House of Night, Chosen Chapter 1:
Ah House of Night. It feels so good to be back in your warm, awkward embrace. This chapter is mainly a recap (though not as good as our very own House of Night recap). You know the type that YA books do – reminding you who every character is, what’s been going on in the plot, and it’s always off-putting because every time you see your friends in real life you’re not reminding yourself who they are like, “Oh, Ashley, my white friend from Boston who is sarcastic and likes to eat Nachos. Last week she almost got turned into a Zombie!”
We open this chapter with Zoey reminding us that she has a cat named Nala, informing us that it’s her birthday, and telling us that her birthday always sucks because it just gets smushed together with Christmas.
Matt contacted me with the sole purpose of pointing out the first two lines of the chapter:
“Yep, I have a seriously sucky birthday,” I told my cat, Nala.
(Okay, truthfully she’s not so much my cat as I’m her person. You know how it is with cats: They don’t really have owners, they have staff. A fact I mostly try to ignore.)
[Matthew says: Yeah! This was really important! One thing we criticized throughout the first two books was Zoey’s asides, which are a pretty solid contender for the worst attempt at “realistic teenager voice” we’ve ever seen. Basically Zoey’s narration CONSTANTLY pauses to go “(Okay, what I really mean…)” or “(Okay, not really. It’s actually like…)” which I guess is supposed to be realistic and funny (because Zoey’s SO RANDOM LOL), but it’s mainly annoying. And off putting, because it has this weird effect of making the story look like it’s going back on what it’s trying to communicate. And here we are, book three in the series, and it literally couldn’t go ONE SINGLE SENTENCE without doing it. This is the best kind of shitty, you guys. Projecting on the shitty creep from here, my guess is that the title of the next book will be House of Night 4: Untamed (Okay, Actually It’s Pretty Tame. We Are Teenagers And Sit Around Like Total Couch Potaterators and Zonk Out. You Know? Frizzle Shizzle.]
My heart goes out to the Casts who clearly try SO HARD to make Zoey funny and likeable but fail so very miserably.
Anyway, I kept talking to the cat as if she hung on my every word, which is soooo not the case.
I guess the cat is a stand-in for the reader in this situation?
Zoey continues to remind us of all of her loveable quirks:
“Here’s the deal,” I continued as I finished smudging a little liner on my eyes. (And I mean a little—the line-your-eyes-till-you-look-like-a-scary-raccoon is definitely not the look for me. Actually, it’s not the look for anyone.)
Oh, Zoey’s judgemental asides, how I’ve missed you. Teenage girls are most definitely reading these books for sweet makeup tips! [Matthew says: But see what I mean? The story just completely stopped so Zoey could criticize makeup habits she doesn’t like. Interrupting her story about another thing she doesn’t like. Dear God, it’s complainception.]
Part of the time, Zoey does manage to sound like an actual teenager, but then she starts doing shit like this and I just don’t understand what the fuck kind of teenagers the Casts are basing her off of:
“You’re not like anyone else,” I whispered to my reflection. Then I cleared my throat and continued in an overly perky voice. “And it’s okay not to be like anyone else.” I rolled my eyes at myself. “Whatever.” I looked up over my head, half surprised that it wasn’t visible. I mean, I could definitely feel the ginormic dark cloud that had been following me around for the past month. “Hell, I’m surprised it’s not raining in here. And wouldn’t that be just great for my hair?” I sarcastically told my reflection. Then I sighed and picked up the envelope I’d laid on my desk, THE HEFFER FAMILY was embossed in gold above the sparkling return address. “Speaking of depressing…” I muttered.
If I’ve been making fun of a girl who has actual, legitimate mental health issues I’m going to feel fucking awful you guys. But if that’s not the case, I don’t understand why Zoey is whispering really bizarre shit to herself, then putting on an “overly perky voice” to tell herself it’s okay not to be like everyone else? Is she making fun of people who say things like that? Comforting herself? And then without any explanation she’s like, “I looked up over my head half surprised that it wasn’t visible” without specifying what ‘it’ is until later.
