even when he comes into wealth, he doesn’t forget about his oldest, closest friends: Alice, and her cousin Leo. Usually, when you see this sort of trope happen in literature, the first thing that the now-wealthy character ends up inadvertently dropping are his childhood friends; Teddy subverts this. Rather, he is simply overwhelmed by the money and spends carelessly, needlessly, but with good intentions.
When Teddy first reveals his good fortunes to his mother and explains that it comes from a lottery ticket Alice bought for his birthday, his mother suggests setting up a college fund for Alice. Teddy is mortified that he didn’t think of the idea first and insists not only that he will set up a college fund for her, but he will give her half of the money. Alice refuses both offers. He pleads that she at least take ten million. Nope. One million? Nah.

Alice is steadfast in her refusal because her gift was just that – a gift. The fact that it brought Teddy such fortune is an unimaginably lucky thing, but it was a gift. The money is his and his alone to do whatever he pleases with. She wants no part in the funds because Alice has experienced enough big changes for several lifetimes and she doesn’t need another bombshell upending her entire existence.

When Alice was nine years old, her parents died thirteen months apart. That’s how she comes to live in Chicago with her cousin, Leo, Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jake. Her parents continue to haunt her through the following nine years and she lives in memory of them; doing the things that she expects they would have wanted her to, choosing to go to the college she expects they would have sent her to, that sort of thing. Alice’s entire life is defined by the expectations of her dead parents, and this is a fact well-known among her family and Teddy.

But growing up under these expectations has pushed Alice to bloom into a kind, conscientious young woman. She spends most of her time volunteering at the library and soup kitchen, following in the footsteps of her parents, both of whom worked at nonprofits. She’s quiet and, while soft-spoken isn’t the right word, she prefers staying on the edge of things rather than fully immersing herself in them.
Alice gives off the impression of holding off on expectations so that she won’t be inevitably disappointed. As she explains later in the book, she doesn’t believe in luck or fate or destiny; rather, she thinks that the world has no order. She believes in randomness, an argument she uses to denounce Leo’s suggestion that the money Teddy is offering her might be the universe’s attempt at making up for her parents’ deaths.

Alice has been in love with Teddy for three years, but she doesn’t believe that their relationship will ever move beyond friendship. She never plans on telling him because – as she is with most things – her assumption is that the inevitable outcome is mountains of disappointment and an indivisible gap between the two of them, which she would never be able to bear. Teddy shows no romantic interest in her until the morning that they discover that he won the lottery; that morning, he sweeps her up in a kiss that isn’t mentioned again on his part until the middle of the book during which he apologizes. He was swept up in the excitement of it all and… “it’s fine,” Alice says, but it’s not really fine. Her assumptions are confirmed with the ease by which Teddy dismisses their kiss. It was everything for her, but a simple celebration for him.

So… here’s the thing: he could have hugged her. Right? If you got a magnificent gift from a friend, your first instinct wouldn’t be to kiss them. But Alice takes things at face value, so she believes him and drops it. Alice is really unassuming, so this is an appropriate, although saddening reaction from her. I’ve noticed that she generally takes time to have tough conversations (like talking to her uncle about her parents, or this whole situation with Teddy, or talking to Leo about his boyfriend, Max). The good thing is that despite her reservations, everything works out in the end.

I really enjoyed seeing Alice and Teddy mature over the course of the book. Not only do we see the trials and tribulations that they face in their relationship, but also the ones they face regarding their families, friends, and futures. Alice has always juggled her Pre-Parental-Deaths and Post-Parental-Death lives; they are two separate realities and constantly at odds with each other. She feels like a burden on her aunt and uncle; she’s starting to forget the sounds of her parents’ voices; every decision she makes is a reflection of her lineage. Teddy’s father makes an unsurprising return after his big lotto win, but has he really come back out of love for his son, or did his nose just catch the scent of dollar bills?

So I really enjoyed the characterization of both Teddy and Alice; the relationship between these two is the relationship that I would have expected from Hayden and Elsie in The Best Friend. This is what best friends are supposed to be like; not possessive, not manipulative. Friendships aren’t meant to constantly break your heart. I think that’s why I couldn’t get behind Elsie and Hayden’s relationship – it felt very contrived. There was no good reason for Elsie to stay in such a detrimental place when Hayden provided absolutely no benefits for her staying; he doesn’t listen to her, he doesn’t spend time with her, he doesn’t consider her in their friendship. It’s simple economic theories of relationships. But I already ranted about that book, so let’s return to this one.

Not only were Teddy and Alice characterized well; so was the rest of the cast. Aunt Sofia is an angel and I aspire to be like her one day; she’s the driving force of Alice’s change for the better. She keeps Alice grounded, reminds her that she is separate from her parents and shouldn’t live, feeling like she has to measure up to impossible standards set by their falsely remembered perfection, a consequence of time and loss. Leo is the pragmatic one who keeps her grounded; his problems are less intense than hers but he provides a breath of fresh air in her otherwise depressing history. Leo pulls her up when she is down, whether intentionally or not.

And finally, what I liked about Sawyer was that he never felt extraneous to the story. Rather than being the typical romantic counter-interest – completely opposite to the expected love interest – he was his own person. He never felt like a plot device.

Well, that’s really all I want to say about this book. I enjoyed it very much and I’m putting Ms. Smith on my list of authors to look out for. I really recommend it if you like love stories or slice-of-life ones; it’s a great in-between book to read if you’re on a particularly intense streak, as well. I hope you give it a go! Happy reading!

Character Spotlight: Kate Fuller

I’m gonna change up the game a little because I have been obsessed with this series since I found it on Netflix three days before I began writing this blog post (1/10/2018). I finished it in about four days – not that I recommend binge-watching, it’s not a healthy thing to do, but… during my last few days of winter break, I want to lie down and do nothing and why not watch a few episodes of From Dusk Till Dawn while I do that? Anyways, this might be a little long because I really want to talk about Kate. She was one of my favorite parts of this series.

