Tomorrow, When the War Began (a book review)

I guess I’m actually okay with doing book reviews on this blog. Given how many I’ve done already, that probably shouldn’t surprise me.

It doesn’t. It just makes me anxious that somebody’s going to call me a hypocrite. Gotta love social anxiety.

Also gotta love reading books written by grown-ass man-people about the sexual awakening of fictional teenage girls, apparently. Which may be why I do not love Tomorrow, When the War Began. I don’t hate it either, and wouldn’t mind reading the rest of the series – but it’s only that I don’t mind it. I don’t want to read the rest of it. I just kinda want to know what happens. There will be spoilers in this review, but I have to be honest, this is one series I wouldn’t mind having a bit spoiled for me just so that I’d know whether or not it’s worth the investment of reading the rest of it.

I decided to read this book for a couple of reasons. One: post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories that are not clones of The Hunger Games or The Road are something I’m very interested in, and to Tomorrow‘s credit that is exactly what I got, and I did enjoy that aspect of it quite a lot. I guess this is technically a war story rather than dystopian or post-apocalyptic, but it all kind of swirls together in the same genre broth for me. Two: I had heard that John Marsden was really bad at writing a female POV, and heard that there are people who have asked him how he manages to write such believable female characters, and the desire to find out which side of the debate I fell on – if either – has been pretty strong in me ever since. The answer?

I mean I think I already gave it away to some extent, but more giving away of thoughts, opinions and spleen beyond the first bullet-point. And, again, spoilers.

  • Tomorrow, or Maybe Next Week, No Rush Guys

I almost gave up on this book, as I believe I mentioned briefly a few posts ago. If not, well, I almost gave up on this book, and I almost gave up on it because after 60 pages I was still waiting for this titular War to fucking Begin.

Okay, I exaggerate; after 54 pages the War had still not Begun. For comparison, the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring is about 50 pages of absolute filler as well, and anybody who’s read that – and didn’t enjoy the world-building and very slow burn of setting up the plot – can attest that 50 pages is kinda pushing it. While the pages are smaller, the font is bigger and the margins are narrower with Tomorrow it still takes its sweet fucking time getting to the selling-point, and in the meantime …

Well there we were, only weeks ago, though I can hardly believe it, lying in front of the television watching some junk and talking about the holidays. Corrie said, ‘We haven’t been down to the river for ages. Let’s do that.’ (3)

Page 3 is acceptable. Page 3 is even acceptable in The Fellowship of the Ring for not having immediately gotten to the point. All that advice about hooking readers in with the very first opening line and the very first chapter – it’s not like it’s bad advice, but it’s about marketing rather than storytelling. I don’t mind a slow burn, and page 3 is not enough to constitute a “slow burn” in my opinion. So far so acceptable.

The plan was to leave at eight o’clock, nice and early. By about ten o’clock we were nearly ready. By about 10.30 we were about four k’s from home, starting the ascent to Tailor’s Stitch. (17)

Okay, first of all: if you are writing a book and using numbers, you either write the numbers out as words or use actual numbers to represent them, not both. It’s a rookie mistake; it’s something I myself did until late last year, but let’s all learn from this experience of actually reading an instance of using both that is incredibly clunky and unattractive and vow never to do it again. Good? Good.

As to pacing: look, the pages are pretty small, and I’m not kidding about those margins. There’s an average of 10 words per line, 35 lines per page. That’s only 350 words per page (on average), and we also got introduced to the other characters in this time, so yeah, okay. Still fine. And they’ve actually left to go on this trip of theirs. Things are looking up. I’d like a bit more momentum, but I’m willing to push through for now.

The track was taking us downhill all the time. It wound around a bit, looking for the best route, but the trend was always downhill. It was going to be quite a sweat getting back up. We’d lost a lot of altitude. It was beautiful though, quiet, shady, cool and damp. There were no flowers, just more shades of green and brown than the English language knows about. (31)

Scenery is important on a camping trip. Tolkien certainly knew that, and Tomorrow is not being quite that agonizing. Explain the scenery. That’s fine. It’s even nice, a tiny bit poetic. Just explain it while something’s happening, please. Like the war. Or anything. At all.

‘So will your parents let you go overseas?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know. They might, if I work on them long enough. They let me apply for that exchange thing, remember.’

‘Your parents are so easy to get on with.’

‘So are yours.’

‘Oh, most of the time I guess they are. It’s only when Dad is in one of his moods. And he is awfully sexist. All the stuff I had to go through just to come on this trip. If I was a boy it’d be no problem.’