Zoey reads a terrible card from her terrible parents [Matthew says: And the Casts remind us that they no idea when they’re going way over the top, even when they’re writing religious zealots, which is almost impressive]:
There was a huge wooden cross on the front of the card. Staked to the middle of the cross (with a bloody nail) was an old time scroll-like paper. Written (in blood, of course) were the words: He IS the reason for the season. Inside the card was printed (in red letters): MERRY CHRISTMAS. Below that, in my mom’s handwriting, it said: I hope you’re remembering your family during this blessed time of the year. Happy Birthday, Love, Mom and Dad.
“That’s so typical,” I told Nala. My stomach hurt. “And he is not my dad.” I ripped the card in two and threw it into the wastepaper basket, then stood staring at the torn pieces. “If my parents aren’t ignoring me, they’re insulting me. I like being ignored better.”
It is pretty rude that her parents don’t even acknowledge her birthday in their card, but we can’t fault them for needing to get their point across. Zoey just isn’t more important than Jesus, and she needs to understand that.
Anyway, Damien knocks at the door, so it’s definitely time for the book to remind us he’s gay.
“Zoey, everyone wants to know where you are.” Damien’s voice carried easily through the door.
“Hang on—I’m almost ready,” I yelled, shook myself mentally, and gave my reflection one more look, deciding, with a definitely defensive edge, to leave my shoulder bare. “My Marks aren’t like anyone else’s. Might as well give the masses something to gawk at while they talk,” I muttered. Then I sighed. I’m usually not so grumpy. But my sucky birthday, my sucky parents…
No. I couldn’t keep lying to myself.
“Wish Stevie Rae was here,” I whispered
Oh wow, maybe I was wrong about this series, the book hasn’t even mentioned that Damien is gay yet! Instead, it was just a way for Zoey to both reflect on Stevie Rae’s “death” while also reminding us that she’s hiding in a sewer and that none of Zoey’s friends can know about this. Maybe the book has turned a new corner and just will trust we remember Damien’s gay all on our own!
While I hesitated, trying to figure out what I should or could say to Damien, he raised one neatly plucked brow and, in his best schoolteacher voice, said, “You know how sensitive my people are to emotions, so you may as well just give up and tell me the truth.”
Well, it was only a matter of time. I think having one whole sentence where it didn’t come up was a new record. Plus, I’m sure it won’t come up again for awhile.
I sighed again. “You gays are freakishly intuitive.”
“That’s us: homos—the few, the proud, the hypersensitive.”
“Isn’t homo a derogatory term?”
“Not if it’s used by a homo. By the by, you’re stalling and it’s so not working for you.” He actually put his hand on his hip and tapped his foot
What…what is happening? [Matthew says: No joke, Damien also gave an identical explanation in the last book. Probably because the Casts want to explain how they’re actually not being offensive, because it’s ok since their (insanely stereotypically) gay character does it! Real talk, there’s a part of me that’s terrified they’re going to do the same thing with the N word at some point.] The fact that Zoey tries to be like, “But isn’t homo a derogatory term” so Damien can have a faux-educational moment is so uncomfortable.
Zoey and Damien talk about how much they miss Stevie Rae and how southern she was.
Well, at least we’ve now moved onto other things and can just see Zoey and Damien having a nice moment without any mention about his sexual preference –
“Let’s go. I’m feeling the need to open presents,” I lied enthusiastically.
“Ohmygod! I can not wait for you to open mine!” Damien gushed. “I shopped for it forevah!” I smiled and nodded appropriately as Damien went on and on about his Quest for the Perfect Present. Usually he isn’t so overtly gay. Not that the fabulous Damien Maslin isn’t actually gay. He totally is. But he’s also a tall, brown-haired, big-eyed cutie who looks like he’d be excellent boyfriend material (which he is—if you’re a boy). He’s not a fluttery-acting gay kid, but get the boy talking about shopping and he definitely shows some girlish tendencies. Not that I don’t like that about him. I think he looks cute when he gushes about the importance of buying really good shoes, and right then his babbling was soothing. It was helping me to get ready to face the bad presents that (sadly) waited for me.
