MAKE-YOU-CRY MONDAY: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Sometimes characters have to make impossible decisions. This often manifests as them having to choose between their best friend or their love interest, or deciding which of their children gets to live, or rescuing either their family or millions of strangers.

This happens to protagonist Todd Hewitt in The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series.

This book is brain-bustingly good. I normally don’t do entire books for Make-You-Cry Monday–just snippets–but I don’t want to say anything to spoil this book. All I can say is it’s about a boy named Todd Hewitt who lives in a small village with his dads. A couple things you need to know about this village:

  1. An alien virus has enabled men on the planet hear each other’s thoughts–AKA “Noise.”
  2. There are no women, thanks to the alien virus.
  3. Animals can talk, though they’re not very interesting conversationalists, e.g., Todd’s dog Manchee mainly says, “Todd,” and, “Poo.”

Todd does farm work and wanders about with Manchee, waiting until he can become a man like the rest of the boys in his village.

Like the characters I mentioned above, at one point in the book, Todd has to make an impossible decision.

In other works, characters either are given or invent a third option. I like it a bit better when a third option doesn’t present itself. As hard as it is, I want to see what these characters will do when faced with such a difficult choice.

At least, I used to feel that way. I regret it now.

The choice Todd makes is the right one. If he’d chosen differently, the series would have ended after one book. I try to tell myself this whenever I think of a certain scene.

But even knowing all of that, I closed the book on page 300, put it down, and cried myself to sleep.

I KNEW IT WAS COMING from PAGE 1, and I was still not emotionally prepared.

I read this giant book in about a day. Please go find a copy and cry your heart out.

Need cheering up?
I can’t hear the song “Don’t Stop Me Now” without smiling thanks to this scene from Shaun of the Dead.

I think this scene is hilarious. My parents do not agree.

Let me know your take on it.

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TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Boundaries

I wasn’t going to write about this, but I changed my mind because I’m outraged.

I’m not sure if there’s a cultural difference at play–maybe it’s a Mormon thing–because I can’t imagine parents in the United States who would actually do this to their child.

In the original Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie rejects the odious Mr. Collins. Her mom insists on the match because she wants her daughter married and in her mind marriage and happiness are the same thing. While Mrs. Bennett isn’t known for her parenting skills, she’s at least consistent.

In Pride and Popularity, there’s a Mr. Collins-esque characters named Collin (HA) who takes Chloe out on one or two dates at her mom’s behest and assumes after the second that they’re a couple, trying to kiss her to “seal the deal.”

Up to this point, Chloe has begged her mom not to make her date Collin to no avail. Her mom guilts her into every date, calls Collins herself and tells him Chloe will be his girlfriend, and tries to ground Chloe when she rejects him.

She calls her daughter “stubborn, selfish, and prideful” for not dating a guy she isn’t interested in. All she’s asking is that Chloe become Collins girlfriend for a couple of weeks; completely reasonable and not at all ridiculous, right?

WHAT KIND OF PARENT DOES THIS?

Here’s what you’re teaching your daughter:

  1. Her preferences don’t matter. I stand by (in theory) the idea that you should give [insert appropriate term for undesirable partner here] a chance. Someone might make a terrible first impression only to surprise you [see Fitzwilliam Darcy]. HOWEVER, Chloe has made it clear she’s never going to be into a guy who finds his phone more interesting than he finds her. Somehow that means she’s selfish.
  2. Her feelings don’t matter. At least, not as much as Collin’s do. In fact, her having feelings at all is selfish. Chloe has to reward this guy for pursuing her…even though he’s socially awkward, had his mom set them up, doesn’t try to connect, and spends entire dates on his phone. Telling people their wants and needs are selfish is probably the worst thing you can do.
  3. Her choices don’t matter. Chloe has rejected Collin multiple times, and her mom goes behind her back to override her disinterest. That’s messed up. You’re subtly telling her that her “no” doesn’t mean much, which would be horrifying enough if there wasn’t a rapist in this story for whom “no” means nothing. Awesome.

I’m confused by the reaction to this event. Chloe treats it as an inconvenient but normal part of her regular parenting, i.e. “You know how parents get.”

None of this is cute; it’s controlling, and not something to laugh off.

MAKE-YOU-CRY MONDAY: No More

Many of my friends don’t like “Into the Woods” because after Act 1, it stops being fun. The musical transitions from a lighthearted send-up of fairy tale tropes into a dark examination of heavy themes, such as death, betrayal, and infidelity.

Oh, and throw in an absentee father because Stephen Sondheim had issues with his parents.

The musical used to be on Netflix, and I would watch it at least once a month, though I had to be in a special mood for it. I’d be down for Act 1 at any time, but Act 2 spoke to me when I wasn’t feeling so great. Sometimes you need to watch something sad to get all your feelings out. My friends watch “One Tree Hill” or “Grey’s Anatomy”; I watch musicals.