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So, let me start off with a quick summary of the show. You might recognize its title from the 1996 Tarantino flick. The series expands on this universe, giving more life to Seth and Richie Gecko as well as the Fuller family, and their motley crew of allies and enemies.
Season 1 starts off with the Gecko brothers, a criminal duo (and pretty reputable, from what I gathered), robbing a bank in Abilene; the deal is to transport the stolen bank bonds over the Mexican-American border and to a man named Carlos. Richie, the younger brother, has always been a little off – but Seth notices, with growing concern, that his brother’s sociopathic tendencies have taken a violent turn. After they are unexpectedly forced to take a hostage from Abilene – and that hostage is brutally murdered by Richie, who has started babbling about “visions” – Seth discovers that he’s got a massive wrinkle in his plans to get them into Mexico and that he has to deal with Richie’s newfound brutality. They’ve always lived by a code, one that ensures no one gets hurt because they’re thieves, not murderers, but Richie’s going off the deep end.

With most of Texas after them, the Geckos are forced to take refuge at an inn, where they bump into the Fuller family: Jacob, Scott, and Kate. These three provide the perfect cover to get into Mexico, so they are taken hostage and, after a series of events, the whole gang makes it to The Titty Twister, a strip club owned by Carlos. It’s here that they end up trapped in a conspiracy bigger than any of them had ever imagined as the existence of Mexican snake-vampires, culebras, is revealed – and they realize that the Queen of the culebras, Santanico Pandemonium, has great plans for Richie.

Obviously there’s a lot going on, but let’s bring to focus to Kate Fuller: a daughter, a sister, a hostage, a dear friend. Kate is first introduced as part of the Fuller family; she comes into contact with the Geckos during the aforementioned kidnapping, but before all of that happened, Kate was struggling with the recent passing of her mother – via a tragic car accident – and her father’s sudden decision to uproot their life and leave for the great and empty Mexican wilderness.

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Kate is the quintessential Pastor’s Daughter; kind to a fault, compassionate and forgiving, and willing to give everyone multiple chances. Although Richie accosts her pretty creepily while she’s swimming, standing around and making strange comments, she meets his stiltedness with hesitant warmth. Even while she’s kidnapped by the Geckos, confused and frightened because of their reputation and the cruel indifference with which they seem to treat her family, she is willing to see the goodness in them. The Geckos are uncomfortably familiar with the Fullers – at one point, Seth basically intimidates the family into a heart-stopping circle of confession. He tells them that they are a family, a broken and ugly one, but a group nonetheless. He adds that they need to live life with love and forgiveness, playing off of their religiosity, and then corners Kate, admitting that he’s “left some bodies” back in Abilene and before, and that these people who he killed were good people, but stood between him and his freedom, so they had to die. Kate is forced to “forgive him,” and you can see how anxious she is, with glassy eyes and her scowl. But she can’t do anything, because Seth has a gun and, in a strange way, is protecting them from the darker elements of the club. She’s trapped in a codependent relationship with Seth: a theme which continues throughout the show.

Despite Seth’s intimidation techniques and the rest of the tribulations that the family must go through due to the Gecko brothers, she still connects with them. With Richie, she sympathizes with his craving for power and his strange draw to the club and the woman in his visions, and she understands, though doesn’t share, his struggles in always being overshadowed by his charming, natural leader of a brother. She kisses him at one point, though I’m not sure how much of the kiss was romantic and how much of it was due to a high-stakes, tense situation in which emotions were running high.  Seth is not much better; he’s hot-tempered and imperious, he crowds her, intimidates her (whether this is on purpose, I don’t know), and he’s incredibly condescending at times. While she’s his hostage, he treats her with mild disdain and a lot of disinterest. Despite this, she stays calm and collected and has enough space in her heart to give him a place when it’s all said and done.

 

I think that’s what I love most about Kate; in a show where everyone has a horrible streak – Seth and Richie are thieves and murderers despite Seth’s best intentions; Richie kills freely and without care (at least, in the first season); Scott is revealed to have a pretty violent facet to his personality; Jacob ruins family dynamics through misguided attempts to protect his children and proves to be incredibly selfish in his actions – but Kate is the innocent one, the moral compass with a golden heart; and I think that’s what draws everyone to her.

What I like about Kate Fuller is the fact that she is slowly corrupted by the world around her. We start with a church-going, young Southern belle; we end with an accomplice to the Gecko brothers in their string of thievery and mayhem. I never said that the development she experiences is positive and I personally believe that her story is a tragedy, but I admire the way that the writers of this show went about getting her from point A to point B, and that they ended with point B at all. It would have been tempting to keep her sweet and kind and forgiving, but with all the trauma that she endures over the course of From Dusk Till Dawn, it would have been unbelievable for her to stay rooted in her naiveté. Rest assured, they don’t entirely erase that kind girl from the beginning of the series. She still shows hints of warmth after everything that’s happened, but it’s shadowed by something darker.

Kate’s defining personality trait is her compassion, but another thing that makes her stand out to me is her bravery. This is proven over and over again throughout the show. In the beginning, she’s the one that confronts her father over the death of their mother despite fearing that her suspicions are true. It’s not easy to accuse your father of murdering your mother, but Kate is driven by her need to know the truth.  Later, she handles this tall, dark, scary stranger at the pool, even voicing her wariness to him: she challenges Richie, asking if he’s hanging out at the Dewdrop Inn’s pool to hit on “underage girls”, despite the fact that he looks like this:

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He’s foreboding, wears a mortician suit and, especially in Season 1, he’s always got this empty smile on his face. When he speaks to her, he uses cryptic language and ominous words and, rather than being frightened, shetests him. She never hints at being afraid of him, but tries to relate to him instead. When her family is kidnapped, she continues to treat Richie gently, not only because he has a gun to her father and her brother’s heads, but also because she seems to understand how lost he feels. Kate’s faith in God roots her; she believes that Richie can find the light if he turns to the Lord as well, and I think that it’s her faith that gives her some bravado.

