The Negative Reader

Drinking Tea and Trashing Books

My Internet is working again and I’m ready to take some pot shots.

Welcome back everyone! In our last chapter we met Zoey, her ‘friend’ Kayla, who mostly vanished from the plot afterwards, and Zoey was turned into a vampire. She also whined a great deal. In this chapter we are taught that men and fundamentalist Christians are all evil!

How’s that for tolerance?

So after Zoey is through looking at herself in the mirror, she waits around for everyone to be gone and then heads for her car. The moment that she heads outside, the sun starts the bother her.

Now, this isn’t a bad representation of the reason for the stories about why vampires around supposed to stand sunlight. Unfortunately, according to my research, there is actually nothing in folklore that actively talks about this. It’s mostly just there as an explanation for why vampires were only seen at night, but the folklore itself never even mentioned it.

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So, yeah. I wrote a Capstone that talked a lot about vampires. I learned stuff. Most of what we talk about in fiction is trash.

So, as Zoey is making a break for it, she runs into Heath in a scene that could actually be amusing or interesting if we didn’t have to hammer in the fact that everyone other than Zoey is either stupid or terrible (as long as they’re human).

Also, I’m going to point out something that the Casts do right: cellphones exist. While this doesn’t seem like such a big deal, a lot of YA writers seem to forget that cellphones do in fact exist. For instance, having Bella Swan not texting Edward in New Moon and saying ‘hey im not ded lol’ or something. So, kudos to the Casts for actually being aware of the existence of cellphones and using them the way that people actually would.

This is going to be one of the few times when I give them credit for anything unironically.

Heath is sitting in the back of a friend’s pickup trunk, drinking with them and for some reason no teacher has noticed this even though there on school grounds and in plain sight. Having been a teacher, the sheer illegality would have magnetically attracted someone eventually. Probably the officer. Still, somehow, no one has showed up.

In Zoey-land, people seem to do this all the time with no real problem.

So, Zoey tells Heath off for being insane enough to drink right outside of the school, and Heath replies that he is “crazy, ‘bout you, baby” (12) which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, and Zoey asks why they aren’t at football practice and is told that it’s canceled due to a victory the night before.

Football doesn’t work that way.

You idiot.

The next question would naturally be if there wasn’t a better place to drink, but Zoey mentions being sick, and Heath suddenly veers the conversation off in a different direction entirely as if he didn’t hear the whole ‘sick’ thing. Possibly so that the Casts can spring this on him in a slightly more dramatic way than noticing that Zoey has a Mark and flipping out.

So, instead, out of nowhere, comes this quote:

“Zo, really. Are you pissed or somethin’? Like, did Kayla say some shit about the party? You know I didn’t really cheat on you.” (12)

I thought that he wasn’t your boyfriend, Zoey? I didn’t realize that ‘almost boyfriends’ had to be exclusive to you even though you clearly aren’t committed.

Also, I love the implication that this behavior is just normal and acceptable.

Zoey flips out since it’s obvious that he did in fact cheat on her since apparently she doesn’t have to be exclusive but others do, and in her rage, and her Mark becomes visible. Heath at first reacts normally for a person. He basically is in denial and tries to find a way around it, suggesting that this is something for drama.

Of course, he manages to ruin it when Zoey denies that it’s for drama.

 “But you can’t be Marked. We’re going out.” (13)

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Being that this doesn’t follow anything that any human being with two brain cells to rub together would say, I feel slightly insulted that that is the best that the Casts can do to make me think that Heath is an unworthy candidate for Zoey’s affections. Now, this could be written off as the fact that Heath is both very drunk and panicking so he is just saying stupid stuff, but we know it’s not.

Zoey responds that they’re not going out (Then why are you whining about some other girl trying to get his attention or his ‘cheating’? Either you are going out, and thus another people trying to make out with your boyfriend is not acceptable, or you are not exclusive and thus you have no grounds for whining \~/) and starts coughing. The stupid conversation continues since the guys say that she needs to stop smoking. This weird little detour exists for us the readers to know that, as Heath so eloquently puts it: “She don’t smoke. She’s a vampire” (13).

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Who talks like this? I mean it. I don’t care how drunk Heath is. No one talks like this. This is a just a really, really awkward infodump that exists to tell us that Zoey is a good girl who doesn’t smoke or drink, so she’s Just Like You. And that Heath isn’t good enough for Zoey.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a heroine who’s a good girl. There really isn’t. What’s wrong with this is how it’s being done. A good girl doesn’t mean that you have to show off how good you are by having every other character in the entire work be stupidly bad.