Zoey reminds us who her other friends are – like the twins who aren’t biological twins but are just both so bland and forgettable the Casts just sort of merged them into one character basically. And then there’s Erik Night who I guess doesn’t have a Shakespeare contest to be at in this book. How nice of you to join us, Erik.
“Happy birthday, Z,” said a deep, sexy voice I knew very, very well. I stepped out of the twin sandwich and walked into the arms of my boyfriend, Erik. Well, technically, Erik is one of my two boyfriends, but the other is Heath, a human teenager I dated before I was Marked and I’m not supposed to be dating him now, but I kinda sorta accidentally sucked his blood and now we’re Imprinted and so he’s my boyfriend by default. Yes, it’s confusing. Yes, it makes Erik mad. Yes, I expect him to dump me any day because of it.
UG I hate when you accidentally suck your not-boyfriends blood and then he gets all clingy and all the telepathic boner rubs in the world aren’t enough to satisfy him, and then you’ve got your actual boyfriend who isn’t into this at all! The Casts just get what it’s like to be a teen. [Matthew says: You know what’s the most amazing? How Zoey and Heath’s relationship has managed to get retconned EVERY. SINGLE. BOOK. In book one Heath was almost Zoey’s “NOT boyfriend”. Then in book two he was her ex-boyfriend, with no mention of when Zoey ever decided he counted. And now Erik knows he’s being two-timed and is putting up with it? I feel like just MAYBE that would have been a useful moment to include.]
Zoey kisses Erik which for some reason is just another excuse for the book to remind us again how Damien is gay. I’m not making this shit up, that is what 90% of this chapter is, and I will prove it.
“Hey, Erik, why don’t you spread some of that birthday sugar around?” Shaunee wagged her eyebrows at my grinning boyfriend.
“Yeah, sweet thang,” Erin said, and in typical twin fashion mirrored Shaunee’s eye waggle. “How about a little b-day kiss over here.”
I rolled my eyes at the twins. “Uh, it’s not his birthday. You only get to kiss the birthday boy or girl.”
“Damn,” Shaunee said. “I lurve ya, Z, but I don’t want to kiss ya.”
“Just please with the same-sex kissing,” Erin said, then she grinned at Damien (who was gazing adoringly at Erik). “I’ll leave that to Damien.”
As someone who has had many gay and straight friends throughout my life who hang out together, I can assure you with great confidence that you can have a conversation that is just a conversation without being like SAME-SEX KISSING, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A THING FOR DAMIEN! WHO BY THE WAY IS GAY.
But why limit yourself to just talking about how gay Damien is when you could talk about how gay his boyfriend is?
While I was seriously considering sneaking another Erik kiss, a mini-whirlwind in the form of Damien’s boyfriend, Jack Twist, burst into the room.
Erik and Jack are roommates, further proving Erik’s coolness. He’s a fifth former (in normal language that’s a junior) and he’s also easily the most popular guy at school. Jack is a third former (a freshman), a new kid, cute but kinda dorky, and definitely gay. Erik could have made a big deal about being stuck with a queer and could have gotten out of rooming with him, and made Jack’s life hell at the House of Night. Instead he totally took him under his wing and treats him like a little brother, a treatment he extends to Damien, who has been officially going out with Jack for two point five weeks as of today. (We all know because Damien is ridiculously romantic and he celebrates the half-week anniversaries as well as the weekly ones. Yes, it makes the rest of us gag. In a nice way.)
When Zoey says, “Erik could have made a big deal about being stuck with a queer” do you think she’s saying it in a way that’s making fun of guys who would say something like that or just phrasing it like that herself? I really wish that was clearer because I found that line so jarring, and as offensive as Zoey can be…I’m going to give her/the book the benefit of the doubt in this one instance.
Zoey opens her present from Jack and it’s a snow globe that plays “Frosty the Snowman” thus deeply disappointing Zoey who is sick of this shit on her birthday. Poor Zoey has to open even more presents from her friends next chapter 🙁