At this part in the musical, the Baker is at his lowest point. His wife is dead, there’s a murderous giant on the loose, he’s abandoned his son, and his crazy ghost father won’t leave him alone. He tries and fails to get a straight answer out of his dad, who only speaks in riddles. Angry and exhausted, the Baker gives up.

I know how the Baker feels. There comes a time when you feel so much you’d rather feel nothing; at that point, all you want is to be left alone, instead of dealing with more bad news, emotions, or change.

This summer has been the Summer of Doubt. Right now, I’m sick of uncertainty and my faith being stretched. I’m tired of people asking me questions about my future. I want a straight answer, too. I haven’t done much this summer and still I’m exhausted. Yet, as the Baker’s father explains, running away won’t help. “Just more questions…different kind.”

I understand why the film version cut this song…but I wish they hadn’t.

Need cheering up?
Best song in the musical. The lyrics allow me to lament my love life and laugh at the same time. The princes know what’s up.

Why I love “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

I watch some shows that aren’t the best. It’s rare that I find a TV show that I like that’s actually good. For example, despite what nostalgia would have me believe, Digimon is terrible.

Matt
Except you. You’re great.

My friends love Marvel; I’m undecided. I didn’t start taking Marvel seriously until “The Avengers” came out, so call me a bandwaggoner or whatever else you want. I’m from Washington state, I’m used to it.

Seahawks

I had some…sources tell me “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was good, but I was hesitant to believe them. I had no intention of ever watching it until I got tired of “Pokemon” (just kidding–I could never get tired of “Pokemon”) and played the first episode.

And I could not. I couldn’t even.

Why do I love this show?

  1. It has really good action scenes.
    If you’re around me long enough, you’ll hear me bash on action movies, which might be unfair, and we can have a huge argument later, guys. But I appreciate good fight choreography. This show has plenty of explosions and hand-to-hand combat, and it’s awesome.
  2. Phil Coulson is in it.
    I was really angry when Coulson was killed in “The Avengers.” There are some things you just don’t do: shooting puppies and killing Coulson fall under that category. When I heard about this show, I assumed it was a prequel, because COULSON DIED AND THAT’S HOW TIMELINES WORK. Turns out, not so much. Somehow he survived, and the mystery surrounding his death is a big part of the first season.
  3. Iain de Caestecker is wonderful.
    de Caestecker plays Leopold Fitz, a geeky gadget-happy science freak who has trouble with the combat part of being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. He has all the best lines and is so darn precious I ship him with everyone. About that…
  4. The writers tease a lot of ships and I feel weird about it.
    It would be more accurate to say I ship everyone with everyone. Coulson and May have some chemistry? Ship it. Skye has a crush on her Superior Officer? Ship it. Skye and Fitz have a moment alone together? Ship it. Ward rescues Simmons and holds her hand for a split second? Ship it. Ward and May share an intense glance? Like that’ll ever happen…

    Wait…what do you mean, that’s canon?
  5. There are “strong” female characters.
    Yeah yeah yeah. As a feminist, I’m not supposed to be okay with female characters who are “strong” and nothing else. Thankfully, the women on this show are more than that. The three mains–Skye, Simmons, and May–are all very different: Skye is a smart-alecky computer hacker with a mysterious past; Simmons is the team’s resident skeptic and scientific genius; May, AKA “The Cavalry,” kicks butt, shoots people, and acts as Coulson’s confidante and moral compass. I started off not liking any of them and now I couldn’t imagine the show without them. About THAT…
  6. It keeps making me feel things.
    This show is really good at tugging the heartstrings without being over the top. At times, it can get a little “rah rah America,” but for the most part the emotions I feel are genuine. The show keeps developing its characters, allowing them to have real emotions and make choices, sometimes with devastating consequences. I just finished Season 1 and so far I have watched Simmons jump out of a plane, Coulson beg for death, May go postal on the guy who shot her friend, and Fitz sob when bad guys take over his believed S.H.I.E.L.D. I can’t take it.
  7. It continues to surprise me.
    Last night I watched the last three episodes of season 1 late at night while my family was sleeping (a routine practice). Multiple times I had to muffle my exclamations/cheers/tears, and that’s something I’ve had to do from episode 1. Very rarely do I know what to expect with this show, and I like it that way–it’s nice not seeing everything coming for once.

If you’re skeptical of all the Marvel hype, give “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” a chance. It has all the ships your little heart could desire, plus some character development and complexity and other stuff that I guess is important to a good story. If you’re not busy, go watch it RIGHT NOW.

TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Obvious villain is obvious

Love triangles are a fixture of many romances. I have mixed feelings about them, but I have no problem with another character posing an obstacle to the main love story, especially if it’s done well (see Clockwork Prince.)