‘Mmm. My Dad’s not bad. I’ve been educating him.’

I smiled. A lot of people underestimated Corrie. She just quietly worked away on people quietly till she got what she wanted. (46)

Anything. At. All.

I sneaked a look at Homer. Kevin was talking to him and Homer was trying to act like he was listening, while he stared frantically at Fi out of the corner of his eye. But looking again at Fi, I was sure she knew. There was something just a bit self-conscious about the way she was walking, and the way she stood there in the cooling sunlight, like a model doing a fashion shoot on a beach. I think she knew, and loved it. (54)

TEENAGERS BEING HORNY AND GOSSIPY DOES NOT COUNT AS “ANYTHING” BOOK NOW GET TO THE FUCKING POINT

The dogs were dead. (55)

YES GOOD DEATH THAT IS SOMETHING SEE THIS IS STUFF HAPPENING ISN’T STUFF HAPPENING FUN, BOOK

Full disclosure: I got so fucking fed up with this book during the first five chapters that I went off and watched the film adpatation. It’s on YouTube, and it’s not particularly good. But if you don’t have the energy to slog through the first 54 pages of absolutely fucking nothing of interest unless you have never been a teenager yourself and are mesmerised by the idea of how exciting it’s going to be to start going through a hormone apocalypse, the film will cater to your attention span. Attention-span is the sole reason I decided to watch it.

As I found out, though, it also has another advantage over the book: it tells a more conventional story. It at least feels like there are more stakes, and because you can actually see the camping trip it is not nearly as arduous as it is to get through in the book. There’s some incredibly stilted dialogue, particularly the Big-Speech-that-sums-up-the-general-themes-of-the-story scene, but as I discovered later it was actually taken straight from the book:

‘They seemed such innocent days. You know, when we got to high school and stuff, i used to look back and smile and think “God, was I ever innocent!” Santa Claus and tooth fairies and thinking that Mum stuck your paintings on the fridge because they were masterpieces. But I’ve learnt something now. Corrie, we were still innocent. Right up to yesterday. We didn’t believe in Santa Claus but we believed in other fantasies. You said it. You said the big one. We believed we were safe. That was the big fantasy. Now we know we’re not, and like you said, we’ll never feel safe again, and so it’s bye-bye innocence. It’s been nice knowing you, but you’re gone now.’ (107)

This speech in the film is actually even more stilted, but that’s partly because it’s shorter. I have a lot of complaints and issues with this book, but the overarching one is the way that it’s written: it’s almost like a parody, like the SNL sketch of what a trailer for a horror film directed by Wes Anderson would look like. This book is written in the way I’d expect a pre-teen children’s book to be written in terms of the writing style and “level”, but dealing with topics no children’s book would ever tackle because, basically, they’re too dark. In a sense, it does lend itself to the whole “innocence lost” theme, though it could have been less, I dunno, clunky. And there is definitely part of me that admires books written for kids that actively explore dark, serious issues, which Tomorrow certainly does. That is probably the book’s biggest strength, and while I’ve just been complaining up to this point, I do want to emphasise that I think it gets across the shock and horror of war really well, at least insofar as I know anything about the shock and horror of war, which is only what I’ve read in books or seen in movies and television. Once we hit chapter 6 on page 55, after 54 pages of particularly generic teen antics plus *gasp* unsupervised co-ed camping, things really do pick up.

The awkward clash of writing style and the content of the story also has the excuse of Ellie, our token bland main character, being the one telling the story, having been elected the journal-keeper of the group after the war actually begins, so you could say that this is her writing style. But that’s like saying Bioshock Infinite has the excuse of being incredibly linear and “on rails” (not least because rails are one of the core mechanics of the game) because it’s a story about fate and destiny and inevitability: it’s a really thin excuse, and it just emphasises that it is, indeed, an excuse, not a justification. There is no justification for a book dealing with issues this severe being written so … childishly. And while it can be grating to read as an adult because it’s so basic all the way through, it’s worst when it comes to the dialogue.

Actually, I take that back. It’s worst when it comes to sex.

  • Tomorrow, When I Felt Incredibly Uncomfortable Reading Ellie’s Journal

Here’s a particularly charming example, for your reading pleasure:

I remember going to the meatworks once with Dad for some reason, and while he talked business with the manager I watched the animals being driven up the ramp to the killing floor. What I’d never forgotten was the sight of two steers halfway up the ramp, just a couple of minutes away from death, but one still trying to mount the other. I know it’s a crude comparison, but that’s the way we were. ‘In the midst of death we are in life.’ We were in the middle of a desperate struggle to stay alive, but here I was, still thinking about boys and love. (123-124)

I said before that the writing style isn’t particularly naturalistic. This is not just not naturalistic; it is weird. I found that the best way to cope was to read it with an Australian accent, either out loud or just in my head, and the fact that it works so well suggests that where a writer is from most definitely affects their writing sensibilities.

