Category Archives: Books

Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Post-Election

I re-read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last month, and there were many things that stood out to me as very timely in the wake of the election. (Just to be clear, in case my readers are of differing opinions, I view the election of a man who consistently spews racist, sexist, hateful rhetoric, and who has shown a willingness to protect and preserve his own ego and assets but not our national security interests or constitutional integrity, as a very negative event that will harmfully impact much if not all of our citizenry, and which I am committed to mitigating and resisting in every way that I can.)

Oh, and also, this post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

trump-voldemort-google-image
Google Image results that confirm I’m not the only one making certain comparisons. But maybe it’s more accurate to say Voldemort represents Facism, which has ‘returned’ in a new body despite lots of people having been under the impression it was defeated decades ago

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Thoughts on Twilight’s Gender-Flip

When I heard the news that Stephenie Meyer had re-written Twilight with (nearly) all the characters’ genders swapped, about three things I was absolutely positive; first, this publication would be an immediate target for pop culture ridicule. Second, there was a part of it–and I didn’t yet know how potent that part that might be–that I myself would mock. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably committed to reading that book in full.

Look, I’ve had as much fun as anyone making fun of Twilight in the past, but I’m also willing to defend certain aspects of the series and I definitely don’t think it deserves the amount of ridicule and scorn it gets. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment expressed in articles like this one by Daniel Kraus, and even the widespread (and totally deserved) criticism of Edward and Bella’s relationship is I think in a way very positive, because the message of how to identify signs of an abusive relationship reached a huge audience through that common frame of reference, and it gave many young readers a context to push against as they grew.  I put myself in this category, too–I devoured the entire series one winter break, and thoroughly enjoyed it even as I recognized it had flaws.  Later I read more analyses and deconstructed it further and became more demanding and critical of relationship portrayals in new stories that I encountered, thanks to what I had learned from and rejected in Twilight. I’m not saying that was Meyer’s intention, I’m saying it’s a legitimate result for me and I believe for many others that was born out of the series.

Does the Green apple signify all the money that Stephenie Meyer is making with this

Does the Green apple signify all the money that Stephenie Meyer is making with this “rewrite”?

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Sherlock: ACD’s “A Study in Scarlet” vs. BBC’s “A Study in Pink”

As a fan of the BBC Sherlock show, I recently decided to read Aruthur Conan Doyle’s original mystery stories.  I’ve never read any of them before except for “The Hounds of Baskerville” in a high school English class.  I’m going to tackle them in chronological order of publication, so I started with A Study in Scarlet.  Having finished this first book I can definitely see a lot of exact parallels between it and the first episode of the modernized BBC show, “A Study in Pink,” but also some obvious omissions or alterations.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

The first episode starts off very similar to the beginning of the first book; John Watson is a recently returned military doctor, wounded in a war in Afghanistan.  I’m not really familiar with the particular war that would have been going on at the time, but I think it’s too sad (that the region is still/again plagued by military unrest over 100 years later) for it to be cool that this factoid lines up perfectly with modern times.   Anyway, everything about the way Watson and Sherlock meet and become roommates happens pretty much exactly the same way in the book as in the show, and one of the first things Watson learns about his soon-to-be companion comes up in this conversation  between a mutual acquaintance and John Watson, about Sherlock Holmes:

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the pages that pagelady read in 2013

Well, 2013 was not the best blogging year for me on here, was it? I’m way behind in writing up posts on the books I’ve read, but it’s a new year now so I have a fresh chance to do better in 2014.  Here’s a summary of the books I read last year and a brief reaction to them.  I still hope to post a full reaction to Allegiant soon, and a book-versus-movie comparison of The Book Thief.

In case you don’t want to read all my sub-cateogires, I’ll put my favorites first:

Favorite New Reads of 2013:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  So overwhelmingly, heart-breakingly beautiful.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy.  I read this book one Saturday while home alone and the first half of it scared me to death; it seemed like a pretty realistic possible scenario if an alien invasion was to happen on Earth.  The latter half of the book got more cliche and predictable, but I like Cassie, the protagonists, and I’m still interested to see what happens next, although I’m not sure when the sequel is scheduled to be published.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  As a shy fangirl who is more outgoing online than in real-life social situations, this book’s protagonist was totally relatable to me.  I’ve never really been into fanfic much but I am in multiple fandoms, I know these terms, I understand and partake in these obsessions. Plus, the Nebraska college-town setting was very similar to some of my own experiences in Kansas.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Read this one because I loved Fangirl so much, and it did not disappoint.  From my review:

and i think that maybe it’s partly best explained by the answer Park gives in english class about the longevity of the story of Romeo & Juliet: “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love,” but this version is maybe a lot more relateable to an audience that isn’t part of a wealthy feuding italian family centuries ago, and to anybody that feels like kind of a misfit.