Also, this is another very frequent theme of these kinds of books. The Cast ladies do not like weed. At. All. They will halt the narrative as a way to tell you how little that they like weed and have a PSA about how smoking pot will ruin your life completely. I don’t really get the fixation, honestly. Regardless of my feelings on the legalization of marijuana, this kind of way of dealing with it is terrible.

Novels are not soapboxes. You cannot use them to preach your world view unless you are very good at it, and even then it has to somehow have baring on the plot as a whole. The Casts, on the other hand, are under the impression that they can just bring the entire narrative to a screeching halt just so that they can talk about what ever ‘kids these days’ are doing that they personally find wrong.

So, moving right along, Zoey, regardless of the fact that she was whining about how Kayla was acting like all the other stupid people and avoiding her, whines about the fact that Heath actively defends her.

Make up your mind, Zoey.

The friends, who have names but aren’t really worth recounting, call Zoey a freak and suddenly all the ‘anger and pain’ from Kayla’s shying away her bubble up and she tells them to go away, dropping a few f-bombs along the way.

Keep that in mind for later.

She flips out and starts screaming at all of Heath’s friends, scaring them, gets a rush of power from essentially tormenting someone who is, canonically, weaker than her, and only Heath serves to snap her out of it.

The dudes in the truck leave and in their hurry, Heath manages to fall out of the truck, making him bleed. Zoey, manages to have the basic human decency to run over to help him, but then she smells.

hot and sweet and delicious. (14)

and she gets the bright idea that it’s cologne, since the Cast ladies don’t want to admit that she’s attracted to blood just yet and seem to think that the readers are stupid. Now, later on, the Cast ladies say that most baby vampires aren’t attracted to blood until much later, and Zoey is maturing quickly. However, at this point, she’s just another fledgling. So, this is actually a world building error. \~/

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Moving along, the blood is apparently so very sexy that both Heath and Zoey start getting turned on by it, and Heath admits that he’s in love with Zoey and he wants to get back together (they’ve not been together?), and Zoey admits that they’ve been making out together for over a year.

Now, the Casts are being ambiguous about Zoey’s relationship for good reason. For whatever reason, it seems to be an unofficial rule that the heroine cannot have been in serious relationships before the story begins. While never having been in a relationship is the best, having some non-serious ones can be ok. I guess that it’s not true love if you’ve liked someone before or something. Yet, the Casts also want to show that there is nothing wrong with dating multiple men, so they are…confused.

Since Zoey is about to make out with eat have sex with eat Heath, Heath’s friends suddenly drive by and get him, call Zoey a freak again and vanish from the series, never to be seen again. Wave goodbye to them, everyone. Their literary existence was brief and pointless.

Zoey is hurt and goes into her bug. I actually want to mention this. Zoey’s bug is vintage. Most parents would never allow their sixteen year old to drive in a vintage car without airbags. Particularly not a vintage car that is actually worth a good deal if it is in good condition. This is, while a good attempt to try to give Zoey quirks, not acknowledging the reality of the situation. Particularly not when Zoey is supposed to be ‘abused’. With that kind of car, she sounds like a spoiled rich girl who is complaining that her mommy didn’t buy her enough.

So, we get a break, and Zoey has arrived at the house. She wangsts about knowing what’s about to come, and the fact that she suddenly has realized that she was attracted to Heath’s blood and then we get into the joys of Zoey’s family.

Zoey mentions with plenty of spite that Sister is probably at cheerleading practice and brother is playing Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. Amusingly enough, Zoey treats this like it is the most violent game to ever be made when it was rated a T when it came out. At least if the Casts want to take the ‘gaming is evil’ route, they could bring in Grande Theft Auto or something that actively contains content which is honestly not really appropriate for a middle school kid, rather than the simple “Um ew” which Zoey seems to think is explanation enough.

Look Zoey, I know that you don’t have hobbies, but there’s no reason to be jealous of other people’s.

Mommy is sitting in the living room reading Chicken Soup for a Woman’s Soul (which should actually be the Woman’s Soul) like a good stereotypical Christian woman. Zoey whines a little about how her mom used to be cool, read ‘exotic romances’ and wear make-up but now her husband won’t let her.

I’m not sure if Zoey is referring to novels set in exotic places or porn. I’m going to assume those porny Harlequin romances with the half-naked dude holding the chick on the front, and John basically said that it was trash.

So, she calls her mom, Mommy is busy reading until Zoey refers to her as ‘mama’. Which is probably supposed to be endearing, and she looks up and asks what’s wrong and refers to Zoey as ‘baby’.

This really doesn’t make sense since Zoey is canonically the middle child, but whatever.