Also: isn’t “steer” a word used for, y’know, male cattle? Are there gay cows in this book? Because that’s kind of awesome. Except that they exist solely to be killed off as a metaphor for the paradoxical link between sex and death, but whatever.

That’s not the part that I had issues with, though. This is just kind of pretentious and ungainly to read; the bit that actually bothered me comes near the end of the book, when the group has returned from a big rescue mission and are hanging out at their undiscovered safe haven out in the bush:

There we were, standing in the cold stream, exchanging hot kisses. I explored not just his lips but his smell, the feeling of his skin, the shape of his shoulder blades, the warmth of the back of his neck. (211-212)

I mean I know it’s just a small thing, but I remember physically recoiling from the page halfway through. I think it’s as much the clunky phrasing, the “I explored not just his lips but” part, as much as the fact that I couldn’t stop being aware of the fact that this scene was written by a man.

And then we get this one:

But if we’d had the privacy that hot afternoon in the clearing in Hell I think Lee and I might have lost our virginity simultaneously. I was clinging to him and pressing against him as though I wanted to get my whole body inside him, and I liked the way I could make him gasp and groan and sweat. I liked giving him pleasure, although it was hard to tell what was pleasure and what was pain. I was teasing him, touching him and saying ‘Does that hurt? Does that? Does that?’ and he was panting, saying ‘Oh God … no, yes, no’. It made me feel powerful. But he got his revenge. I’m not sure who had the last laugh – or the last cry. Normally when I’m out of control, when I get swept off by the white water, whether it’s the giggles or the blues or one of my famous tantrums, I can still stand outside myself and smile and think ‘What a maniac’. Part of my mind stays detached, can watch what I’m doing, can think about it and be aware of it all. But that afternoon with Lee, no. I was lost somewhere in the rapids of my feelings. If life is a struggle against emotion, then I was losing. (237-238)

I hope you’re still reading this all to yourself in an Australian accent. Just lay back and think of Hugh Jackman.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not particularly eager to read  a 43-year-old man’s strange children’s-book writing style applied to an I-want-to-have-sex scene from a teenage girl’s perspective, if indeed this can be considered the perspective of a teenage girl. Again, we can return to the whole “but she’s writing the journal, so this is how she’s telling the story herself, it’s supposed to be kind of analytical and matter-of-face and a bit clunky because everything that’s happened to her is running together out of trauma” and, like, if anybody cares to take that argument and run with it, maybe pull up a few examples of war journals or something, then have at it. I’d be legitimately interested to read that. But for me, this just reminds me of all the self-conscious blunders I’ve made over the years trying to “get” the “female perspective” as a male writer. I dislike this aspect of the book so much that I am actually semi-seriously considering the possibility of never allowing myself to write female characters, of any age, ever again just on principle.

I was considering making my review of this book part of my snarktastic, ad-hominem-fueled authenticity series of reviews, but I don’t really care about this book enough to do that. But I do have to touch on the issue of authenticity, or perhaps “credibility” is a better word, as a friend suggested to me a while ago, when it comes to Ellie’s voice in this book.

First of all: the framing device. Ellie is the storyteller, telling us all of this stuff that’s happened after it’s already happened. That’s all well and good, and goes some way to justifying the reason for the writing being kind of awkward and distant. But it doesn’t make it good. Obviously whether writing is “good” or not is entirely subjective, but I’m the subject in this particular instance and I think it’s really quite bad. I mean … “It made me feel powerful. But he got his revenge. I’m not sure who had the last laugh – or the last cry. Normally when I’m out of control, when I get swept off by the white water …” Its just so …

These are kids. Teenagers, whatever, but it’s not so much that I have an issue with an adult man writing about teenagers having sexy feelings, making out or actually having sex as much as I have an issue with it being written so incredibly fucking …

I mean just fucking read that. Read that passage and tell me that something isn’t just really uncomfortable about it.