In a more literal sense of her bravery: when a culebra corners her father, Kate doesn’t hesitate in cutting her down with a chainsaw. It’s bloody, gory, and traumatizing, and afterwards – unlike Scott, who adapts to killing with troubling ease – she seems haunted, but she’ll do anything to protect her family. The girl’s never even punched someone before she has to slice a woman apart with a chainsaw.
It’s Kate that insists they go after her brother after he vanishes into the depths of The Twister, and it’s Kate who continues to lead the search for Scott despite everything in their situation working against them.

Down in the belly of the temple, she’s forced to kill her own father; the man who raised and loved her, and all of this after she discovers the truth behind her mother’s death – that it was not his fault. That he was sad, and desperate to preserve his children’s memories of her, and so he whisked them away to Mexico where they could start anew. After Scott turns him into a culebra, he begs Kate to kill him (the aforementioned selfish move), and she is forced to stake him through the heart.

 

Not only does Kate fulfill her father’s dying wish, but she also finds it in her heart to forgive Scott and make it her life’s goal to rescue him from the darkness. I guess what I’m also realizing as I write this is that Kate’s bravery comes hand-in-hand with her compassion. She is a reckoning, but she’s also a respite from the brutal world of the culebras and the Geckos.

I talk about these previous examples because they are primarily from Season 1, where Kate has never even held a gun before. But there are more powerful circumstances later on as well.

Later on, Kate, all alone after losing her father and her brother to the darkness of the culebras, asks Seth if she can escape with him. That’s how they end up driving off together, running jobs and surviving on a thread: Seth searching for a way to get them out of Mexico, Kate trying to prepare herself to find and bring back Scott. The two of them stay in dingy motels and Seth, now using heroin, is kind of a mess – emotionally speaking.  He can’t bear to acknowledge the world revealed to them, one in which monsters haunt the night. Kate’s broken as well, having staked her father and watched her little brother turn into a monster, but she’s more pragmatic about their situation. She wants to find a way to help Scott, a way to turn him back or to keep him alive without having to kill innocent people. Additionally, she manages Seth’s intimidation tactics and his authoritarianism without batting an eye.

 

Not only that but she also stands up to Seth, criticizing his drug-using habits, his imperious attitude, and his self-destructive tendencies. Also, while Seth is the protective element to their duo, she’s the maternal one. When Seth barely escapes his latest robbery, Kate scolds him for refusing to let her come along, pointing out that he’d do better with two pairs of eyes. When Seth lashes out at her later, furious about her inability to crack a lock in his expected time but with more anger directed towards her than need be, she reminds him that he’s not upset with her, but with Richie: that it’s his temper and his bossiness that drove Richie away. She also confronts him about his escapism through heroin, pointing out that she’s suffered great losses too but she’s not slowly killing herself.

 

Kate’s grit further presents itself when Amaru takes over Kate’s body. The queen is continuously bewildered by Kate’s ability to push her out, even if it’s just for a few moments. Kate can see everything she’s done; she feels every life that Amaru, in her body, takes. She sees the pain and destruction that she leaves in her wake, and, when she meets Seth again while controlling her body, she uses the small amount of time she has to beg him to kill her so that she can’t hurt people anymore.

 

Not only does she have to deal with this psychopath slaughtering people while wearing her face; she also has to fight to reclaim herself, and when she manages to do it despite the pain and control it takes, her first priority is making sure that someone puts her down for good. This fails to occur because Seth can’t bring himself to kill her; despite the setbacks, when Kate finally gets her independence back, she decides that she must end Amaru herself. The only way to do this guarantees Kate’s own death – but, without fear or hesitance, Kate chooses to do so as long as Amaru dies with her.

Another trait of Kate’s that caught my attention is her faith. It defines her, at least in the beginning. Kate is, as mentioned above, the daughter of a Pastor. She’s lived her entire life by the standards of the Lord; she goes to church every Sunday; she defines good and evil through the words of the Bible. But with everything that happens, her faith is put to the test – her morals are compromised (she killed her own father), and it only gets worse from there. When Amaru taunts her, asking if she’s seeking redemption from her God, Kate makes her stance clear:

 

Off-topic note but, she says this while looking at  Scott, but also Seth, which struck me as a really character-defining moment: she states that she loves Seth Gecko despite everything he’s done to her, despite the fact that he completely ruined her once-beautiful world. Seth Gecko corrupts everything he touches, but she still has it in her heart to forgive him. Scott? Her little brother betrays her. He gets her killed. He pushes her away every chance he gets, his grief manifesting in bitterness and a lust for power, but in spite of this, Kate is willing to sacrifice herself for him. Again.
I think that’s incredibly brave of her and ~ again ~ we see that even though Kate has gone through the most traumatic events, having been imprisoned inside her own body and forced to slaughter hundreds of people, even after having to kill her own father and watch her friends die and after Seth abandons her, all of that – she’s compassionate enough to love him. After Scott betrays her, and you know you can cut yourself off from family members if they’re as psychotic as Scott – but she never gives up on him. That’s the core of Kate’s character: she has endless amounts of love for people. Despite all that the world has taken from her, she still finds the silver lining, and despite everything she says, she always has love to give.

Back to the matter of Faith: throughout the show it is proven that if she wants to survive, she has to sin. She has to murder her way through culebras and, later, Xibalbans; she has to steal and cheat and lie; she has to do things she’d never even dreamed of doing, like helping Seth do heroin and burying the body of an old friend in order to hide her brother’s crimes. It’s really saddening to see how much her faith is tested, and frankly, she doesn’t seem to have such an unwavering trust in the Lord anymore. Not after everything that has happened to her – which is understandable and a natural course for her life to take. But without her religion, Kate really doesn’t seem to have any hope left. She’s lost her family and she’s lost her God.