As this book is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it’s only fitting that the heroine of Jenni James’ Pride and Popularity fall for the wrong guy somewhere along the way.

I realize that people know the original story well enough that they see a lot of the original “twists” (e.g., Wickham is actually a bad guy with dishonorable intentions) coming.

HOWEVER. If you are adapting an older work, IT IS YOUR JOB to reimagine these plot points in a creative way. This novel is missing both foreshadowing and subtlety. This particular passage is as bad as–if not worse than–Theo’s creepy letter in A Thousand Pieces of You.

This conversation comes up in the middle of a discussion of “Magnum, P.I.” where Chloe (Elizabeth) and Blake (Wickham) come onto the topic of Taylor Anderson (Darcy). Blake is so filled with rage he ALMOST SAYS THE A-WORD.

After a cringe-worthy conversation about swearing (side note: lots of people complain that people sound stupid when they swear. You know what sounds even more stupid? Substituting words like “chicken butt.”), Blake asks when Chloe turns 18. Because that’s not disgusting.

First of all, WHO TALKS LIKE THIS? Is this how flirting works!? Have I been doing it wrong?

Second of all, WHAT GIRL HEARS THIS AND DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY THINK SHE’S TALKING TO A RAPIST?

Blake Winter is the rapiest of all the rapesters.

FUN STORY, the twist in this iteration of Pride and Prejudice is that Wickham/Winter is…actually a rapist.

He drugged and “took advantage of” an underage girl, went to trial, and was never convicted.

I’m not sure Mr. Winter comprehends the severity of his past actions, though, or even understands what rape is.

“You better call me the second you’re eighteen, you hear?”
“Why?”
“Because then you won’t be jailbait. Don’t worry–I won’t ravish you before then.”

Pro tip: age doesn’t matter if she’s unconscious.

MAKE-YOU-CRY MONDAY: Married Life

Today’s montage is infamous for its ability to make everyone cry, save for one heartless friend of mine who said, “What’s the big deal? It’s not like she died young or something.”

“Up” is my favorite Pixar movie and the first time I saw it, it ruined my life. The only other movie to make me cry 10 minutes in was “Toy Story 3.”

There are so many reasons to love this scene:

This scene is so complete. Pixar could have released this as a short. From four minutes of footage, I experience a lifetime of Carl and Ellie’s marriage.

I’m more impressed by what the animators didn’t include, namely dialogue. I’ve read and watched stories where the creator didn’t trust themselves and tried to drive home their point by pointing out how sad or wonderful or romantic everything was. Because of the way Carl and Ellie interact, I don’t need to hear one of them say, “Golly, we sure are in love!”

The music plays a big part in conveying emotions. The miscarriage is so impactful partly due to the clarinet solo and lone piano. Seeing this for the first time, I didn’t need to be clear on exactly what happened to feel the emotion.

I’m glad Pixar chose not to follow this scene with other characters’s comments: “Poor Carl. She was his true love.” “Wow, Carl sure looks downtrodden!” “It doesn’t seem like Carl’s coping too well!” Instead, they let their images speak for themselves and allowed me to draw my own conclusions (unlike another film of theirs.)

Besides the inclusion of a miscarriage in a kid’s film, the part that kills me about this scene is the timing of Ellie’s death. She dies the day Carl planned to surprise her with tickets to South America. His awesome surprise was foiled by DEATH. THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A HAPPY MOMENT!

“I have a surprise for you!” “Me, too…”

I had to watch this scene multiple times for a film project this past spring and I teared up. Every. Single. Time.

Up>Inside Out

Need cheering up?
“Agents of Shield” is my new favorite show. In this scene, all the characters make fun of Ward, a character I have mixed feelings about. Iain Caestecker never fails to cheer me up. Poor, silly Fitz…

TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Death by plot necessity

Dear Janna Nickerson: I will leave you alone soon. I promise.

But not today.

I’m not here to poke fun at the death of a parent.

I don’t think losing both parents in the same day is funny.

I do think in many stories it’s unnecessary and only serves to up the angst quotient.

In today’s passage, Mat’s mom dies off-screen (off-page?), hit by a rogui arrow.

When Janevra tells him to focus, Mat calms down faster than Davis in Digimon: The Movie. “Okay, my mom just died. No big. You’re right.”

His dad goes next, due to…I’m not actually sure. He used too much magic? His aforementioned illness returned? Heart attack? Plot necessity? He goes from “perfectly healthy and alive” to “almost dead” in less than a sentence.

To be fair, the deaths of Mat’s parents up the stakes and give Mat a reason to fight the dark forces by making it personal.

It just seems excessive. Both parents and one of his best friends?

Oh, well. Congratulations, Mat. Now that your parents are gone, you could be the subject of a Disney movie.