The Negative Reader

Drinking Tea and Trashing Books

Did you miss me?

Welcome back everyone. Last chapter, nothing much happened. We had Zoey be a twit to her boyfriend (?) and her mother and pack a bunch of thongs while shaming her brother for a hobby that she doesn’t like and her sister for…essentially doing what Zoey wants to do.

This chapter does less.

I would like to apologize to all Christians, Conservatives and everyone who hates strawman arguments.

We start out with Zoey spending a paragraph to claim that while on first glance, John Heffer (who has a name which Zoey, our pinnacle of maturity, just has to make fun of) seems good looking, he’s really not. Zoey also mentions that before they were married, Mommy’s friends called him handsome, but now that they’re married, Mommy doesn’t hang out with them because John doesn’t like it.

Or maybe they just didn’t have a lot in common anymore. That sometimes happens. Yes, I’m being the devil’s advocate here. Because no one ever bothers to challenge Zoey’s POV.

Particularly since Zoey flat says that she never liked him.

This is what people mean when they say ‘show don’t tell’. When we have Zoey telling us that John is an awful person, but so far we don’t have any actions of his to go by, it weakens Zoey’s narrative and actually makes it possible for her to be an unreliable narrator. After all, for all we know she is either wrong or lying, since we have no evidence either way.

I personally think that this is just laziness on Mommy Cast’s part, since she knows better. A lot of YA writers who also write for adults seem to think that they can get away with terrible work simply because of the fact that it’s YA, and apparently teenagers are stupid.

We don’t get much description of John. Only that he looks like most middle aged men

“has dark hair, skinny chicken legs, and is getting a gut. His eyes are like his soul, a washed out brownish color.” (21)

At least he has one, Zoey.

Adding to her current charming behavior, Zoey mentions how her mother is sitting on the couch next to him, clearly having been crying, and whines about how she’s “going to play Hurt Hysterical Mother.” (21)


Or maybe, you know, she’s upset by the horrible things that you said to her before storming upstairs and wishing death upon them.

It was pointed out to me last chapter that one of the problems with this entire situation is that this belongs later in the book (or even the series). Personally, I agree. Had we had signs throughout a book that this was happening, Zoey being ignored and even casually mistreated for no reason. The other siblings basically playing their parts, hiding just how miserable that they were for their mother’s sake. People pressuring Zoey to put up the façade. Every time that their mother grew a spine, John shutting her down. And then, towards the end, Zoey just explodes. It would actually be very satisfying.

Honestly, if we played it that way, the Casts could get away with a lot of Zoey’s horrific behavior as it would underlie a lot of deeper problems that she has. Then again, that would actually require them to realize what a little brat that Zoey is being in this scene, and they honestly seem to think that I should be feeling sympathy for her.

If we wanted to talk about the problems of being raised in a household that you don’t share the beliefs of, it could have been interesting. Say that Zoey is questioning her faith the entire time, feeling awkward when they go to church, not really sure what she believes, wondering if what she is seeing is even right, not really able to just pretend for her family’s sake, but still loving them. It could have honestly been a testament to problems that people actually go through. Rather than some power fantasy for two women who I’m pretty sure never experienced this.

The problem is that the Casts want to rush through all of Zoey’s family so that they can get to the House of Night as fast as they can but still have a confrontation so that they don’t have to worry about Zoey’s family.

I honestly wish that they’d gone the Disney route and just killed the whole family and had Nyx save Zoey. It would have been less painful for me to read.

But no, instead, John Heafer begins his literary existence with:

“Get thee behind me, Satan!” he quoted in what I like to think of as his sermon voice.

I sighed. “It’s not Satan. It’s just me.” (22)


Well, you’re both spiteful and think that you’re better than everyone else, so I understand why he might make the mistake.

But I have a hard time seeing any human being starting a conversation with that unironically.

Mommy pipes up and says that Zoey really doesn’t have any business being sarcastic, but John tells her that he will handle it, calling her hon and generally being affectionate before going straight to the victim blaming and claiming that the reason that she became a vampire is because she was such a rotten person.

Sit on this one, guys. Just…remember it for later chapters and books.