Rainbow Rowell is officially my new favorite author, not only because of her books but because of her twitter and tumblr which just made me instantly feel like “ah, yes, she’s one of us!“, which is too bad for David Iserson (author of Firecracker), because until I discovered Rainbow Rowell in the last weeks of December he would have been my choice for “favorite new YA author that I started twitter-following in 2013”.  He’s snarky and witty and I did love his book but I feel like I could spazz out about Rowell’s books in real life in front of her and she would be like “I know, me too!” but if I did that about Firecracker in front of Iserson he might just be like “wow, ok…” or say something cynical.

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Divergent Trailer Is Not Very Divergent

I have become so disillusioned with this series.  I was really into it at first, and I wanted it to become huge partly because I was so “in” from the beginning, but the sequel books didn’t really live up to the promise of the first installment, and although I didn’t hate the last book, (Allegiant), it wasn’t exactly as good as I had been hoping.

Meanwhile, I can’t get excited about this movie adaptation.  Everything about the way they’ve marketed it so far screams “conformity to stereotypical Hollywood tropes and generic YA action movie themes that are the SAME as so many other things!”, which is so ironic given that they’ve simplified the storyline into “Tris is the hero because she’s DIFFERENT!”  Like, look at this poster:

Really, guys, a butt shot?

Really, guys? Really?

This poster makes me absolutely rage.  WHAT IS THIS BUTT POSE AND CAN WE STOP MAKING IT A THING THAT WOMEN DO IN  ACTION MOVIE POSTERS PLEASE!???!!  And other than the birds and the Ferris wheel in the background, what about this poster is actually specific to this story as opposed to almost anything else?  (Hint: nothing).  Then there are the character posters that apparently you don’t get if your character is not in the Dauntless faction because they’re all about “guys, look tattooooos! Doesn’t this make our movie look badass (and one-dimensional?!) Never mind that the original story was partially about struggling with multiple virtues and which one if any should be most highly valued; TATTOOOOOOS!”

So now we have our first official trailer, and it has done nothing to lift my curmudgeonly spirits about this movie:

Theo James is definitely too old to be playing Four.  His American accent is not consistent.  Shailene Woodley as Abnegation Tris is wearing TOO MUCH MAKE-UP!  Yes I know it’s a movie but they didn’t have to go overboard obvious with the mascara and eyeliner before she’s even transferred to Dauntless.  I still don’t like the over-stylization of Four’s back tattoos.

OKAY FINE, I will not be a 100% Negative Nancy, there are some good moments in this trailer.   Like when the Dauntless jump joyously off the train at 0:28, and the fear landscape drowning scene from 0:46-0:55, (although in this cut it looks like it’s the aptitude test), Tris jumping off the roof at 1:15, Four’s intense stare in the knife-throwing scene at 1:39.

If anything, the disappointing path the Divergent movie marketing has taken just makes me more impressed with Catching Fire which has been consistently killing it.  Well, internet, am I the only Initiate not jazzed about this trailer?  What did you think of it?

 

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I Suppose I Have To Blog About This Divergent Trailer Now

With every new piece of news, image, or interview related to the upcoming Divergent film adaptation of the book by Veronica Roth, I feel I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the whole thing.  I haven’t been blogging about it much, because it feels mean and unproductive to post public rants about all the things that annoy me about the lead actress, but I assure you I’ve paid attention to the set photos, tweets, tumbls, everything.  For a while I worried that maybe I was getting too old to appreciate the Young Adult genre anymore, but my excitement over the Catching Fire trailer and my enjoyment of the Mortal Instruments movie stilled those fears.  I don’t think it’s me; I think this adaptation is subpar.  Watch the trailer for yourself:

Well, first of all, even though I was originally excited about his casting, Theo James is too old to play Four.  And it’s totally apparent in this trailer.  In an interview at Comic-Con, Shailene Woodley reportedly said:

Theo James who plays the love interest in my film is 28, in the book his character is 18, but in the movie we’re making him about 24/25. He’s kind of ageless in a way. And even though in the book Tris is about 16, we never allude to the fact that she’s that young.

I am not okay with this.  I don’t see how it will be possible not to “allude” to Tris’s age when the choosing ceremony that starts off the plot happens when citizens are 16.  If they’re deciding Four is 24, he’s 8 years older than her and a creepy pervert for getting into a relationship with her, as opposed to book-Four who is only a year or two older than Tris.  I don’t want to watch a man with giant muscle-arms punch people and kiss a young girl.  I wanted to watch two teenagers, tougher than their bodies appeared, face difficult decisions and get butterflies when their hands touched.

Second, Tris is wearing way too much make-up.  I suppose they’re projecting Christina’s makeover to last for the entirety of Tris’s Dauntless days, but the scene at the end where she looks up with eyes rimmed in black irritated me because Abnegation-born Tris just wouldn’t smear that stuff on to go to a training session.  But I’ve seen nothing from this movie so far about Tris being Abnegation-born other than “she wears frumpy gray clothes and a bun at the beginning!”  It’s too intent on selling me Tris as a badass Dauntless to remember she has aptitude for multiple factions and that’s why she’s Divergent in the first place.