Her religion is an aspect of her character is unique in a cast who don’t seem to be very religiously inclined – the Geckos don’t have any outward beliefs; her father’s faith has failed him; and her brother, while having been raised Christian, doesn’t seem to struggle with the same moral quandaries. In fact, Scott has a taste for killing. So Kate has to struggle with this loss herself, just as she had to deal with losing Jacob, seeing Scott turn to the antagonists, being continuously kidnapped and tormented, and being trapped inside her own body, by herself.
(I’m a little bitter for her).

I’m not going to talk about Kate and Richie much because they didn’t interact a lot towards the end of the series. Their moments happened in Season 1. I believe that she had a specific role to play when she was introduced in Season 1 in regards to Richie Gecko and, while she and Richie are still important to each other, I think that their roles have changed. Kate is still the only person who understood Richie while he was going through the chaos that Santanico wrought upon him, messing with his head and his moral compass. Richie is still the brother that was kinder to Kate while she and her family were held hostage; he argued with Seth for their freedom, talked to her about her mother, and was someone to share her grief with.  When Kate is killed by Carlos, she manages to speak to Richie and Scott one last time – and it truly seems like she’s given up on both her boys. Her words are furious and scathing; both are visibly affected by them.
Of course, Kate does care about Richie and he cares about her. I’m just not sure what to what extent they trust each other after the events of Season 3. Richie has shown multiple times that, while power is the most important thing to him, he also feels the need to protect Kate, so I don’t think their relationship is anything to scoff at. I believe that they have a pretty platonic relationship (yes, despite having kissed in Place of Dead Roads, because did you know that you can kiss someone but not develop intimate feelings for them? Crazy).

Towards the end, while Kate is taken over by Amaru, Richie fully believes that she still exists somewhere inside Kate’s possessed body, whereas Seth is ready to write her off as gone – but I interpreted that as Seth dealing with his grief in his own manner, which consists of picking yourself up off the ground and moving on with your life. Richie was ready to save her despite not knowing whether she had survived because he believes in the existence of Kate. I think with the bond they share, Richie and Kate can sort of see each other’s true selves and Richie knows how strong she is – but Seth needed proof that she was still there. He’s more of a pragmatic character. So both brothers have their own unique bond with Kate – Richie’s consists of overt affection. He’s the one who continues trying to talk to Kate like a normal person despite the Queen possessing her body. He’s the one that’s hesitant to shoot her. Seth, on the other hand, is the leader; he’s the one you can “trust to make the tough calls,” to quote Kate directly, and he does. Seth looks at Amaru/Kate and has to contemplate whether it’s worth dealing with all the destruction Amaru will wreak upon them to save Kate, and in the end, he decides that yeah, it is.  And this leads me to the discussion of two characters’ – Scott and Seth – relationships with Kate.

Scott is her younger brother and the only living family that Kate has left. Unfortunately, Scott goes kind of crazy with culebra blood-lust and power, and besides that, he joins up with Carlos – who himself is crazy with blood-lust and power. Even after seeing, and dealing with the horrible things that Scott puts her through, Kate refuses to give up on him. Every time he disappoints her, she puts a little more faith in him in hopes that next time, it will be different. Next time, she can save him.  And honestly, Scott puts her through some pretty horrific stuff, such as forcing her to kill an innocent man in order to complete a culebra ritual:

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This messes Kate up but again, she maintains her faith in Scott. That might sound stupid of her to do, but I truly believe that Kate’s love for her brother is what causes him to shift from the antagonistic side to that of the protagonists (well… lesser antagonists). And there’s a reason for her unconditional love for Scott, beside the fact that he’s her brother: in his dying moments, her father reminds her that Scott can be saved. That for every bad thing that Scott is told to do, a little more of him will wither away unless she is there to prop him back up. She is the rope pulling Scott to redemption, or at least, keeping him in place until he finds it in him to change for the better. And she wouldn’t be able to support him so devotedly if she didn’t truly believe that he has good intentions and a kind heart.

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via highsmith.tumblr

 

Changing Scott back into the familiar younger brother he was before is Kate’s goal all throughout Season 2; all she wants is her family to be together again. In the meantime, however, she’s accompanied by another broken-hearted character: Seth.

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that I really like Seth and Kate’s relationship. I know that there are people who ship them together, and I want to clarify that I’m very ambivalent about introducing romance into their twosome. I don’t want to discount the idea entirely, but right now at least, it seems like all the two share is a really intimate friendship. Not that this makes them closer or more distant than they would be if they were lovers: they’re family, for all intents and purposes, and both Seth and Kate would die for their family. And I do think that, by the end of Season 3, they would die for each other.
From the beginning, Seth has protected Kate. He physically keeps her behind him in most instances of danger – even in the very beginning, when she was a hostage, he holds her in a protective stance so that she won’t suffer a stray bullet while he has a shootout with the cops. He keeps her away from Richard, who recently murdered the bank teller, and tells his brother: “You don’t talk to her, don’t touch her.” The Twister’s temple has him holding her behind his back so that the culebras will get to him first, if that should occur; Season 2 introduces Seth robbing banks while Kate keeps up the image of an innocent missionary to the public. Seth keeps her safe behind the walls of the house, even watching out for her even when she doesn’t realize, such as in the instance of their landlord – soon discovered by him to be a culebra intent on getting to Kate – and who is quickly eliminated. He could tell her about the culebra landlord, teach her a lesson about being safer and more undercover, but Seth chooses not to. I think that he was trying to keep her from feeling paranoid again.