Zoey mentions how there has not been any kind of clear reason for why people turn into vampires. She also sarcastically says how clever her stepfather is for realizing that it’s caused by bad behavior. But since her behavior according to her is “an occasional lie, some pissed off thoughts against my parents, and maybe some semi-harmless lust” (22) for some dude who doesn’t matter. I love it when Sues are so lacking in self-awareness.

It’s almost funny that the Casts honestly seem to think that there is nothing wrong with what we’ve seen of Zoey’s behavior to date.

Zoey claims that this was done to her, and every scientist on the planet agrees with her, and John, because Christians don’t like science, claims that

“Scientists are not all-knowing. They are not men of God.” (22)

I was unaware that men of God were all knowing. That’s a first. Also, I can think of a few of modern, high level, scientists who would be a little offended at their faith being invalided. This is actually a fallacy that people tend to make about religious people and shows that the Casts don’t tend to think outside of their stereotypes. Which is amusing given that they like to claim that everyone is bigoted.

So, we get a little bit of info on John. He is apparently an ‘Elder’ of the People of Faith, a made up religious group that essentially exists for the Casts to dump on without having to own up to being jerks. This means that he’s something of a priest and gets a good living. Zoey claims that that was one of the original reasons that Mommy was interested in him. Zoey claims that he is an awful person, but her only example is that he is going to preach at her.

So, now we get the scientific reasoning behind the change. You know, the one that the Casts mentioned in their acknowledgements.

“It’s a physiological reaction that takes place in some teenagers’ bodies as their hormone levels rise.” I paused, thinking really hard and totally proud of myself for remembering something I learned last semester. “In certain people the hormones trigger something-or-other in a…a…” I thought harder and remembered: “a Junk DNA strand, which starts the whole Change.”


This is about as scientific as Peter Parker’s origin story.

Let’s look at this, shall we? Canonically speaking, vampires have magic powers. I know I’m bringing things up from later stuff in the book, but you need to consider this. Scientists aren’t stupid. They’re not going to be convinced that ‘Junk DNA’ is going to allow people to start throwing fireballs around. There is also the fact that vampires live for so long and avoid the sun. Also, what about the Tracker that showed up? Is he just a hallucination? Why would everyone hallucinate about a dude talking about a goddess? Is this ever even addressed? Are there vampires who allow themselves to be tested?

Why do they have to go to the House of Night?

If you’re going to have a scientific explanation, at least attempt to make it logical in universe.

Has any of that even been proven, or is that theory? How did they prove it? The vampires seem to be pretty exclusive, so it’s hard to think that someone decided to submit themselves for scientific research.

Also, if it’s been around forever and isn’t a recent thing, people would probably believe that it was magic.

However, rather than raising questions like mine, John rants about how they don’t understand God’s rules.

So, aspiring writers, this is a strawman. Strawmen, to anyone who doesn’t really know, are essentially parodies of an idea of which the author disagrees with. They are presented to show just how terrible the idea is in a form that is easily shown. Any group can be turned into strawmen. A group of Atheists who know nothing about religion but hate it anyways, Republicans who are against any and all social programs and education, Democrats who are spoiled rich children who know nothing of the real world other than their bleeding hearts, essentially all of these are strawmen. They’re essentially a negative stereotype of an opinion that the writer doesn’t like that has been truncated to take out all nuance, reasoning, and intelligence.

Naturally, they’re always used so that the hero/heroine can logically tear them down.

I always have the sneaking suspicion that the War on Straw exists because the writer has never been able to win a battle with an actual member of the group that they disagree with.

Are there people who think like John? Yes, to a degree. However, as a general rule, in fiction, it’s generally considered to be in bad taste to represent opinions by their worst examples.

John gets prissy about having to have things explained to him by a teenager, and Zoey’s ‘brilliant’ snarky come back is that the way he dresses proves that he needs the advice. Because forty something men should dress like teenage guys I suppose.

Mommy cuts in again, asking him what the neighbors will say and what the people at church are going to say, and we finally get some reason for Zoey’s bitterness.

What annoys me is that THIS could have actually worked. Naturally, they didn’t seem to know how to pursue it. Had it always been clear that the family cares only about appearances, we’d have a reason for Zoey to be angry. But the Casts just seem to be throwing literally anything around that might show off Zoey in a better light.