And that little transition in particular really makes me feel uncomfortable; she’s talking about making out with her maybe-boyfriend in terms of “pain” and “power” and “revenge“, which really does not sit well with me when we’re talking about teenagers, and then immediately after veers into this random, kinda purple metaphor about water. This screams “I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about so I’ll chuck words at it until it goes away” to me, a panic that I am all-too familiar with when it comes to writing beyond my personal experience. Even if this had been written by a woman – perhaps this is sexist of me, but I am willing to bet money that this would never have been written by a woman – that’s just removing the extra-textual creep factor. It’s still clunky and jarring and voice-dissonant. It could be just me who thinks this writing style seems like it should be put to use in a children’s book as opposed to a young adult novel, but it’s a big part of why this scene feels creepy and age-inappropriate. The feelings that she’s talking about – fine. Sure. No problem. Sex is complicated, and when it’s new and a bit confusing there are all sorts of contradictions and tone-dissonant thoughts and impulses running around your head. I totally buy that. That’s not the problem. The problem is that this book sounds like it’s written for kids, and that makes any mention of sex or sexuality really uncomfortable. It’s simultaneously way too graphic and way too impersonal for me to want to be invested, and I think the fact that it’s Ellie writing this, reflecting back on her past, that actually makes it harder to forget that this thing is written by a 43-year-old dude, because he’s probably thinking back to his own teenage sexual experiences to write this scene, and it makes Ellie stand out as a proxy. Even if that’s not what’s happening, that’s the conclusion I immediately come to while reading. First-person perspective is not always a good idea.

In fact, let’s try something. I am fully intending to continue my authenticity series of book reviews, and The Magicians is up next. For the sake of comparison, let’s have a look at the first major sex scene in the book that’s told from Quentin’s POV, but in third-person. Let’s see what the differences are:

At first it was like they were getting away with something, as if they half expected someone or something to stop them. When nothing happened, and there were no consequences, they lost control – they ravenously, roughly pulled each other’s clothes off, not just out of desire for each other but out of a pure desire to lose control. It was like a fantasy. The sound of breathing and rustling cloth was thunderous in the little chaste bedroom. God only knew what they could hear downstairs. He wanted to push her, to see if she had it as bad as he did, to see how far she’d go and how far she’d let him go. She didn’t stop him. She pushed him even further. It wasn’t his first time, or even his first time with Alice, technically, but this was different. This was real, human sex, and it was so much better just because they weren’t animals – because they were civilized and prudish and self-conscious humans who transformed into sweaty, lustful, naked beasts, and not through magic but because that’s who on some level they really were all along. (221-222)

FYI, the whole thing about this not being his first time with Alice “technically” and the animal bit is because their first time having sex is after a particularly fucked-up teacher of theirs turns the entire class into arctic foxes for a while, which apparently takes away their inhibitions and exposes their mutual repressed sexual feelings for each other. It later turns out that this same teacher was sleeping with a student some years before, an event that led to Alice’s brother effectively committing suicide in an attempt to stop him. This book is pretty dark, and it’s not always handled particularly well.

But okay, comparison time. The most obvious things are the perspective – this is third-person while Tomorrow is told in first-person – and the level of detail. I personally give The Magicians a much less harsh time in this case because the third-person perspective does not demand quite as much fidelity, so to speak; you can afford to be a bit more removed from the action and still have it feel effective. This is also a great example of how telling can sometimes be better than showing – and, in sex scenes, sometimes make things more exciting. This scene gets into the emotional side of what’s happening, and that’s almost always sexier than blunt exposition. “Leave something to the imagination” and all that.

It’s also a little bit creepy in its own way though; I do not remember the “little chaste bedroom” line, and I’m glad I didn’t remember it. What purpose does that serve? It’s just kinda gross. Then there’s the bit about him wanting to push her and her pushing him “even further” that reeks of male-sex-fantasy to me (a topic I will cover in tremendous detail when I do finally get around to writing that review); much as I dislike the clunkiness of the Tomorrow excerpt, I do not feel like it’s shorthand for a grown-ass man jerking off to the thought of his fictional teenage heroine getting hot and bothered. It reads to me like a grown-ass man trying very hard to get into the mindset of a teenage girl getting hot and bothered, less about titillation for the readers as for the character experiencing it.

Well, at least until the “pain” and “revenge” stuff. That’s just kinda … yeah. No. Also the dialogue. The dialogue didn’t help. Didn’t really have to put that in the journal, did you, Ellie?