 

When creepy Tanner hits on her, or the weirdo outside the Twister tries to make a move on her, or when the Regulator attacks them, or when she wakes up as herself after Amaru leaves her body – Seth does his best to protect her. And that last GIF is a significant moment in the finale; when Kate strides past Amaru to walk into Hell, Seth pulls out his gun and tells her that if she takes one more step towards the gate, he’s going to “pop her knees”. He seems resigned; the world might end, but he’s not going to let Kate die again. Especially not like this.
Unfortunately, due to some impulsive choices and emotional issues, he isn’t there for her when it really matters, like when she needs some compassion after encountering the Regulator and while they’re on the run during the three months after Richie joins Santanico and Kate kills her father.  Or, you know, when she needs him to acknowledge the existence of culebras and he absolutely cannot. As big and bad and scary as Seth is, accepting that Richie is a culebra and Santanico is a culebra and that they are inextricably twined in the world of culebras is too much for him.
Factor that in with the fact that he is the reason her life was undone…
But in the world of FDTD, you may not forgive, but you have to forget and move on. That’s exactly what Kate does.

When Kate dies, Seth seems stricken. I know that with the death of a good friend, you would expect him to give up or to at least shed a few tears, but Seth continues with his work. Maybe this could be mistaken as his being unattached to her but we can quickly refute that idea with the evidence that Seth continuously brings her death up throughout the following episodes, (“This place is built on bad blood and the body of a dead kid.”)  and seems to hold both himself and Richie accountable for her passing. He’s also furious with Carlos, her murderer, and they have the following exchange (referencing Richie as the person who brought about Kate’s death):

 

And I mean, Seth and the others cut Carlos to pieces, seal him in separate bags and hide the pieces of his body across the land. So I would say that they avenged Kate as best as they could, yeah.
We do get a little tidbit of conversation which hints that Seth and Richie went looking for her body, which is good because I actually wondered whether they had done that after watching the Season 2 finale… or if they had just left her there for the vultures. But they looked for her at the bloodwell and they couldn’t find her because fortunately (I guess, unfortunately, considering the lasting damage of the event), Kate’s body is taken over by the spirit of the Xibalban Queen Amaru, and she is resurrected – but as the vessel of a psychopath. Amaru’s rejuvenation of her physical form must have triggered something, further because Kate’s soul survives and is forced to sit back and watch as Amaru creates chaos along the border, hunting her loved ones and killing innocents. Seth encounters Kate/Amaru, but seems determined to count her as dead and gone – Richie wants to find and rescue her, but Seth is adamant that “Kate” is no longer with them. I think this is his way of mitigating damage; if he doesn’t get his hopes up, he won’t be inevitably disappointed. But he’s not disappointed, because Kate is actually in there, and he encounters her several times. Each encounter takes a significant toll on him, both due to her tortured presence and accusations, plus the knowledge that it was his machinations which brought her to this point. When Kate is brought back for good, Amaru’s soul having mostly left her body, Seth seems loathe to put her in danger and lose her again. His protectiveness is exaggerated during these scenes and even Kate calls him out on it.

But one of my favorite scenes with these two during the Amaru plotline, is the exorcism of Kate Fuller.
When they discover that they might be able to save Kate and get rid of Amaru, but only through torture, Seth is reluctant. With coaxing from Dr. Tanner, however, he agrees to the act – if they can save Kate, it’s worth it. While it doesn’t exactly work out that way – Amaru’s spirit can endure more than Kate’s body can – it gives us this a very intimate scene between Kate and Seth. She manages to take control of her body for a few precious moments while Amaru is stunned by the pain, and Seth immediately recognizes her:

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via queckosfuller.tumblr

(the last three gifs are not pertinent to that particular scene but I can’t find any sets with only the exorcism, so enjoy a lil extra something.)
This is a high-stakes, emotional situation that I don’t think I have to go into too much. Seeing the gifs isn’t as impactful as watching the scene play out on its own, but I’m sorry, it’s the best I can do. Kate and Seth have a moment to themselves in which he apologizes for all the things he’s done to her; or maybe for the situation at hand. Either way, Kate does not forgive him, and her wept words leave him stunned.

Do I think that Seth and Kate have a romantic relationship, or one that brushes the line of romance?
No.
Not right now, anyways. Seth refers to her as “a little girl” and “kid” or “teenager” all the time, so I don’t think he would be able to face the moral repercussions of feeling anything beyond platonic affection for Kate in the first place. Some people have pointed out how much he calls her “Princess,” but Seth calls everyone “princess”. He calls Santanico “princess”.  I think he called someone else “princess,” though I can’t recall who, maybe Ximena or Lord Venganza, but yeah, it doesn’t seem like a nickname particular to Kate.

But also, regarding her youth, things have changed: as of the Season 3 finale, Kate has matured so much that I’m not sure you can discount her as a “little kid”. She was possessed by a Queen of Hell and driven along for a psychopath spree; afterwards, she killed the Queen by herself. She walked through Xibalba (Hell) and retrieved Richie. Even before that, she suffered heartbreak again and again at the hands of her brother, who turned their own father (whom she had to kill), murdered a friend of hers, and sunk further and further into the darkness despite her desperate attempts to save him. She was murdered in cold blood by a culebra. Kate has more than proven that she has all the requirements of being traumatized that goes with being an adult in the FDTD universe, despite her young age.

I have two suspicions: I believe that Kate was initially the embodiment of Richie’s “true-love”, throughout Season 1, but that as the writers fleshed her out, they decided to scrap the idea and let things manifest on their own. I also think that they’re fond of Seth and Kate, having physically stuck them together for a good majority of the show and also having focused so much on their relationship during the Amaru arc. Richie had his moments as well (please don’t burn me at the stake RichieKate shippers), but Seth and Kate had the whole “Amaru exorcism” scene, plus the scene where she fights Seth and Scott and nearly drains Seth of his soul because he drops his guard for a second. Also, the entire finale consists of Seth and Kate: Seth giving Kate his blood, Seth literally pulling her back from walking into places first in case a Xibalban decides to jump out at them, Seth threatening to pop Kate’s knees if she takes one more step towards the Gate to Hell, because if she goes in there, she dies. Seth and Kate’s conversation prior to their confrontation with Amaru, in which she blames him for not killing her when she asked and he demonstrates resentment at her request and also, regret for the events that have transpired ever since he kidnapped her.
I don’t think Kate is being seen as a side character any longer, which is amazing because Kate is amazing and Madison Davenport is an amazing actress; now she’s one of the main three, an idea which is reinforced by the visual of her sidling up alongside the Geckos during their latest heist.