John’s answer is that they are going to “give this to God” (24) by calling someone named Dr. Asher who Zoey mentions as the family shrink. I highly doubt that we are ever going to see this good doctor. Ever. It also seems strange that they would have a shrink if John doesn’t like science, but that’s just me.

And they decide to call the prayer tree together. Are we seriously going to bring up a ‘pray the gay away’ implication?

Zoey, whines that the shrink knows nothing about teenagers and that the Elders are coming and that she needs to leave for the House of Night that night. Mommy stands up and looks like she’s going to save her, but then John “put his arm around her shoulder possessively” (24) and she caves.

“Zoey, surely it wouldn’t hurt anything if you spend just tonight at home?” (24)

Clearly it would, since it seems to be well enough known in this universe that she’s going to croak if she doesn’t get to the House of Night quickly.

Cast ladies, making all of your characters stupid does not make your main character any smarter.

Another problem here, strangely enough. is that the Casts don’t seem to know what they want to do. Do they want to show Mommy as a woman so desperate for love and security that she would ignore the needs of her own daughter to please her husband? Do they want to show her as a flaky, uncaring person who’s only interest is in what the neighbors think? They seem to be trying to do both, but it’s very sloppily done. Strangely enough, John, for all that he’s being characterized as a one dimensional Christian bigot is actually a more consistent character. At least he is at this point. That vanishes very quickly.

So, Zoey realizes that, surprise surprise, they’re not going to take her (I really don’t see why she didn’t just drive herself in the second chapter but whatever) and she has another Author Induced Revaluation. In case you weren’t sure how to interpret this scene.

I suddenly understood that it wasn’t just about this Mark and the fact that my life had been totally changed. It was about control. If they let me go, somehow they lose. In Mom’s case, I liked to think that she was afraid of losing me. I knew what John didn’t want to lose. He didn’t want to lose his precious authority and the illusion that we were the perfect little family. As Mom had already said,What will the neighbors think—what will people think at Meeting on Sunday? John had to preserve the illusion, and if that meant allowing me to get really, really sick, well then, that was a price he was willing to pay. (25)


This is stupid.

Don’t be so coy, Casts. Not at this part of the game. If you want a raging strawman, make a raging strawman. Right now your hesitance just looks stupid.

For one thing, if John wanted to ‘keep up the illusion’ of a loving family, he would want to make sure that he sent her to the House of Night so that everyone would think about how tolerant and loving that he was. At the very least he would have wanted a real doctor rather than a prayer tree.

So, make up your mind, is he a raging Christian stereotype or a raging stereotype about American suburbia. It can’t be both. This is the same problem with Mommy.

If you want to go the ‘he doesn’t care if I die as long as he’s right’ route, at least go the full distance and have him try to exorcise the demon out of her or something! If you want him to be super self-cautious about how the neighbors see him, you need to focus on that.

Make up your minds. Seriously, if you’re going to stereotype, at least do it properly.

Zoey says that she’s not going to go alone with them, seems to cave and says that she’ll go along with it, and Mommy, clearly thinking that this isn’t going to be serious as a sickness, says that maybe Zoey should lie down and have some NyQuil and she’ll feel better.

Now, I have some worldbuilding issues here. Being marked seems like it’s a common enough occurrence that there have been studies and publications and movies and other things that would have made what needs to be done common knowledge. The fact that they’re acting like it isn’t is either a major flaw in the worldbuilding itself, or it is supposed to show how stupid these two are. Honestly, given that Zoey herself seems to be forgetting that she’s going to die in this chapter, I think that this is a worldbuilding issue.

What’s more, is that by ignoring this themselves, the Casts have made it so that I am going to ignore it. The idea that John doesn’t care if Zoey dies is literally the only actual thing that she has against him, but she’s going to focus more on the fact that they made her feel bad.

So, I’m going to have to ignore it as well.

Zoey hugs her mom “wishing so damn hard that it was three years ago and she was still mine” (25) and tells her that everything is going to be fine.

Er…Zoey…I’m starting to not joke about the psychopath thing.

