Hey, wanna hear something crazy? I’m in South Korea right now! Nuts, right? Okay. Back to young adult vampire fiction. This is a long one today. This chapter was awful.
Zoey and Stevie Rae overslept and they’re gonna be late to the Shakespeare recital! The Casts continue to awkwardly try to use slang!
Shaunee was glaring at me. “Please with the sleeping all damn day!”
Shaunee snaps at Zoey to wake up and get herself together because she’s late. Zoey then snaps at Stevie Rae to wake up and get herself together because she’s late. I’m really buying the friendship between these characters, much like how I’m getting lost in the Casts’ totally not dry and simplistic writing. [Matt, please with the sarcasm!]
We are best friends and she definitely knows when I’m overstressed.
They head out to go see the returning vampyre students who had just competed at the Shakespeare competition, which includes Erik Night, Zoey’s boyfriend! You might not remember who he is though, based on how Zoey’s been flirting and/or making out with two other men through the first 57% of this book, but the Casts helpfully provide a reminder.
Actually, I hadn’t even worried about how he’d placed, which was definitely not good girlfriend etiquette.
Much like flirting with your high school teacher or giving your ex-boyfriend an over-the-pants handjob while your boyfriend is out of town.
Everyone thought I was the lucky girl who had caught Erik after he’d escaped from Aphrodite’s nasty spiderweb (and by web I mean crotch).
Just in case you were worried the Casts weren’t going to work Aphrodite’s spider vagina into two books. [Ariel says: I think it just shows how much consistency they try to bring to their writing. What world building ability and creative energy they bring to every page!]
Hell, I thought I was lucky to have him, something that had been hard to remember when I was sucking Heath’s blood and flirting with Loren.
Oh, good, Zoey is finally acknowledging cheating on him! Still not, you know, feeling bad about cheating on him, but she doesn’t have to be! After all, her vagina has zero spiders in it. [Ariel says: Lest you forget that time Aphrodite was trying to give Erik a blowjob in the hallway. Zoey only rubbed Heath over the pants in a car. That’s the difference between slut/spider-web-for-vagina and non-slut/non-spider-web-for-vagina. Location location location.]
Zoey continues to not catch on to the increasingly obvious foreshadowing that Stevie Rae is about to get sick, reject the Change, and die. Except with weirdly more antagonism.
She yawned again and coughed. I frowned at her. She looked like crap. How could she still be tired?
Now the chapter in this vampire young adult novel shifts focus to something with great appeal to its target audience: Shakespeare!
The drama teacher explains to the assembled student body that the competition had 25 worldwide House of Night campuses each send five students to the Shakespeare competition. He announces where each of their finalists placed in the competition, and then they will perform the monologue they did.
As Zoey watches the performing students, she observes their talents and – based on that alone – decides to extend them invitations to join the Dark Daughters. Yeah, sure, it probably does make sense in this case, since they already represented the school in this competition, but it’s basically another instance of Zoey fully judging a person’s value based on her first impression of them. And it only gets more inane because, of course, it’s Zoey:
[Kaci] was a fourth former who I didn’t know very well because around the dorm she was kinda shy and quiet, even though she seemed nice. I didn’t think she was a member of the Dark Daughters, and I made a mental note to send her an invitation to join.
But can it get worse? Of course! For example, Zoey hasn’t gotten vindictive about being progressive about race yet!
Cole Clifton was tall, blond, and totally cute. […] Hm… I’d have to talk to Erik about fixing Shaunee up with Cole. In my opinion more white boys should date women of color. It was good for expanding their horizons (especially true in Oklahoma white boys).
I realize that I’m white and can’t really weigh in with full understanding on how offensive this is, but I’m pretty sure that objectifying black people is also pretty racist. It’s a nice, progressive thought, of course, but the way this is worded as, like, a public service announcement from social idealist extraordinaire Zoey smacks rather ironically of white privilege. It reads less like “interracial dating is great because people have historically judged the value of others by the color of their skin and this helps move society past that because a stronger force than hate is love”, and more like “interracial dating is a great novelty”. Young adult series House of Night, everybody.
[Ariel says: Exactly! It just serves to exoticize women of color and comes across as painfully ignorant. Oh, yes, dating a woman of color is ever so good for expanding your horizon, you simply must try dating one, darling. If Zoey had just said “I’d have to talk to Erik about fixing Shaunee up with Cole” I wouldn’t have stopped dead in my tracks and been like. Hold the mother fucking phones, this Cole fellow sounds pretty dang white, and I know for a fact Shaunee is black. THIS MUST BE COMMENTED ON!!!!
So sad, I just looked everywhere for this clip from Broad City (which was one of the best shows I’ve gotten into this year along with Hannibal and Suits) where one of the main characters is super excited because her artwork was used in a commercial for a dating website, but it turns out the dating website is a white supremacist dating platform, so she is pretty mortified when she finds out. You should all immediately go watch the first season of Broad City. Thanks bai.]
Zoey segues out of her important white girl opinion to talk about the next performing student rather naturally:
Speaking of women of color
Who the fuck edited House of Night? Seriously. I want to know more badly than for anything else we read.