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via sethkategifs.tumblr

My second suspicion is that Kate and Seth’s relationship is supposed to consist of the will-they-won’t-they dance. Their interactions take a wide range of turns: some are like an older brother to a younger sister, some are like a mom to a spoiled child, some are like a father to a daughter, sometimes they’re really good friends or partners in crime. Sometimes there’s a hint of something more. But none of that is clarified, on purpose, and I don’t know if what’s cropped up between them will ever be defined beyond “they’re family.”

A more interesting consideration is that I don’t think Kate forgave either of the Geckos for what they’ve done to her, her family, and her future.

I think I’ve said it enough times, but they were single-handedly responsible for bringing all this misfortune down upon them. Kate and Scott and Jacob were not involved in this wacky prophecy that seems to be dictating the Geckos lives; they’re bystanders pulled into a storm, and ended up becoming collateral damage. By the end of the show, Kate is with Richie and Seth, robbing banks. This is a leap from the sweet little Pastor’s daughter whom we met in Season 1, but as she states in the finale, “Everything has changed.”

I believe those three words extend not only to her relationship with Scott, but also to her relationship with the Geckos and with her existence, itself. Everything has changed. Amaru violated her most personal spaces. She used Kate to kill people, lots of people, and Kate was forced to watch everything happen. I think by now, Kate has for sure lost her faith in God, which was such a defining feature pf hers before everything happened, and without faith, she has no set path. She’s lost – and if there’s one thing I’ve garnered from watching the show, it’s that Kate has always been the most moral character. When her lines are blurred, what is she left with?

But I also don’t think that there’s no happy ending; while I personally believe that FDTD is tragedy for Kate, I’d also be stretching it to say that she’s completely alone. After all, she’s with the Geckos. I was worried for a few seconds until the last few minutes of the episode, when you see Kate arrive at the bank – so you know they didn’t just leave her in Matanzas, Texas. I think that being with people will help, although I’m not sure that either brother is mentally or emotionally stable enough to support her recovery. But hopefully we will see. I’m banking on there being a fourth season because the show wasn’t canceled, I’m pretty sure? The actors were released from their contracts but with director Robert Rodriguez, who has such an integral part to this show, focusing on his new movie and El Rey Network pushing some of their other original shows, I’m hoping that they’re just giving FDTD a break and taking some time to work on a really good Season 4 to wrap up the story. There was a post-credits season in the Season 3 finale… maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I want to see more of post-Amaru Kate and how she mends her relationships with the rest of the crew. Also seeing Richie figure out what he’s meant for (because apparently he has his fingers in a lot of pies) and Seth reconciling with Kate (which I don’t think will be a problem for Richie, but idk, if I were Seth, I honestly would be a little hesitant). As well as seeing what on earth happened to Adrian Tanner, who was left in Xibalba, and how the Ranger is doing now that his family is back together. Although honestly, I’m sure he’s fine. But something would probably screw it up again. Santanico is also a question with a capital Q. A Question. What’s she doing now that the culebras are freed? And Carlos, where did he go? And in the Season 3 finale, it seemed like the culebras were walking in the sun with no consequence, so what’s up with that? I have a lot of questions, still.

One last thing I want to mention is that you’re probably (if you reached this point) going “Geez, would you stop talking about how traumatized she is? You’re being dramatic, it wasn’t that bad. Also, she seemed totally fine with the Geckos at the end, so…” but I would like to draw your attention to the song played in the credits scene: Monsters, by Madison Davenport. That’s right, Kate’s brilliant actress is also a talented singer, and I’m pretty sure that Monsters directly pertains to the FDTD Universe since it was composed particularly for this season.
I interpreted Monsters as being a sort of epilogue – a way to express the way Kate is post-Season-3. I’m going to post a few of the song’s lyrics – they’re a bit repetitive, so I’m not posting the whole thing, but:

 

I wanna run away and hide
But every single time I try
My mind would play tricks on me
And it would not let me be.

Monsters, under my bed.
Monsters, inside my head.
I tell them, go away –
But they say they’re here to stay.

Monsters
I can’t keep them in my head.

You left without saying your goodbyes
But how would you have looked me in my eyes?
How did I ever trust someone like you?
After all the shit you put me through.

 

please. tell me that’s not pertinent.

That first two stanzas seems to reflect Kate’s current state of being; afraid and lost and angry. Her head’s still in a bad place – understandable, because, you know, she was possessed by a Queen of Hell, and all of this after she got shot twice in the stomach and killed. Her memories probably haunt her, especially the ones of all the lives she took. Kate isn’t a natural-born killer, nor does she seem to acquaint to it like most of the rest of the FDTD cast.

I believe that the last stanza is a reproachful comment on her relationship to both the Geckos, but also perhaps Scott. All three of them broke her trust; Richie and Seth dragged her into these awful situations in the first place, Scott was her family but abandoned her for power, and despite her doing everything she could to save them – empathizing with Richie and becoming his friend in Season 1, only to have him join the culebras; the same thing happening with Scott, who assists the man who murders her; and Seth, abandoning her on the side of the road after she spends three long months getting close to him and helping him do his drugs and of them taking care of each other. None of them were able to put her out of her misery while she had been taken over by Amaru, not even Seth, whom she specifically begged. Her boys have failed her repeatedly.
So I think that last stanza is Kate’s perspective on her relationships right now. As of Season 3’s finale, she’s angry and tired and alone, despite being surrounded by people, which is a particularly painful brand of loneliness.

Also, I’m pretty sure the girl has PTSD.