So, after snootily telling John (who is the step-loser again) to put some powder to cover his head, she traipses up the stairs, heroically telling herself how she wasn’t going to cry.


And of course we’re given the line about how

I’m going to remember how awful they made me feel today. So when I’m scared and alone and whatever else is going to happen to be starts to happen, I’m going to remember that nothing could be as bad as being stuck here. Nothing. (26)


You self-righteous little spoiled brat. Trust me, I can imagine a few things that would be much worse for you than living with a jerk. Particularly when all you have to do is wait a two years tops, get loans, and get a place of your own. Including have to deal with actual vampires.

And you notice, the only thing that she cares about is not that they potentially put her life in danger. It’s not the fact that they put their neighbor’s opinions over her possible safety. It’s her feelings.

This is why I’m inclined to think that either the Casts desperately need to sort out their worldbuilding, or Zoey wasn’t in the danger that she seems to think that she was in.

Or Zoey needs to sort out her priorities.

Anyways, that’s the end of the chapter, and honestly, it’s a pretty pointless chapter that has major worldbuilding problems which are ignored in favor of their spitting their hate on John. In reality, everything in this chapter should have been scrapped. It adds nothing to the plot, and John being a shadowy figure might actually have been a better idea since we could hint that something did actually happen that Zoey doesn’t talk about.

So, next chapter, Zoey craps a little more on mindsets that she doesn’t agree with, and runs away to be with one of the biggest Magical Native American stereotypes that I’ve seen in modern writing.

One thought on “Marked – Chapter 3

  1. JoeMerl says:

    You know, I’ve realized that one WIP that I started (and then set aside) has a vaguely similar premise to this book, and the worldbuilding that I tried to do makes me realize how many holes there are here. So here are a list of questions. I’m curious if some of these issues get addressed later in the series; others I’m sure don’t and I just want to snarkily bring up.

    1.) If Zoey dies from this, will her parents be charged with a crime for trying to keep her from the House of Night? Note the obvious parallels to real-life cases of Christian Scientists, or Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to blood transfusions. If they actually tried to keep her from leaving, could Zoey call the authorities to get help?

    2.) For that matter, what is the House of Night’s legal status in all this? Zoey can apparently be checked in without parental consent (she had Granny Redbird, but I’m not sure if that makes any difference legally), so are they just automatically in loco parentis to any fledglings who show up? But, going off from that…does the House of Night have a legal obligation to HELP fledglings get there so that they don’t die?

    3.) Which leads me to the Tracker. Is he employed by the House of Night? If so, why does he just show up, tell her to go there and then leave? Shouldn’t he offer her a ride or something? Does he call ahead to let Neferet know that a new kid is coming, and if so, shouldn’t SHE be responsible for making sure that Zoey gets there in time?

    4.) For that matter, why does the Tracker stand by Zoey’s locker, of all places? Why not stop by her house before school? According to the wiki, because I actually looked this up, “[Trackers] will be hit with a uncontrollable compulsion to get to the place, time, and name that gets put into their minds. It is almost impossible to ignore this urge.” Okay, so that explains how this Tracker knew about Zoey specifically, and I guess even sort of justifies why he stood at her locker…but then, assuming that Nyx is the one giving him this magical compulsion, why didn’t SHE send him to Zoey’s house, or warn her earlier about the Change? This all ties into other questions about if and why she chooses certain people.

    5.) How common are Houses of Night? Later Neferet mentions opening one “in this part of the country,” which implies to me that one serves multiple states…but Zoey only seems to have a few hours to get there before she’s passing out. What if she lived farther away?

    6.) Are families allowed to visit kids at the House of Night? If not, why not? If Zoey’s family decided to show up and spout more bad and inconsistent characterization, would she or Neferet be allowed to bar them entry?

    7.) I remember from your older recap that Zoey et al. CAN leave the House of Night without dying. So, does the whole “imminent death” thing turn off once they first arrive, or do they need to go back regularly? If so, how regularly? Can they go out for a few hours, or even maybe go back home for a night or two?

    These are all that I can think of right now. I mean about how the House of Night actually works; I won’t bother listing my various questions about the intersections of major world religions and actual, magical vampires throughout history.


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