Not that Ellie’s writing it it’s John Marsden writing it at age 43 dear god that scene makes me uncomfortable why are men allowed to write female characters why isn’t there a law dear god why and honestly, that’s why I do think I’m on the side of the people who think John Marsden can’t write female characters. But I’m going to bend it slightly, and say that I don’t think he can write teen characters, let alone teenage girls. It might just be Ellie. Some of the side characters I actually quite like, Fi, Homer and Robyn in particular. But Ellie reads like the author’s sock-puppet, a thin disguise for his own voice, and whether it’s the dialogue or the general narrative prose it really does not feel credible to me. It’s not complex enough, nowhere near tormented, confused and generally unstable enough to remind me of what it was like to be a teenager; and yes, I know not every teenager is as much of a bucket of angst as I was, but angst alone does not a teenager make. It’s so many things, and it’s too many things, and that’s the point. No story written this sparsely is going to convince me that it’s about an actual teenager.

Anyway, speaking of dialogue (get it) – there’s another aspect of this book that, while I didn’t actually mind it as I was reading, does bother me upon reflection, because it’s a huge part of the reason why I just don’t care very much either way whether I ever read another installment. I’ve talked a bit about how I like telling over showing a lot of the time, and I stand by that. This book …

Well, “show don’t tell” is common writing advice for a reason.

  • Tomorrow, When the Other Characters Experienced the War and Told Me About It Afterwards

One of the criticisms of the Harry Potter series is the contrivance of Harry having to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to pick up all the clues that he does. I personally don’t mind this at all, because that’s just the kind of story it is and gives it some of its charm. The other reason it’s good is because it means we get shown interesting shit happening, instead of having to hear it second-hand from other characters. It’s techincally no different, seeing as it’s all in writing anyway, but it feels totally different. Specifically, it feels better when it’s first-hand and infuriating when it’s second-hand, unless there’s a good reason for it.

Between the two uncomfortable making-out scenes, Tomorrow, When the War Began gives us ten pages of other characters telling the main character about everything that’s happened to them off-screen. The “good reason” for it is that Ellie is our POV character and she’s writing the journal.

She’s not much of a writer, because a writer knows that you don’t have to fucking transcribe everything you hear word-for-word to make a good story. And in fact that’s one of the great tricks of writing, making things seem realistic while avoiding all the mundanity of reality, particularly when it comes to talking.

Actually, the framed narrative with Ellie being the storyteller y makes this worse, because the story has all already happened, which means that it doesn’t matter if she’s there to experience it first-hand or not, and thus she can tell it any way she fucking wants. She just “chooses” to tell it verbatim, apparently, with no flair or storytelling sensibility whatsoever, which is perhaps the most inauthentic part of the writing. I mean maybe it’s to make it seem more like an actual journal, but I can remember keeping my own journals, some twelve years ago, and whenever I wrote about something that somebody else had told me had happened, I wrote it as if it had happened to me, not with speech quotes to let myself know that, actually, this didn’t happen first-hand to me, somebody just told me about it, because it’s quicker and less awkward to write that way.

And it’s also more honest. It’s how people tell stories; it’s how we’re trained to tell stories, because when we hear a story we’re not often focused on the person telling the story; we’re focused on the story that they’re telling. This depends on context of course; if the story is a friend relating to us a tale of personal woe then we are (ideally) focusing on them and how they must feel at least as much as why they’re feeling that way, but that’s what we do. It gets us into trouble sometimes, but it’s what we do. Even if we’re exchanging gossip, our reference to the fact that this is second-hand knowledge will be along the lines of “did you hear X said …” and then everything from that point on is told as if we are the primary storyteller, because from that point on we ARE the primary storyteller. That’s why gossip is so insidious, why people complain about how social media is destroying public discourse: because we tell stories like stories, not like dialogue.

TEN FUCKING PAGES.

If we’re using the average of 10 words per line, 35 lines per page, that’s 3,500 words of TELLING.

I try not to give writing advice, but I’ll make an exception here: never tell something in dialogue that you can show in action when there is no reason for it. If this was not a framed narrative, then that would make sense. It would still be annoying, but it would make sense. If it was to set up some payoff later on – which actually does happen, and it’s one of the more powerful scenes in the book – then great. Telling through dialogue is a great way to create a false sense of security, which you can then shatter in any number of cruel and brutal ways, and this book does do that, and it works very well.

Aside from that: never tell something in dialogue that you can show in action when there is NO REASON FOR IT.

Also, the fact that it’s told in dialogue specifically … I mean you guys get it by now: I don’t like the dialogue in this book. Ten pages of it? Like I say, I wasn’t actually bothered by it while I was reading it, but when I think about how I’d probably feel about this book if it had instead been a third-person account, told by Ellie, of what had happened to the others, I actually probably would want to read the rest of this series, not just because this first book would have been more engaging, but because I could imagine the following books being similar, and similarly worth my time. As it stands, I feel like this was not just a wasted opportunity to tell the story in a more interesting way, but to get people invested in the series as a whole.

