Pop Culture References are Not Plot: Marked Chapter 11

For the life of me I couldn’t remember what had happened in chapter ten of House of Night: Marked aside from the accidentally homophobic remarks and the glaring similarities to Mean Girls. Other major plot points  included Zoey being invited to do a ritual with the resident mean girls, the Dark Daughters, and vampyres making sure that the youngins’ about to go through the change would eat healthy food so they don’t get sick and die before becoming full vampyres. I can only imagine what wonders are to come in this chapter. [Matthew says: I still can’t read “accidentally homophobic” without thinking of when Stephen Colbert satirized “Accidental Racist” with “Oopsie Daisy Homophobe]

Chapter 11

Zoey is having trouble sleeping not because of the whirlwind of a week she’s having, but because she can’t tell if its her mark that’s causing her forehead to hurt or a zit. Life is hard for teenage vampyres!

Actually, my last worries before I could remember nothing else were about my forehead. Was it feeling sore again because of the Mark and the cut over my temple—or was it because I was getting a ginormic zit? And would my hair look okay for my first day of vamp school tomorrow?

My emotions!

When Zoey gets up the next morning evening, we discover she loves cereal (and even has a t-shirt to prove it!) and loves Count Chocula. HOW CRAZY! Cause SHE’S A VAMPYRE NOW AND THE COUNT IS A VAMPIRE!!! [Matthew says: The book goes through about as much effort as we did to point out the kooky irony behind this.] Then she tells us about what kind of makeup she’s putting on and my eyes just glaze over. Zoey may be one of the most boring protagonists I’ve ever read, and right now she’s directly competing with Abby Abernanthy who doesn’t think any thoughts. I almost wish Zoey would take a page out of Beautiful Disaster and just not have many inner thoughts.

Then she and Stevie Rae talk about hair because it’s time for things to get interesting finally.

“I like your short hair,” I said, moving out of her way and grabbing my cute sparkly black ballet flats.
“Yeah, well, it makes me a freak here. Everybody has long hair.”
“I noticed, but I don’t really get it.”
“It’s one of the things that happens while we’re going through the Change. Vamps’ hair grows abnormally fast, just like their fingernails.”

…Sure that makes sense. Dead people growing hair and fingernails faster than their living counterparts.

it's science

I know that vampire/vampyre fiction all handle the issue of hair differently, but this strikes me as real dumb. Real real dumb.

Zoey gets her skewl schedule which was made five days before she was marked OMG.

1st hour—Vampyre Sociology 101. Rm. 215. Prof. Neferet
2nd hour—Drama 101. Performing Arts Center. Prof. Nolan
Sketching 101. Rm. 312. Prof. Doner
Intro to Music. Rm. 314. Prof. Vento
3rd hour—Lit 101. Rm. 214. Prof. Penthesilea
4th hour—Fencing. Gymnasium. Prof. D. Lankford
5th hour—Spanish 101. Rm. 216. Prof. Garmy
6th hour—Intro to Equestrian Studies. Field House. Prof. Lenobia

I’m not quite sure why I find this schedule so bizarre. Maybe it’s that fencing and Equestrian studies are given their own time slots and don’t seem to be electives. Maybe it’s just that “Vampyre Sociology” is fucking hilarious. I guess vampyres have no need for math or science. [Matthew says: Similarly, it really bothers me that the Hogwarts curriculum in Harry Potter includes no humanities. ]

Stevie Rae explains that Fencing and Equestrian Studies are meant to keep them in shape, but it still strikes me as super weird that those are the two things that are mandatory for students. Stevie Rae further explains that she’s been put into Tae Kwan Do, which again raises the question why students are just randomly chucked into one of these classes without picking. You know what she does get to pick between? Music and Sketching!

I glanced back down the list. “Which one are you taking?”
“Intro to Music. Professor Vento is cool, and I, uh…” Stevie Rae grinned and blushed. “I want to be a country music star. I mean, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain are all vamps—and that’s just three of them. Heck, Garth Brooks grew up right here in Oklahoma and you know he’s the biggest vamp of them all. So I don’t see why I can’t be one, too.”

What. The. Fuck?

“Makes perfect sense to me,” I said.

NO. No sense has been made! Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought vampyres were marked as teenagers. So we’re not supposed to believe that these people were suddenly turned into vampyres later in life but in fact have been them for X amount of time? [Matthew says: Unlike Ariel, I’m actually relatively okay with accepting this as alternate history. Like Ariel, however, I still think this is incredibly stupid.] This book tries way too hard to seem hip with all of its pop culture references. I think last chapter people were watching reruns of That 70s Show. While I love pop culture references sometimes, it only works when it adds something to the story and brings it to life more. These just seem like they’re randomly thrown in to seem hip even the ones which are super outdated or obscure seem to be trying to impress. [Matthew says: This is why it really bothered me that – instead of describing her dislike for Aphrodite, an actual character in these books – Zoey instead talked about why she disliked Sarah Jessica Parker and said it was like that.] Making these country stars vampyres isn’t cool or clever, it’s just random and pointless. [Matthew says: In the next chapter we learn Shakespeare was also a vampyre. Man, if you’re not a vampyre in this world but want to go into the arts, you’re pretty much hosed.]