So, since we are supposed to hate Mommy, the first words out of her mouth when she sees the mark is

“Oh, God. What have you done now?” (17)

Please note the victim blaming and reference to God’s name in vain. I’m sure the Casts think that this is very clever and are very proud of themselves for coming up with this on their own.

We get a rather pointless comment from Zoey about how it was done to her, and Mommy is too busy flipping out about what her father is going to say to notice.

This prompts Zoey, rather than to focus on the topic at hand, to give us an info dump.

I wanted to scream how the hell would any of us know what my father was going to say, (comma splice) we haven’t seen or heard from him for fourteen years! But I knew it wouldn’t do any food, and it always just made her mad when I reminded her that John was not my “real” father. So I tried a different tactic—one I’d given up on three years ago. (17)

Then why are you doing it if you know that it’s going to fail?

This also is a very awkward way to tell us that Zoey’s father is gone from her life. One of the reasons for it is because the Casts are trying to give as much information as possible in a very short amount of time, and in doing so, they’re making their dialog and their scenes weak. This information isn’t important to the scene, nor does it really come up much. It should have been given passingly later. We are already aware that Zoey has a stepfather. That is enough at the moment.

The tragic thing that Zoey has given up on asking her mother is simply not to tell her father. Which, when considering the fact that she’s going to die unless she goes to the House of Night, makes no sense whatsoever. Mommy points out that it can’t be hidden, and then Zoey points out just what I did, but lacks the awareness that her absence would likely be noted.

Mommy has no idea what to do, and then we have one decent section in this mess of a scene.

I felt a rush of fear at the panic in her voice. Wasn’t she the mom? Wasn’t she supposed to have the answers instead of the questions? (18)

Now, this is, for YA, a good idea. We have an instability. Zoey is a child and has thus always depended on her mother at some level. Suddenly, she’s dropped in the situation where she has to see that parents are fallible. However, this is weakened by the fact that we’re told from the beginning that Zoey and her mother have problems and that Zoey is fairly independent. This realization should have already happened.

Mommy (who still doesn’t have a first name at this point) completely derails the conversation and accuses Zoey of wanting her to lie to Hubby. Again, this is trying very hard to make Zoey sympathetic, but doesn’t follow the path of a human conversation.

This isn’t to say that you can’t show tremendous tension between a mother and daughter at the start of a book. For instance Dorothy Must Die gets into a conversation about how the mother sees her daughter as a parasite early on, but it follows a natural progression where the mother is talking to someone else but then clearly hints that this applies to her daughter. This following any kind of progression at all. It’s jumping around, Zoey is abandoning her voice as Mama Cast takes over, and it reads off.

So, Zoey says that she wants her mother to “be her mama” (18) and drive her to the school, and her mother gets annoyed about how Zoey is implying that she doesn’t act in the capacity for a mother. I would be getting annoyed by the fact that my sixteen year old daughter calls me ‘mama’.

“I think that’s the problem, Mom. You don’t care enough to be aware of it. You haven’t cared about anything but John since you married him.” (18-19)

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Now, this is a heavy accusation, and the natural reaction would be anger on the mother’s part. Even if she was like this, and there’s really no way to tell, since we’re locked in Zoey’s head. Of course, if you actually look through it, it’s all heading back to the fact that John the fundie, is evil. Because he’s a man, and he’s religious for the wrong religion.

But we’re going to meet John later.

Of course, rather than being angry, Mommy gives the most pathetic justification ever, which doesn’t even answer accusation. She’s been able to quit her job at Dillard’s, and now they have a nice house and bright futures.

This would be great other than the fact that it is the wrong response to the statement. This is a response to ‘why did you marry him’.

Of course, Zoey’s isn’t much better. She claims that she hasn’t paid any attention to her kids for years and

“Did you know that your oldest daughter has turned into a sneaky, spoiled slut who’s screwed half the football team? Do you know what nasty, bloody video games Kevin keeps hidden from you? No, of course you don’t! The two of them act happy and pretend to like John and the whole damn make-believe family thing, so you smile at them and pray for them and let them do whatever. And me? You think I’m the bad one because I don’t pretend—because I’m honest. You know what? I’m so sick of my life that I’m glad that the Tracker Marked me! They call that vampyre school the House of Night, but it can’t be any darker than this perfect home!” (19)

I’m actually going to take this apart piece by piece.

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“Did you know that your oldest daughter has turned into a sneaky spoiled slut who’s screwed half the football team?”

Again, we are seeing the Casts and their weird idea of feminism. Note how Oldest Daughter (who I’m going to call Tiffany) doesn’t even have a name? Tiffany is just there to show how good Zoey is. Also, given that later on in the books, it’s clear the Casts have no problems with sex outside of marriage, there is literally no reason to go after Tiffany. They’re desperately trying to make John and Mom (who doesn’t get a name either) into hypocrites or just being neglectful, but honestly Zoey’s the real hypocrite considering her later actions.