One thing I will say in its defence is that it does add to the atmosphere of the book, the themes of survival and uncertainty. Ellie being the central POV character gives us a way to experience this war not just in terms of what happens, but who it happens to, the toll it takes on them. Not being able to find out what happens to the other characters until they return to tell the tale themselves reinforces the sense of worry Ellie has for her friends; the fact that Ellie can’t ever be sure if they’re even still alive until she gets first-hand confirmation is certainly a good idea.

The only problem with this defence is that this sense of uncertainty and worry for the safety of her friends wouldn’t have been lost if their accounts had been written as third-person stories with Ellie as the narrator. In fact, it might have reinforced her sense of relief, because she’d get to imagine how it was to be there with them as it was happening, what they were going through, through the writing itself. Dialogue focused on past events is always an act of mediation; it puts distance between the reader and the events being discussed, never mind the character/s who are hearing this dialogue. If it’s to create an effect, then sure. But on the other hand, I’m sure this was to create an effect as well, and the effect is one of dampening the energy of the story. I guess it does go some way to de-romanticising war, which can only be a good thing, but it also goes some way to de-empowering the story, which is not so good. War is hell. I get that. But that doesn’t mean it has to be hell to read.

  • Tomorrow, When I Read Something Else Instead

I know tons of people read and love these books and that’s great, but it didn’t do it for me. There are other things I could talk about. There’s another character introduced in the fourth quarter of the book who does literally fucking nothing at all and exists for precisely I-don’t-fucking-know reasons – he’s another instance of the movie doing something better than the book, despite our introduction to his character being five minutes of him telling us stuff that happened to him while all we get to see is him telling the characters that this stuff happened, I guess a lot of things did make it into the film after all …

There’s stuff that I actually enjoyed, like the late-night rescue mission that precedes the awkward make-out scenes. And, again, some of the other characters are very likeable, and I wish we’d gotten to see a bit more of them.

Then again, there’s also other awkward issues of voice, like when Ellie randomly decides she’s interested in her childhood pal Homer and then about a hundred pages later decides she was never actually interested – and the bit where, about two lines after she decides she’s interested, he asks her to hold his hand while they’re riding bikes, also right the fuck out of nowhere but after he’s already emphasised how into Fi he is to Ellie, at least twice – and again I’m picturing this grown-ass man trying to understand how teenage girls think, to write his way to the answer to the questions he has about why girls are so weird and act so weird and think weird girl things instead of normal things like boys do and it just … it breaks the illusion. That’s actually where I’ll fully join the ranks of those who find Marsden’s female characters a bit lacking, without my “all teenagers” amendment. It does not add up for me, and again, it’s not the feelings, it’s the voice. Voice is everything in storytelling. It can disguise weak plot and unintentional character flaws; it can’t get rid of them, but it can often at least make them palatable. And when it’s enhancing solid plot and intentional character flaws, it serves to elevate those good things into the realm of greatness, sometimes brilliance.

I just don’t “get” this book; I don’t get the appeal, I don’t get the legions of fans, I don’t get the writing style given the subject matter it’s being used to tell – again, don’t hate it, but I do slightly resent it for not being just a bit better. It has been helpful in terms of looking for material beyond the dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories I’ve been exposed to thus far and getting some inspiration, and that’s been enough of a reward that I definitely don’t regret reading this book. And even on its own terms I wouldn’t regret reading it. I’m just not particularly interested in finding out what happens next.

Speaking of which: I have an essay due tomorrow that I’ve barely started writing. 6k words, all of which I need to sound like I understand. I think I’m fucked. I am trying to decide whether it’ll be better to go balls to the wall tonight and tomorrow trying to make it work, or take advantage of the fact that anything you submit over the weekend isn’t counted until the following Monday and give myself until said Monday to turn it in. The question is whether an essay I speed-write between now and tomorrow 11:59 pm so that it gets in on time is going to be better than an essay I write between now and Monday 11:59 pm that is going to lose four marks for lateness. Or, I guess, an essay that I write between now and Friday 11:59 pm that will only lose one mark. That might be the best option, plus the best compromise between getting it out of the way as soon as possible and actually having some chance of making it remotely good.

Except I’ve got a fucking birthday party on Friday ugh oh well book review over time to go be a responsible student or some shit.

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