Geez, this ended up being long but I’m just so amazed by the amount of attention paid to Kate Fuller and the relationships that the characters have with each other in this series. Of course, actress Madison Davenport brought Kate to life (and brilliantly), but I really have to commend the writers for giving her an equally important role in the story as the Gecko brothers, and the director for putting so much focus on her. I’ve rarely encountered female characters who are as nuanced as Kate – compassionate and soft, but unforgiving and driven, empty and traumatized but willing to sacrifice everything for the people she has left.

I’m going to wrap it up here and continue hoping for a Season 4 where we get to see more of the Geckos, Fullers, Tanner (as much as he creeps me out), the Ranger, Santanico and the culebras, and everyone else. Thank you so much for reading this and the rest of the blog and for sticking through until the end because this is a massive blog post, I know. Probably my longest one yet. So I should stop typing now.

🙂

Update!

I’m on Twitter! Check me out at @summerpratbooks / here!

 

Thank you guys for following me ❤ I love being able to blog about books and stuff, and I’m glad y’all care to read my posts! I have another one coming soon – a bit different and super long. I hope you enjoy it!

The Best Friend / I Miss Him So Much: Ally Williams

Sorry for the long hiatus, but I’m finally back.

Over the winter break, I had some time to read The Best Friend and its prequel (which was released separately, but it’s so short that I’m just gonna add it to this review), I Miss Him So Much, by Ally Williams. Both books center around the relationship between Elsie and Hayden, our aforementioned “best friends”. Elsie, however, is and has been desperately in love with Hayden since very early on in their relationship. Obviously, Hayden does not know about this – he happens to fall in love quickly and constantly, so Elsie’s heart is repeatedly broken.

Our story (TBF) starts off during their senior year. Elsie’s just about had it with this relationship: Hayden continuously ignores her in favor of his girlfriend of the week, as exemplified by his dropping their plans together and absconding from their hang-outs at the buzz of a text. Elsie is stood up by him twice, I think? In that first chapter alone. And she’s miserable. Ms. Williams is great at describing emotions and really tugs at your heart, but also… there was a part of me going “really Elsie? You’re going to keep crying but then run back to him at the drop of a hat? smh dude” And that pattern continues for the rest of the story. Elsie puts her faith in Hayden. Hayden messes up really badly. Elsie cries. Hayden continuously texts her and begs for forgiveness. Elsie reluctantly forgives him. He coddles her for a month or so and then the cycle begins again.

So I’m not sure what this book means to be about, but I construed it as being about a toxic relationship. A really toxic relationship, because Elsie is fully invested in Hayden, who is flaky, narcissistic, and demonstrates very manipulative and possessive behavior. He doesn’t seem like a predator or an abuser, but he definitely has some deep-set issues and he’s dragging her down with him.

Elsie is… not my favorite. While she’s self-aware, she doesn’t do anything about her situation. She wallows in her misery and literally is at Hayden’s beck and call, despite all the stuff he’s pulled on her. She recognizes his pattern of manipulation, yet does nothing to break free from it. And this is the pattern of someone who is being abused, but… also, aside from that, she has no personality or character outside of her devotion to Hayden. She’s just a sad girl.

But maybe I’m being too harsh. There was definitely character development and I enjoyed reading her perspective on the issue. Elsie brings a human element to the table; she’s the star of her own tragedy. Hayden is just the perpetrator.

I guess that my main problem with this story is that the main character’s spinelessness is kind of unbelievable. She doesn’t buckle down and move on from the toxicity until the very end of the book; but I recognize that my judgement is extremely subjective and biased. I’m looking at the book and thinking about how I would have reacted – I’m quick to anger, so if I were in the same situation, the novel would have been about two chapters long. Elsie is extremely forgiving, so of course, she reacts differently. Still, I can’t help but think that she’s not setting a great example for young female readers.

Overall, the book was a bit slow and I did end up skipping some of the passages. While Elsie’s self-pitying was understandable, intriguing, even, at the beginning, it got very repetitive towards the end. And before I forget, I want to add that while I liked Elsie’s character development – she does stand up for herself in the end, although after the very worst has happened – Hayden is two-dimensional. He’s the archetype of a romance-novel love interest, and has no depth beyond that. I Miss Him So Much contains one chapter in his point of view, where he sort of justifies why he doesn’t go after Elsie but it’s… a very weak argument. And he recognizes that he hurts her consistently, and that he treats her badly, but… he doesn’t really do much beyond talking about how much he hates himself? Hayden has issues he needs to resolve. They do sort of skim over his anger problems – he punches a mirror and that doesn’t bode well for his fists – but Ms. Williams doesn’t expand on that at all. Ultimately, I was rooting for Elsie, which is what I expect she wanted, but it was only because Hayden had no personality beyond being a sappy playboy.

I Miss Him So Much is a prequel, which recounts the events of a short vacation Ally’s remaining family takes with Hayden’s family follow the death of Ally’s father. I loved that we got to read more about Ally dealing with her grief and trying to come to terms with the realization that her father will no longer be around for her, and will miss all these experiences that she’ll partake in, in the future. Unfortunately, Hayden is part of that mix. He’s just his usual jerk self, so I won’t bother listing all the ways in which he’s a grade-A douchebag, but as I mentioned before, we do get to read one chapter in his perspective. So that’s interesting, I guess.

I did enjoy reading both books, and they were easy reads. There weren’t any complicated plot devices and ultimately, what made me give The Best Friend two, rather than one star on Goodreads, was the ending – which I don’t want to spoil. But it’s a good wrap-up and really resolves the matter of Elsie’s lack of grit. I don’t know if I’d recommend these books, but have a go if you’re interested in tragedies and love stories.

 

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Spoilers, of course. It’s been a while but I’ve hardly had time to breathe this last semester, much less focus on writing.

I did get to play Death of the Outsider, which is the latest Dishonored installment (and you all know how much I love Dishonored). DOTO follows Billie Lurk, aka Meagan Foster, aka the alias of the Whaler-turned-Witch, accomplice to the murder of Jessamine Kaldwin and betrayer of Daud. Canonically, Daud allowed Billie to live and she fled out of shame, taking to the sea and spending her days on The Dreadful Wale until she encounters the dethroned Emily Kaldwin, angry and vengeful and trying to get her father back. Fun fact, did you know that Dreadful Wale is an anagram for Farewell Daud? I love that.