Thirdly, why did they feel the need to embellish Four’s back tattoos with these totally unnecessary and meaningless bands on the sides?  Is it because the costume designer wanted an extra outlet for their personal creativity?  Is it because movie makers insist on visualizing characters differently from how they’re described in the books so that no pre-existing fanart or cosplay will be legitimized and fans will be more inclined to just buy the official replica merchandise they’ll be sure to market soon?  (That’s what it feels like.) I just don’t see any reason for all that extra ink.  Each of Four and Tris’s tattoos in the book are chosen with significance; they’re not in it for the body art.  And what would have been so difficult about doing it like the book said, and like the fanart bellow illustrates?

Tris runs her fingers down Four's faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Tris runs her fingers down Four’s faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Four's tattoos, by tumblr user ice-ridden (source). She's got a lot of really great art

Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user chrysalisgrey (formerly ice-ridden).

I’m not making these grievances up out of thin air; I feel like they’re legitimate concerns. But the reason these flaws are so frustrating to me is that I really connected with the book.  I identified with Tris, as someone who grew up in a very conservatively-dressing, emphasis-on-serving-others household but never felt like I was naturally good at the selflessness I was supposed to be enacting.  When Tris self-consciously noted, taking off her jacket before her jump into the Dauntless hole, that it was the first time anyone had seen her in anything as revealing as her tight t-shirt, I vividly remembered the first times I wore a spaghetti strap shirt or a two piece swimsuit, in college after I had moved out and my parents couldn’t enforce their dress code anymore.

In the book, I loved the idea of asking what the value of virtues like honesty versus bravery or harmony is.  As I’ve written previously, I loved the straightforward way that Tris and Four’s relationship develops.  I loved the Dauntless manifesto’s assertions that “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” and “We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.”  I loved that Four embraced the value of all faction virtues.  I loved that Four said “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”  I loved that sacrificing oneself for another was a repeated theme.  I loved that Tris chose to get a tattoo of not only her chosen Dauntless but also her family heritage Abengation symbol, to recognize the value in where she came from, to acknowledge that while it wasn’t her choice to live within that strict code, she didn’t reject it entirely.  I felt I could relate to that, too.

I don’t see any of what I liked about the book in this trailer. I see an attempt to market this as an ACTION MOVIE with FIGHTING and GUNS and DANGER OF BEING KILLED.  Yes, it’s true that in the book, Jeanine is attempting to eliminate all Divergents, that others exposed as Divergent have been killed, and that if Tris’s condition is revealed she would be targeted as well.  But that’s not what the story is about.  At least not to me.

The best thing about the trailer is Kate Winselt’s villain (Jeanine Matthews), and that role is clearly being fleshed out more than it exists in Tris’s narration.  But Four is too old.  Tris is too defiant.  (And ugh, this is nit-picking because I know this language use is common, so it’s fine, whatever, but it’s really irritating that she spits out “don’t try and define me!” instead of “don’t try to define me!”).

Ugh.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am really just an old curmudgeon these days.  What do you think?

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Glader Slang in “The Maze Runner”

**This post contains spoilers for The Maze Runner**

maze runner cover

The Maze Runner is being adapted to film. It will be interesting to see how the slang is handled on-screen.

When I read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, there was pretty much only one element that I actually liked; the Glader slang.  (Things I didn’t like included the tediously slow (and ultimately unsatisfactory) reveal of answers, the near-complete lack of character development, the inconsistency of the main character’s attitudes towards other characters (like “go away Chuck you’re so annoying!”-“Chuck you’re my new and only friend!”-“gah Chuck stop talking you’re so annoying!”), the way Thomas pats himself on the back for feeling the most basic empathy for his fellow human beings (“…he realized he was worried about the girl. Concerned for her welfare. As if he knew her.”  Like you couldn’t be “concerned” for somebody who’s been in a coma for days? And then this part: “Thomas, concerned for Alby despite his recent ill-tempered ways…”, oh how big of you to be “concerned” when you find a person lying unconscious with a bloody gash on their head, “despite” the fact they’ve been moody or rude in the last 24 hours), the insistence to tell instead of show, things being brought up only to be dropped completely and forgotten later on (like the flag Thomas sees when he first enters the Glade but can’t make out it’s pattern because there’s no wind, and it’s never mentioned again, or the dog named Bark that follows him around for his tour of Slop duty but then is never mentioned again, not even when they’re holing up to fight against invading Grievers, which, wouldn’t a dog bark it’s head off and/or charge beasts attacking its masters?), the fact that when the situation is explained it still makes little to no sense, and the lack of female characters–especially when it’s revealed that the kids sent to the Glade were chosen because they “have above-average intelligence,” and I’m supposed to be okay with this representation of the smartest kids, humanity’s last hope, being all male?!  What a bunch of klunk!)