Here, just lines later there’s the perfect example when the girls start talking about their drama class.

“Okay, grab your schedule and let’s go. Hey,” she said as we hurried out of the room and skipped down the stairs, “maybe you’ll be the next Nicole Kidman!”
Well, I guess being the next Nicole Kidman wouldn’t be bad (not that plan on marrying and then divorcing a manic short guy).

If the aim of these references is to get me to hate Zoey as much as possible, then yes, mission accomplished. [Matthew says: I had to stop and think what this was a reference to, because I forgot Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise were married. And if I almost didn’t know it, I can’t fathom that this book’s younger target audience would know this either. This is why pop culture references don’t work when the story depends on them so much, because you don’t understand basic plot elements if you don’t know the reference or forgot it, much like everyone will eventually, and then people will read this book and it will be indecipherable.]

Aphrodite briefly makes an appearance in the cafeteria to tell Zoey where to meet for the ritual after classes, and then we’re left with another poop related cliffhanger before Zoey goes to class:

At least the bathroom was close. If I had a case of raging nervous stomach diarrhea I wouldn’t have far to run.



  1. Bellomy Reply

    Brain cells died. Just from reading the brief excerpts posted.

    I can only hope that the critical thinking you guys are doing while reading the book counteracts the stupid and keeps you from slowly growing dumber.

  2. Dana Reply

    I had to think for a moment who the Nicole Kidman thing was referring to. Seriously, this book came out in 2007 or something, and those two broke up all the way back when freaking Buffy was still in production.

    This chapter also reminded me of the Mortal Instruments movie (I didn’t see it. I only learned this from reviews), when they claimed that Bach was actually a secret Shadowhunter.

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Seriously, if we can barely remember what these references are about, how will the target age group?? And the fact that this is the defining thing about Nicole Kidman when it happened ages ago…it’s like the Cast family just is so angry at the rest of the world that they passive aggressively take it out through Zoey.

  3. E.H.Taylor Reply

    There’s a really big difference between writing a book that appeals to a younger audience and writing a book as if that younger audience wrote it.

    Funny thing is, though a lot of 13 year olds would write something like this (I have younger cousins who like to write), they would read this and think it was terrible. Just because something is at the writing level of an age group, does not make it the reading level. And honestly, I have no idea what age group this book is trying to target.

    • matthewjulius Reply

      I KNOW, RIGHT? The diction makes it sound like it’s being written for twelve year olds, but then the subject matter discusses oral sex and homophobia, so it’s probably not for twelve year olds?

      • 22aer22 Reply

        If it is I feel terrible for those impressionable twelve year olds. I don’t feel oral sex is okay for twelve year olds obviously, but I do feel that they shouldn’t grow up thinking it will always be evil or mean a guy is using you or that if you’re interested in sex it instantly makes you a slut.

  4. scummy48 Reply

    “Stevie Rae grinned and blushed. “I want to be a country music star. I mean, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain are all vamps”

    Oh my god I laughed so hard at that. At first I thought she was saying that her name, like those three, sounded like the name of a country singer. But nope. They are just “vampyres”.

    I can’t even put into words how much I hate the pop culture references and how they are used. Not only is it aggravating, irrelevant, and often nonsensical, but it’s also just nothing like how teenagers speak. Young adults don’t compare everything they do to pop stars. And the pop stars in this book aren’t even the ones most teens I know even think about. This book doesn’t even sound like a kid wrote it, it sounds like an older terrible writer trying to connect with the younger generation when they have never talked to young people. And I also have no idea who the target audience for this book could be. It is just all over the place.

    • 22aer22 Reply

      My mom used to be a librarian and apparently there were actually human pre-teens that came into the library raving about these books. I’m just not sure what they could have possibly seen in this. Did these nonsensical pop culture references somehow touch their hearts (OMG I too have watched That 70s Show reruns sometimes! I also know that Nicole Kidman is a person who exists on this planet!”

  5. Kehdece Reply

    She’s gotta stop leaving us on this “will she or won’t she get diarrhea” cliffhanger.
    Seriously, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to find out !

    It’s strange how I find that more noteworthy than the plot so far…

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Hahahaha I think it’s the most noteworthy plot so far too! I think the best would be if it actually happened. Maybe I’d be able to praise this series for doing something daring…then again I’d probably just wind up making fun of it anyway.

  6. KayMia Reply

    Another issue I have is the overuse of low value-added adjectives and adverbs; I’m getting confused mid sentence regarding what the original subject was – “cute sparkly black ballet flats”?? Is the author getting paid by the word?

    • 22aer22 Reply

      YES! I guess they’re really REALLY trying to set the scene for us to the point where we can’t even remember what’s being described anymore. “Look how many details we’ve put in the book! Good writing!”

  7. AJ Reply

    Chapters like this one make me wonder if this isn’t secretly Tara Gilesbie’s My Immortal, somehow salvaged enough to be published through professional means.

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