So all of this happens before DOTO, which takes place after Emily is empress again and Billie is back on the seas, minus Sokolov. She’s out looking for Daud, who she soon finds trapped in a fighting ring, and quickly rescues. The first mission of the game is rescuing Daud which was fantastic because Daud is, by far, my favorite character in the Dishonored universe. Also, you play this mission without powers, so that was a fun time. You are reintroduced to Cyria, a district in Karnaca, where a gang called “the Eyeless” have taken residence. The Eyeless are worshipers of the Outsider (who dismisses them as “unhinged”) and Billie finds herself facing off against them several times throughout the game. But that’s for later discussion.

So you find Daud and that’s when the whole death-of-the-Outsider thing comes into play. Daud is old. He’s no longer the sprightly assassin that he once was, though that’s a terrible way to phrase it because Daud is, in all honesty, terrifying. He wants Billie to kill the Outsider so that no more “monsters” like him will crop up in the Dishonored universe. He believes that if the Outsider were eradicated, it would be the end of all general corruption. The Outsider, apparently, is solely to blame for everything dark and wrong. The Outsider is the reason Daud killed all those people.
This is where I was a bit… eh.
So, here’s the thing. Throughout Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches DLCs, which were extensions of the very first Dishonored game, we play as Daud. It’s the first time that he is introduced, and he’s reeling from the fact that he murdered and empress, made a mistake, and basically sent the whole kingdom spiraling downwards. Daud acknowledges his responsibility – it was his lack of foresight and impulsiveness that led to this issue. He repents because he knows that the whole thing is his fault.
DOTO seems to erase this version of Daud and replace him with one much more… scapegoat-y. Suddenly the Outsider is to blame. And while you listen to him trying to make a case for his conclusion, you aren’t convinced because it’s a very flimsy argument. I felt, at least, that there was no way to see it from Daud’s point of view because his point of view made no sense. He believed that if the Outsider was killed, it would be the end of evil itself.

What happened to the Daud that took responsibility?

I still loved him, though, and I’m also a little miffed that his death was off-screen. Are you serious? Daud, the great assassin, the Knife of Dunwall, nightmare-incarnate Daud passes away on a boat in the middle of the ocean. What. It was so anticlimactic and so undeserving. Seriously, I would have understood if he’d had a terrible death– I hoped that he would die trying to redeem himself by saving Billie or something of the sort, but nope. The Outsider just mentions that he knows Daud’s body is on the boat and Billie’s like “no way he can’t be dead.” Sorry Billie. He dead.

So yeah. Was not happy with the direction of Daud in this game. Let me talk about something I liked, though: if you read my review for Dishonored 2, you’ll have read that whole rant about the replacement of Billy Lush as the Outsider. I’m still sad that Mr. Lush was let go, but I don’t know if maybe I’m more used to Robin Lord Taylor’s voice or if he grew more comfortable in the role, but he was much, much better in DOTO. He didn’t annoy me, I didn’t feel like I had to skip through the cut-scenes. I will say that I ignored him while he was talking during the small monologues given when Billie discovers a hollow, but I liked him more in this game.

I’m sad that there was no mention of Corvo, and barely any mention of Emily. They’re both such huge players in this game. Where did they go?? Also, I realized something while I was playing DOTO: I didn’t really Emily Kaldwin in Dishonored 2. She was an empty character. She barely reacted to things and there was hardly any emotion in her dialogue or performance. I think it may have been the fault of both the writers and the voice actress– while Emily’s voice was lovely, it was lacking anything human. For example, when she discovers Alexi Mayhew’s body, it’s just a “hmm that’s too bad, I liked you Alexi, you were a good soldier.” and that’s it. And barely a reaction to Corvo being turned into stone. Look, maybe she wouldn’t have been hysterical because she’s an empress and all that, but come on: her father was turned into stone. One of her close, childhood friends is slaughtered and dies in front of her eyes. I’d expect a little more than stone-faced acceptance. She wasn’t relatable.

ENOUGH about Dishonored 2 haha. I got way off track there. So let me, again, talk about what I liked: there is so much content for a thirty-dollar game! The levels have multiple ways that you can complete them, the main characters are pretty fleshed out and interesting, the world-building is as fantastic as usual. I had a fun time exploring Cyria again and it was really cool to see the aftermath of Dishonored 2 in play: visiting the Royal Conservatory again, while the Overseers and the Oracular Order are rifling through and destroying anything heretical, was really really cool. Also, the last level was amazing– getting to see the Void and the world combined, and the creepy Envisioned, made for a great atmosphere. It reminded me a lot of Outlast 2. I am a bit sad that the chaos system wasn’t used for this installment, but on the other hand, I can play Billie the assassin, without regret.

I read somewhere that you were supposed to play as Daud and honestly, I would have really loved to see the game from his perspective. But I’m also glad that we got to know more about Billie, who’s kind of a tragic figure in the games. She doesn’t make very good decisions, but in the end, the pieces fall into their places.

Also, I loved the neutral ending and all of its implications. The Outsider is mortal. The Void is leaking into reality. What does this mean for Dunwall, Karnaca, Serkonos, and their residents? What will Emily and Corvo do when they find out that the Outsider walks this earth as a mere mortal? What will happen to the void now that it has no entity to hold it together? What happens to the Outsider’s cult? Will they recognize their leader on land? What if they try to do something about it? I have so many questions and I hope that we get answers in the next installment!

Overall, I would highly recommend Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, especially considering the $30 (and less, now) price tag! It’s a beautifully made game, the levels are fun, the powers are super cool, Billie and Daud are bittersweet, and the atmosphere is so immersive. I really enjoyed it and I hope you will too!