But back to the topic at hand–when Thomas arrives in the Glade, his memories freshly wiped, he quickly learns that the residents of his new ‘home’ sprinkle their speech with their own unique slang, which he must learn in order to fit in.  This is, of course one of the purposes of slang or jargon or “shibboleths”; to identify members of a social group, or to confer insider status to those “cool enough” to know the terminology and be able to use it correctly.  If you don’t know the terminology at all, you’re a total outsider.  If you know the terms but stumble finding acceptable contexts to use them in, you’re pretty clearly linguistically marked to those in the know as someone trying to fit in.  Someone new.  Someone who maybe hasn’t really earned their place in the group or carved out an identity yet.  Someone like Thomas.  The linguistic markers of social status might be even more important in a setting like the Glade, where there is very little to go on otherwise.  For survival purposes, everyone is forced to share labor, food, and sleeping areas, nobody has access to ‘cool’ clothes or accessories, nobody can remember if they had famous parents or tournament trophies or straight As or a girlfriend before the Glade.  Everyone has to start over finding a new social footing by navigating the new slang terms.

The real reason for the Glader slang, of course, is so that the characters can curse in a manner that won’t be objectionable for a young audience to read.  So it’s kind of disappointing, because the Glade-specific language conventions could have been more complex and interesting, and designed by the author in a way to give more insight to the community, but we’ll just have to be content with what we’ve got.

I suppose  that Grievers, Creators, Greenie, Sloppers, Runners, Keepers, Builders, Bricknicks, Baggers, Track-hoes, Slicers, and  Med-jacks all count as Glader slang, but they’re pretty self-explanatory (if largely unnecessary), so I’m just going to focus on defining by examples “shank”, “klunk”, “shuck”, and “good that.”  Thomas hesitantly uses the latter phrase during an exchange with his assigned buddy, where he also explicitly references the fact that he’s unfamiliar with the terminology.  (I’m labeling this excerpt and all others to be included in this post,as well as including page numbers which are from the version with ISBN 978-0-375-89377-3).

(1) “You’ll learn a lot in the next couple of days, start getting used to things. Good that?”

“Um, yeah, good that, I guess.  Where’d all these weird words and phrases come from, anyway?” It seemed like they’d taken some other language and melded it with his own.

Chuck flopped back down with a heavy flump.  “I don’t know–I’ve only been here a month, remember?” -p. 34

Thomas’ observation isn’t very linguistically astute–come on, dude, it’s a handful of terms, not a melding of two phonetic, syntactic, morphological etc. systems, or “languages”.  Acquiring Glader slang is a simple matter of observing the examples provided throughout the book.

Shank

This term appears to be just a general term for “person”.  It’s derogatory, (the neutral term for “person” is Glader and just refers to the fact that’s where they all live), but can be endearing, such as in (3).  Perhaps most interestingly, Newt uses it in (9) to refer to the Creators, so it can apparently be used to refer to entities outside the Maze as well. (Go ahead and call each other shanks, Maze Runner fans!)  Also interesting to note is the exchange in (7), which highlights the fact that Thomas is still acquiring Glade-speak, both in his pause before and over-emphasis of the term “shank” and in Newt’s response of laughing and referring to him as a “Greenie”.  There’s also an example of “shank” in (15), under the section for “shuck”.

(2) “It’s a long story, shank,” -p. 8

…………………………………………………………..

(3) “Chuck’ll be a good fit for ya,” Newt said. “Wee little fat shank, but nice sap when all’s said and done. Stay here, I’ll be back.”

-p. 11

…………………………………………………………..

(4) “Beetle blade,” the boy said, pointing to the top of the tree. “Won’t hurt ya unless you’re stupid enough to touch one of them.”  He paused. “Shank.”  He didn’t sound comfortable saying the last word, as if he hadn’t quite grasped the slang of the Glade. -p. 13

…………………………………………………………..

(5) “This shank probably klunked his pants when he heard old Benny baby scream like a girl.  Need a new diaper, shuck-face?” -p. 17

…………………………………………………………..

(6) Thomas shook his head.  “Don’t be sorry.  The…shank deserved it, and I don’t even know what a shank is.  That was awesome.” He felt much better. -p. 33

…………………………………………………………..

(7) “Well, it’s kind of stupid to send me to a place where nothing makes sense and not answer my questions.” Thomas paused, surprised at himself. “Shank,” he added, throwing all the sarcasm he could into the syllable.

Newt broke out into a laugh, but quickly cut it off. “I like you, Greenie.  Now shut it and let me show ya something.” -p. 37

…………………………………………………………..

(8) Thomas looked at Newt sharply, hurt by the rebuke. “You think I do things to impress you shanks?  Please.  All I care about is getting out of here.” -p. 260

…………………………………………………………..

(9) Newt shook his head back and forth, staring at the ground.  Then he looked up, took in the other Keepers.  “The Creators–those shanks did this to us, not Tommy and Teresa.  The Creators.  And they’ll be sorry.” -p.309

Klunk

Chuck provides a clear definition and an etymology for this term in (12).  The usage in (10) is weird, (he’s a poo? Not “piece of klunk/poo”? Maybe klunk is a count noun, even though poo is a mass noun?), and I think the construction is kind of forced because the author wanted to overwhelm Thomas (and readers) with as much slang as possible when the Box door opens.  Also, note in (13) another explicit reference to Thomas’ acquisition of Glader slang.