Somewhat interestingly (your mileage will vary), the next performer is Deino aka one of Aphrodite’s former friends aka Lord Hitlerface. Whom, of course, Zoey watches perform for three seconds and decides, “She seems like an upstanding citizen; let’s bring her into the Dark Daughters too!” through some absolute idiot-fallacy bizarro logic.
Watching her I was so dazzled by her talent that I started to wonder how much of her hateful haggishness had been because of Aphrodite’s influence.
Zoey is apparently not familiar with the phenomenon that is “acting”, which is quite literally what Deino is doing right now.
Erik is introduced and it is revealed that he placed first in the Shakespeare competition, which would be pretty surprising if his character served literally any purpose in the narrative aside from “go compete in a Shakespeare competition and create a minimal amount of dramatic tension for three pages when you come back from that”. Erik comes out and Zoey remembers how attractive he is. She does not think about how she’s been cheating on him. Erik starts performing a monologue from Othello:
“Her father lov’d me; oft invited me;
Still question’d me the story of my life”
Oh Christ, the Casts can’t even pick a good Shakespeare quote.
Bafflingly, Kristin and P.C. Cast chose this moment to continue retconning Zoey into someone who actually cares about Heath.
I couldn’t help but compare [Erik] to Heath. In his own way, Heath was as successful and talented as Erik.
But none of that is even the weirdest part. After his performance, Zoey and Stevie Rae are caught up in the romantic Shakespeare quote Erik just wowed everyone with:
Stevie Rae stood cheering next to me, wiping her eyes and laughing.
“That was so romantic I almost peed my pants,” she yelled.
“Me, too!” I laughed.
Let me get this straight. This thing that just happened… was so romantic… that it almost made you urinate. Not blush. Not experience an elevated heart rate. [Ariel says: Not even detonate or convulse!] Urinate. That… that is not a physical reaction commonly associated with romance.
Zoey and Erik are finally reunited after the event, and then, perhaps even more unfathomable than anything that has happened in this chapter so far, the Casts actually write some pretty decent Shakespeare parallelism.
[Erik] proclaimed in his actor’s voice that carried all around the room, “Hello, my sweet Desdemona.” […]
Over Erik’s shoulder I met [Aphrodite’s] eyes and, in a silky voice […], said, “If he’s calling you Desdemona, then I suggest you be careful. If it even looked like you’re cheating on him he’ll strangle you in your bed.”
Of course, they completely spell it out for us, but, guys, that was actually competent. Where the fuck did that come from? These authors couldn’t tell the difference between romance and uncontrollable bladder syndrome a page ago.
Then she flipped her long, blond, perfect hair and twitched away.
“Twitched”? Like… an involuntary jerking motion? Never mind. The Casts have no idea what they’re doing.
BUT THEN IT GETS EVEN WEIRDER.
Shaunee jerked her chin in Cole’s direction. “He is one fine Romeo.” […]
“Twin, if Juliet had been black I do not believe things would have come to such a shitty end between her and Romeo.”
Yes, interracial marriage would definitely have smoothed things over in the 16th century. But do go on, Erin. I can’t wait to hear your logic for this.
“We would have shown more sense than drinking that sleeping potion crap and going through all that drama just because of some unfortunate parental issues.”
“Exactly,” Shaunee said.
None of us stated the obvious – that Erin, with her blond hair and blue eyes, was definitely NOT BLACK. We were too used to her and Shaunee being twinlike to question the weirdness of it.
… I have nothing. [Ariel says: I guess Shaunee (and Erin???) being black is the new Damien is gay. I’m genuinely shocked every other line isn’t Zoey reminding us she’s part Cherokee.]
Seriously, what the actual fuck was that? Again, who the fuck is the actual, employed editor who read that section and thought, “Yep, this makes sense. Leave it in”? I don’t think I’ve ever read a passage of a book so aggressively weird and so utterly confounding that so violently pulled me out of my immersion in it. This doesn’t add anything to the story, the characters, or even to the tone, because it’s so fucking weird. [Ariel says: Seriously, they don’t even try to explain why a black Juliet would have saved Rome and Juliet’s lives. I know that wasn’t the weirdest part of that passage, but I’m so fucking baffled, you guys.]
Because this chapter just won’t stop being terrible gibberish already, Erik meets Jack, Damien’s new love interest and Erik’s new roommate. Zoey is pleased that Erik is so welcoming to the (apparently) gay Jack, which makes her realize how little she knows about Erik.
I’d never asked Erik where he was from. Jeesh, I was a crappy girlfriend.
But the juggling two other guys is totally okay. It isn’t until she’s about to leave to go do her first Dark Daughters ritual and Erik gives her a present – a stunning black dress – that Zoey finally acknowledges that her involvement with the other guys is a bad thing.
I clutched the dress to my chest and tried not to think about the fact that while Erik was buying me an amazingly cool present I had been either sucking Heath’s blood or flirting with Loren. [I] tried to ignore the guilty voice inside my head that kept saying, over and over, You don’t deserve him… you don’t deserve him… you don’t deserve him…
Of course, she still thinks about this not in terms of how she’s hurting Erik, but in terms of herself, because it’s always all about Zoey.