“Do you know what nasty, bloody video games Kevin keeps hidden from you?”

Again, what’s with the video game hate? This just strikes me as Zoey and the Casts demonizing something that they don’t like. The only game mentioned has been Black Hawk Down, which is, as I said, rated T. If it was higher rated, Mommy or John would have had to show their IDs for the kid to buy anything. This honestly reads like something from the eighties or nineties when people thought that video games caused violence and Satanism rather than the 2000s.

“No, of course you don’t! The two of them act happy and pretend to like John and the whole damn make-believe family thing.”

Maybe, from the fact that Tiffany and Keven seem to have hobbies and are doing something, they actually are pretty happy with their lives. After all, there is nothing but the word of Zoey to prove otherwise. They even took on John’s last name.

Could be that Zoey’s honestly the odd one out here

“so you smile at them and pray for them and let them do whatever.”

As someone who was raised close to a lot of very conservative Christians (Halloween is the Devil’s birthday types), this usually doesn’t happen. Particularly not since, later, it’s seen that John is in fact very serious about religion.

While I don’t care if they’re going to show problems within ultra conservative families, this is just a strawman argument, made because that Casts don’t like fundamentalist Christians (or maybe Mormons).

(It’s hard to tell just which group the Casts are taking pot shots at.)

“And me? You think I’m the bad one because I don’t pretend—because I’m honest. You know what? I’m so sick of my life that I’m glad that the Tracker Marked me!”

And know we finally get to the meat of the matter. This is the core of Zoey’s little rant right here. Now Zoey can run off to frolic with the vampires with no guilt whatsoever for leaving her family and never thinking about them again because they were Bad. Now, this isn’t always a bad tactic, but here, it’s spelled out so clearly that it’s honestly kind of pathetic.

“They call that vampyre school the House of Night, but it can’t be any darker than this perfect home!”

No.

Zoey seems to be under the pitiful impression that growing up with a stepfather who is strict on her makes her abused, and makes this home ‘dark’. I’m sure that we’re supposed to agree and sympathize with her.

In reality, all she sounds like is a spoiled, bratty little girl who can’t get over the fact that her mother remarried and life is going fine and this whole rant is a big “He’s not my real dad! How dare you not think about my feelings 24/7 and try to live your own life and be happy, Mom!”

The reason is simple: We have been given, at this point, no concrete thing to make us sympathize with Zoey. There has been no sign that Zoey is deprived of anything. There is no sign that her father has been anything other than strict. Her mother seems content with changing. Regardless of the comment that her husband doesn’t ‘allow’ make-up and porn, it might be a jerk thing to do, she seems to be alright with it, and there is no mention of any fights or anything else around it. Also, unfortunately, we never see him say these things. We just hear Zoey claim it, and Zoey could easily be unreliable. She’s clearly biased.

At this point, Zoey doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, and there is nothing here to show that she is actually abused.

If anything, she seems like she is abusing her mother.

And, to prove this, rather than actually try to work things out, she runs out in a huff, slams the door of her room and listens to emo music wishes her family would all drown.

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You know, I’d love to see something from the other family members. Like somehow Zoey’s unbalanced or something, and this actually is a happy family, but the point of darkness is actually her.

So, after wishing death on her family for daring to try to be happy by doing things that she doesn’t like, Zoey whines about her mother calling John and calling her ‘hysterical’. I shudder to think what my parents would have done to me if I had behaved like this.

So, the mood abruptly switches with no mention of what happened, and Zoey starts worrying about the only thing that is actually important: her. I’m starting to believe that Zoey is a psychopath.

She dumps her school bag out, since she’s going to the House of Night and isn’t going to need it, and they probably have classes like “Ripping Peoples Throats Out 101” (19-20) which doesn’t have an apostrophe for some reason, and proceeds to pack, taking two black T-shirts because cliché, two pairs of jeans, one cami, and “tons of bras and thongs and hair and make-up things” (20).

Sounds to me like Tiffany isn’t the only one who gets away with wearing what she wants.

We get a good detail in the form of Otis the Shish, a stuffed fish that she doesn’t want to sleep without. I honestly really like this detail, since it is the only possession of Zoey’s that gives any indication that she has a personality. Otis is never going to show up again, so don’t worry too much about her having a personality.

At this point John (who is referred to as it by Zoey) has arrived and calls her down.

Zoey “squares her shoulders, coughed again, and went out to face the enemy” (21).

In our next chapter, we will see more tolerance of religions that the Casts do not subscribe to, and…that’s really about it.

Until next time, everyone.

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