(10) “I told ya, shuck-face,” a shrill voice responded. “He’s a klunk, so he’ll be a Slopper–no doubt about it.”  The kid giggled like he’d just said the funniest thing in history. -p. 6

…………………………………………………………..

(11) “Whacker, if we told you everything, you’d die on the spot, right after you klunked your pants.  Baggers’d drag you off, and you ain’t no good to us then, are ya?” -p. 10

…………………………………………………………..

(12) “We live here, this is it. Better than living in a pile of klunk.”  He squinted, maybe anticipating Thomas’s question. “Klunk‘s another word for poo.  Poo makes a klunk sound when it falls in our pee pots.” -p. 15

…………………………………………………………..

(13) The second hour was spent actually working with the farm animals–feeding, cleaning, fixing a fence, scraping up klunk.  Klunk.  Thomas found himself using the Glader terms more and more. -p.78

Shuck

I think this was the most inconsistent of the Glader slang terms introduced in the book; it most often appears as the insult “shuck-face” (in examples (5) and (10) above as well as several below,) or the expletive “shuck it,” but in examples (23) and (24) it used as an adverb and verb participle, respectively.  It seems obvious what real-world English expletive it’s substituting for, which is why it’s so weird that on page 334 Minho uses “freaking”, another PG derivative of the same real-world expletive, where presumably “shucking” would have been acceptable, especially judging by the example in (23).  Minho’s utterance that Alby “freaking sacrificed himself for us–” is the only instance of “freaking” in the entire book, and seems out of place.

The construction in (14) is another unusual example like the one in (10), and it also appears in the same scene of Thomas’ entry to the Glade.  I don’t know why it doesn’t just say “shucking neck” instead of bare “shuck”, but there aren’t any examples (that I noticed) of “shucking” as an adverb.

(14) “Look at the Greenbean,” a scratchy voice said; Thomas couldn’t see who it came from. “Gonna break his shuck neck checkin’ out the new digs.” -p. 5

…………………………………………………………..

(15) “Shuck it,” Alby said, rubbing his eyes. “Ain’t no way to start these conversations, you get me?  We don’t kill shanks like you here, I promise.  Just try and avoid being killed, survive, whatever.” -p. 9

…………………………………………………………..

(16) “Pipe it, shuck-face,” Alby grunted, pulling Newt down to sit next to him. -p. 9

…………………………………………………………..

(17) “Shuck it,” he said. “Can’t the bloody Med-jacks handle that boy for ten minutes without needin’ my help?” -p. 12

…………………………………………………………..

(18) “The Changing!” Gally shouted from below. “Look forward to it, shuck-face!” -p. 19

…………………………………………………………..

(19) “I’m gonna kill you, shuck-face!” Gally yelled, but Chuck was already off the box and running toward the open Glade. -p. 31

…………………………………………………………..

(20) Newt let out a long sigh. “Shuck it. But that’s not really what has me buggin’.” p. 107

…………………………………………………………..

(21) “You don’t understand, shuck-face!  You don’t know anything, and you’re just making it worse by trying to have hope!  We’re dead, you hear me? Dead!” -p.117

…………………………………………………………..

(22) Thomas rolled his eyes.  “She’s not my girlfriend, shuck-face.”

“Wow,” Chuck said. “You’re already using Alby’s dirty words.” -p.281

…………………………………………………………..

(23) “She’s right, Chuck–you saved us, man! I told you we needed you!” Thomas scrambled to his feet and joined the other two in a group hug, almost delirious.  “Chuck’s a shucking hero!” -p. 347

…………………………………………………………..

(24) The sense of normalcy was almost overwhelming.  Too good to be true.  Minho said it best on entering their new world: “I’ve been shucked and gone to heaven.” -p. 368

Good that

See also example (1) from above.  This was my favorite, because it’s clearly a new construction whose correct use is crucial in ingratiating oneself with the Glade hierarchy, but it’s not actually new words.  It signals agreement or consent.  I never saw it used as a blanket positive, like somebody eating one of Frypan’s meals and declaring it “good that!”, which would have been fun, but then we’re not really given much non-plot-centric dialogue.

(25) Thomas fumed, wanted to punch somebody.  But he simply said, “Yeah.”

“Good that,” Alby said. -p. 10

…………………………………………………………..

(26) “If I can convince those shanks–and that’s a big if–the best time to go would be at night.  We can hope that a lot of the Grievers might be out and about in the Maze–not in that Hole of theirs.”

“Good that.”  Thomas agreed with him–he just hoped Newt could convince the Keepers. -p.317

Miscellaneous

I wasn’t paying much attention to instances of “slinthead” while I read, so I don’t know if I am missing some, but it appears to be an insult.  As for “slim”, I don’t remember seeing it anywhere except as an order to Thomas from Alby when he first arrives in the Glade (27).

(27) “Just slim yourself nice and calm.” -p. 6

…………………………………………………………..

(28) “And stay away from me, you little slinthead.” -p. 19

…………………………………………………………..

(29) “Ain’t you got a job, slinthead?” Alby asked. “Lots of sloppin’ to do?” -p.41

I am curious to know whether the slang persists in the sequel, The Kill Order, since by the end of The Maze Runner the main characters have escaped the maze and are in a different setting surrounded by strangers.  It would be my guess that Glader slang would become even more important in this situation, as a way for the boys to self-identify as a cohesive group when their circumstances no longer reflect it so obviously.  On the other hand, some of the boys might drop the slang or pick up/invent new slang as a way to reject having the identity of test-subject Glader forced upon them, or as a way to try to gain access to a new social group, if they decide they identify with their “rescuers”, or with WICKED.  Either way, though, I don’t think I’m actually curious enough to read the second book.

*update* For those interested, Grammar Girl has posted an interview with author James Dashner on the subject of Maze Runner slang.

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Book Analysis: What Made Tiger Lily Stop Aging?

A few months ago I read Tiger Lily, a book by Jodi Lynn Anderson that offers a new perspective on the Peter Pan story, narrated by nearly-literal fly-on-the-wall Tinker Bell. I gave it four out of five stars, but as much as I enjoyed it I will always prefer the mythology of J. M. Barrie’s original work to the alternative, more realistic universe that this story offered.  There are still faeries and mermaids, but Peter and the Lost Boys don’t really fly.  Wendy arrives by ship instead of flying, and is portrayed (unfairly, in my mind) in a negative light, almost a complete ditz instead of a creative story-teller who wants to mother everybody but is also brave in the face of pirates.  Peter is 16, feels conflict, remembers betrayals, and doesn’t still have his baby teeth.  People in Neverland age, but not uniformly.  As Tink describes in the first chapter,

You never could tell when someone would stop growing old in Neverland.  For Tik Tok, it had been after wrinkles had walked long deep tracks across his face, but for many people, it was much younger.  Some people said it occurred when the most important thing that would ever happen to you triggered something inside that stopped you from moving forward, but Tik Tok thought that was superstition.  All anyone knew was that you came to an age and you stayed there, until one day some accident or battle with the dangers of the island claimed you.  Therefore sometimes daughters grew older than mothers, and granchildren became older than grandparents, and age was just a trait, like the color of your hair, or the amount of freckles on your skin.

Art by tumblr user coffee--cup (source for image)

Art by tumblr user coffee–cup (source for image)

As we learn in the prologue, Tiger Lily stops aging sometime around age 15, which is her age throughout the majority of this story and throughout the beginning and end of her relationship with Peter Pan.  Tinker Bell prefers to theorize this tragically ended first love experience that was the most significant thing to happen in Tiger Lily’s life.

I don’t know Tiger Lily stopped growing older; I can’t pinpoint the moment.  But I do know I never saw her visibly age beyond the days when she was with Peter.  I like to think her growing stopped the day they were on the plateau, watching the horses.  Sometimes I can almost convince myself that on the ridge that night, I actually heard her bones grinding to a halt, her skin pause, because that simple day was the most important thing that would ever happen to her.  Just an afternoon, when nothing amazing occurred, except that she felt completely happy and completely at home.

This fixation on a young romance as all-important was one of the things that I most disliked about this book.  Not that I don’t understand the point–when my first boyfriend dumped me just after I turned 16, I developed disordered eating as a coping mechanism that persisted until I went to counseling for it in college.  So, I get it.  I get that those first experiences play a major role in shaping who you become.  It’s just, I don’t think it’s the romance itself that’s as important as how you deal with the aftermath, and even then it may not be as significant as how you navigate other situations.

Art by deviantart user PazGranger (source for image)

Art by deviantart user PazGranger (source for image)

For example, in the case of Tiger Lily, I submit that realizing she let down Tik Tok by not being around to prevent the tribe from siding with Philip in pressuring the shaman to cut his long hair and throw out his dresses may have had a greater impact on a young girl deciding what kind of person she wants to be than some make-out sessions with a flirtatious woodland scamp.  Maybe Tiger Lily stopped aging when she tried to nurse Tik Tok back to health, and told him she was sorry.  Maybe it was when she decided to chop her own hair in solidarity with the wrongs done to her adopted father and elicited help from Pine Sap in driving out the Englishmen.

Or, if the halting of her aging really was connected to Peter Pan, then I think it should be when she has a change of heart and risks her life to rescue the stranded Peter and Wendy from drowning in the lagoon, fighting mermaids to the death to give her rival and the boy she stole a chance to live, after having played a part in condemning them to die.  Because she’s realized that maybe it isn’t Wendy’s fault, and that as much as he hurt her she doesn’t really want Peter dead.  That’s a significant step of maturity that shouldn’t be possible if she had stopped growing older weeks before, a moment of agony in her heart that I think is more powerful than a moment of happiness shared with Peter.  The human heart tends to grow more through pain than pleasure, and character is built from choices of action, not experiences of emotion.

What do you think?  Do you agree with Tinker Bell’s assessment that Tiger Lily stopped aging when she was happy with Peter Pan, or do you think it was one of the moments of defining action that I’ve mentioned above?   Let me know in the comments.

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In Which I Am A Super Picky Fangirl (Divergent Style)

Entertainment Weekly has revealed this week’s cover, which features Shailene Woodley and Theo James as Tris and Four from the upcoming film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

I don’t love it.

But let’s start with the positives: the background is fantastic.  A dystopic Chicago skyline, just like the American book covers have featured.  I’m glad that Four is included and it isn’t just narrator Tris, the way Katniss appeared solo in EW’s first look at The Hunger Games.  Thank goodness Tris isn’t portrayed wearing nail polish, because she wouldn’t.  It’s good that the title word is featured boldy, and I like that the font and color remind me of the way it appears on the book cover.  And the text on the left promises we’re about to get more pictures from the set, which will be great.

However.  I hate the total lack of connection between Four and Tris in this pose.  Did they even take this picture together, or where they photoshopped into the same frame?!  They have Tris, whose casting I’m still iffy about, giving us a steely stare in an effort to convince us she’s so tough and Dauntless but they deprive us of Four’s eyes which, lets face it, is what we really want to see.  And not only is he looking away from the camera, he’s looking away from Tris!  There’s nothing about their body language that hints they’re going to be a couple, except the fact that they’re on a magazine cover together.  This glimpse of Four is basically the same as the one other picture revealed so far, except we see a piece of his Dauntless logo back tattoo curling up around his neck on both sides instead of just one.  This is the best view we’ve gotten so far of Tris’s raven tattoos, and while I think they’re okay I’m disappointed at the direction they’re flying.  She gets the ravens to commemorate the family members she leaves behind when she chooses the Dauntless faction, along her collarbone because it’s close to her heart.  I can’t remember if the text specifics the direction of their flight or not, but I always imagined them going towards her heart, not away from it.  Flying away from her heart makes the whole thing sadder and more pessimistic, like they’re getting further away from her even as she tries to hold them close.  I realize that’s an extremely nit-picky criticism, but while I’m at it, Four’s hair looks like it’s thinning on top.  And speaking of hair, why does it look like Tris is wearing a wig?  Was her hairline photoshopped to be a little too perfect?  And I don’t like her pants.  Why do movies always feel the need to make costumes different from regular clothes, when the setting doesn’t require it?  I guess costume designers need something to do.  But the Dauntless initiates don’t walk around with knives in their over-pocketed pants.  And these pants are almost gray, but she should be wearing all black.  So the shirt is the wrong color too.

In conclusion, I am a curmudgeonly old fan of the young adult genre and I will never be satisfied.  Unless maybe one of the photos inside the magazine is a really awesome one of Four; then I might forget all the negatives and swoon over its perfect capturing of his good looks plus self-determined resolve plus sensitivity.  No pressure, Theo James.

**update**

There are some more pictures up now on EW’s website, but I’m not really feeling any more optimistic about them.   The one I’m including below has got to be the derp-iest running ever from both of them.

Herp derp derp, getting of the train at Dertlers

Ermagerhd, Derntlerss!

Furthermore, one of the scan of the inside pages of the magazine circulating on tumblr shows that EW has chosen to caption an image from the scene where Tris is molested and nearly killed as “FRENEMIES: Excelling at Dauntless training can be dangerous, as Tris learns when her fellow initiates become jealous and attack her.”  As I vehemently pointed out in a post on tumblr that has over 100 notes of agreement, “frenemy” is a completely inappropriate word to use to describe a scene where three people, two of them antagonists against Tris from day one, make a pre-meditated attempt to throw her over a bridge to her death.  And grope her chest while she’s dangling over the bridge.  This does not fall under the definition of “frenemy.”

Just terrible

Worst, most tone-deaf moment in Divergent movie marketing so far.

Finally, my instinct about the direction of the bird tattoos was correct.  While it’s not really a huge deal, I don’t see what they’ve gained by changing it.  It had more meaning as written, and pretty much all the fanart I’ve reblogged on divergentfanart has drawn the bird tattoos flying the way they’re described in the book:

But I understand now what Tori said about her tattoos representing a fear she overcame–a reminder of where she was, as well as a reminder of where she is now.  Maybe there is a way to honor my old life as I embrace my new one.

“Yes,” I say.  “Three of these flying birds.”

I touche my collarbone, marking the path of their flight–toward my heart.  One for each member of the family I left behind.

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Fictional Green Eyes, part 3

Ever since I posted my first collection of green-eyed fictional characters (and commentary about how a disproportionate number of them are “evil” characters,) many of my friends have been been helping to point out green-eyed characters that they notice, and I’ve noted a few more on top of that, enough to have posted a second collection of green eyes, and now a third.  I’m pleased that this third collection includes more positive examples, because, if you recall, my interest in green-eyed representation in fiction is fueled by the fact that my own eyes are green.  And I am not an evil/jealous character, (usually).

I can’t believe I forgot all about James Cameron’s Avatar in the previous installments of my green eyes series!  All Na’vi have blue skin and green eyes, and are cat-like and awesome.  I especially love fierce Neytiri.  This definitely counts as a positive, big-screen glorious 3D example of green-eyed character representation, although there’s no quality ascribed to the eye color for the characters in the film itself.  But it’s still cool!

All Na'vi have "rikeana menari" (or, you could say "menari arikean"); "leaf-green eyes."

To describe her own eyes, Neytiri would say  “rikeana menari” (or “menari arikean” since word-order is fluid in Na’vi); “leaf-green eyes,” according to the bit of nerd-research I just did on learnnavi.org.

The title character in John Green’s Looking for Alaska has green eyes, that are mentioned by the narrator several times, (because he’s totally in love with her and notices stuff like that.)  Here’s one such description, from the first day he meets her:

But even in the dark, I could see her eyes—fierce emeralds. She had the kind of eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor.

This is a tough one for me to categorize as a “good” or “bad” green-eyed representation, because it’s hard to categorize Alaska herself as a “good” or “bad” character.  She’s…fickle.  Impulsive.   Hot and cold.  I think in this case, though, her green eyes are one of the things that set her apart as “different” and “desirable” and “mysterious” to the narrator, and I’m certainly not going to complain about that.

Lena Duchannes, as described in the book Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, has green eyes.  Movie-Lena, played by Alice Englert, has dark brown eyes, which I actually think fits the whole “Is she going to ‘go dark’ and destroy the world or not?” thing better.  But as written in the book, it’s another example of green eyes being somehow sinister and associated with witches.  I mean, Lena finds the term ‘witch’ pejorative, but that’s essentially what Casters are.  So it’s not a fantastic green-eyed representation, but I might be biased because I really didn’t care for the book itself.

After I posted my first two green-eyed collections, a friend insisted that I should watch Big Trouble in Little China, a cheesy 1986 movie in which an immortal Chinese sorcerer is targeting women with green eyes as a key element to his plan to “please the god of the east” and regain his mortal form.  There were several great quotes about green eyes being awesome in this film, but I don’t know if I’ll be adding it to my personal DVD collection because it was ridiculously cheesy.  Maybe even gloriously cheesy.  Maybe I do need to own it…

“All I need is a woman, a special kind of woman with dragon-green eyes, and I can be whole again.”

-evil sorcerer Lo Pan

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“She has green eyes, you know how rare that is, Jack?…Beautiful green eyes, like creamy jade.”

-Wang Chi, describing his soon-to-be-abducted fiancee.

Kim Cattrall as Gracie Law in Big Trouble in Little China.

Kim Cattrall as green-eyed Gracie Law in Big Trouble in Little China.

Another friend sent me a message to let me know she’d found another green-eyed character through her daughter’s love of Tinkerbell and friends.  As she put it, this is technically a “good” green-eyed character, but not necessarily the most admirable.

Rosetta, Tinkerbell's fairy friend.

Rosetta, Tinkerbell’s green-eyed fairy friend.

Although vampire Edward Cullen is mostly known for varying between golden/amber or black eye color, depending on how long it’s been since he last swallowed blood, when he was still human Edward Masen his eyes were green.  Bella learns this detail about the object of her obsession from Carlisle in New Moon, and of course she swoons over this fact like she does everything else about Edward.

“But [Edward’s mother] Elizabeth was alert until almost the very end.  Edward looks a great deal like her–she had that same strange bronze shade to her hair, and her eyes were exactly the same color green.”

“His eyes were green?” I murmured, trying to picture it.

“Yes…” Carlisle’s ocher eyes were a hundred years away now.

It’s hypocritical of me to say that Alaska’s green eyes count as a positive since they mark her as unique and yet be annoyed with Edward’s original eye color being colored green by the author with a possibly similar intention, but the Twilight obsession with unique eye colors and with Edward being totally perfect and different and better than everybody in every way makes me resent this particular instance of a green-eyed fictional character.  Maybe it’s just that I don’t like his character (and the way he obsessively and unhealthily controls Bella and their relationship), and that’s why I don’t want to share eye-color attributes with him.

I recently stumbled across a gifset of Pixar’s How To Train Your Dragons on tumblr, and realized that all the dragons have eyes that are shades of green.  That movie is adorable and dragons are awesome (and in this case, not really villainous) so I’m going to call that another positive.

I’ve saved my favorite for last; the main character in the recent animated film Epic has green eyes, and I mean really green eyes.  They are fantastic; bright and dark, complex, sparkling with flecks of gold towards the iris, just like what I picture when I read a description of a character that says they have green eyes, or in my head when I’m imagining a flawless version of myself.  Seeing them on the big-screen was a delight.  Unfortunately, the character herself was kind of blah, and the story felt a little undercooked, but it did have a lot of imaginative world-building elements and some great animated action sequences.  I mean, warriors riding hummingbirds?  Terrific!  And there was green and green eyes everywhere, and this might be my new favorite green-eyed representation in fiction.  For now.

Mary Katherine "M. K." of Epic, with her epic green eyes.

Mary Katherine “M. K.” of Epic, with her epic green eyes.

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