Character Study: Valjean and Javert

April 29, 2012 at 11:28 am (Character Study) (, , , )

Note: this comes from the characters as presented in the musical of Les Miserables, not the book. The book made me want to do horrible things to humanity as punishment for my being forced through it. The musical I adore.

Over the course of a few weeks, while I was cleaning my room and doing edits and various other things that ultimately proved to be more important than I thought they’d be, I had a few things running on repeat on the TV, things I knew so well I could keep the screen covered with a blanket, enjoy the sounds, and not be tempted to sit down and watch (it mostly worked). One of these was the 10th Anniversary Dream Cast of Les Miserables.

I fell in love with Les Mis back in Middle School; the folks who absconded with me into the drama program introduced me to the show. I could sing the entire thing, every part- even the parts that blended over each other in songs- and pick it up from any point in the show. When my dad was stationed in London for a year, we went for a visit and he took us to see this show. I bawled at least seven separate times because holy hell, it was SO GOOD. So as I’m listening to it as a backdrop to other tasks, most of my thoughts were much the same as they’d ever been.

-I feel really bad for Eponine, because God her life is one giant ball of suck.

-I wish the Thenardiers getting filthy rich at the end wasn’t so easy to believe, because I really hate it when horrible people do well for themselves.

-Marius’ survivor’s guilt is going to make him unbearable in a few years, given his generally obsessive personality.

-I feel really bad for Javert, for being so unbending he has nothing else but to break.

And then I took a break to stretch and get something to drink, and I listened (and paid attention) to the scene where Valjean and Javert are arguing after Fantine’s death. And some thoughts started prickling. And prickling a little more. And sinking claws in. So I hit rewind (it’s actually a VHS tape, which makes me giggle every time, I don’t why) and started over, and this time I listened to all of their interactions, listened to their solos. Basically paid close attention to the dynamic between these two men.

And I was fascinated.

On their own, these two characters are interesting enough, but when paired, they’re so much more.

For anyone not familiar with the musical (or the book, to which the musical bears some similarity), these two men are actually the ones we start with. Jean Valjean is a convict, Javert a police inspector. After nineteen years in prison- five for stealing a piece of bread, fourteen for trying to escape- Valjean is finally being released on parole, and Javert promises he’ll be close behind should Valjean decide to go back to his thieving ways. But parole at this time was an ugly thing- a parolee had no rights under the law, there were few jobs they could get, and most folk treated them like the scum of the earth. Being on parole was a short track to starvation and a return to a life of crime. While staying with a bishop, Valjean steals some of his silver and gets caught by two policemen, but the bishop tells them he gave the silver to Valjean as a gift to start fresh. Once the policemen are gone, he tells Valjean that he has bought his soul for God, that he must use this as a way to become a man of God and faith and uprightness. Valjean breaks his parole, leaves his name behind, and starts over, with Javert searching for the convict who broke his parole.

Over the next fifteen to twenty years, the two men occasionally cross paths. Sometimes Javert recognizes Valjean, sometimes he doesn’t, but always his search is constant for Convict 24601. It’s more than obsession; it’s his purpose, an unbending, unyielding, fanatic devotion to the law. Every time they come together, recognition or not, they clash against what is right and what is law.

That’s where the fascination begins.

For Javert, the law is what it is. It does not matter what is fair, it does not matter what the circumstances may be, the law is the law (for a YA reference, think “The law is hard, but it is the law”). Does he enjoy his work? Yes. He’s a judgmental bastard who delights in proving his moral superiority over the scum of the earth. He takes both pride and pleasure in locking people away, and he doesn’t much care if they’re innocent or not. For him, it is enough to know that the courts have declared them guilty. This detestation of the lower forms is intrinsic, a lifelong obsession stemming from his birth inside one of those jails. He overcame all the calamities of his birth to become a foundation of the law, and that kind of rigid discipline doesn’t allow for anything else. He’s a religious man, but his faith is built on an Old Testament God of flames and swords.

For Valjean, the law fails to protect those who most needs its protection. In the musical, it never says why he stole a piece of bread (in the book, I believe he was stealing it for a starving sister, or maybe her children- the book was a long time ago and I tried really, really hard to forget most of that experience), but that’s all he stole at first. Until he breaks his parole, the rest of his life is determined by that measly piece of bread. For a time, that does exactly what we would expect it to do- makes him hateful and vindictive, disillusioned with the world and all the people in it. Until the bishop. He takes the bishop’s offer of redemption seriously, and in his new life he becomes a successful industrialist, the mayor of his town, a fine and respected man who uses his wealth responsibly. When he makes a mistake- as in not investigating the argument among his factory workers involving Fantine- he does his absolute best to remedy it. He takes his promises seriously, and will put his own life and welfare on the line in the name of doing what is right. Also a religious man, he’s a child rescued by the New Testament God of forgiveness and love.

In the name of what is right or what is law, both men can be unyielding. In that aspect, they’re very similar. They will go to the ends of the earth in pursuit of that purpose. To that end, they actually understand one another very well. They can’t agree with it, they can’t go along with it, but they understand it.

That innate similarity, compounded by the many differences in execution, are what makes them so fascinating as a driving pair of characters. Because with understanding, with common groundwork, comes a point where one has to yield to the other- and neither can take any pleasure in it.

Valjean has broken before. He broke in prison, he broke under his parole. He broke under the bishop’s mercy and reformed himself into something new. He broke under the weight of a promise to the dying Fantine, broke again to rescue an innocent man from the fate reserved for him (Valjean). He breaks under the strength of Cosette’s love for Marius, the knowledge that he can’t shelter her from the world forever. But. Each time he breaks, he puts himself together as something stronger, something better.

Javert can only break once, because when he breaks, he shatters. It goes against everything in his nature to bend or break, and once such a thing occurs, everything about him is in irreparable pieces. For a man of flames and swords and retribution, mercy is a shattering force.

Valjean never does anything to Javert except argue with him, evade him, and once even save his life. He never attacks the man, and while he calls him naive- as any man who sees only in shades of black and white can be argued to be- he never insults him either. He promises Javert his sense of justice, once his (Valjean’s) promises have been fulfilled. Once Marius is safe for Cosette’s sake, he’ll surrender himself to the law. Compare that to Javert, constantly reinforcing Valjeans’ histroy as 24601, constantly calling him the scum of the gutter. Compare Valjean’s mercy- reassuring the dying Fantine, rescuing Cosette, rescuing Marius, giving Javert his life instead of taking it- with Javert’s glee at the prospect off slaughtered revolutionary schoolboys.

But we would never get the depth of these characters in isolation. Even against other characters, we only ever see certain aspects. It’s only when set against each other that we understand these characters completely- they’re dependent upon each other in order to be fully realized. Javert is not, on his own, a sympathetic character, but his relationship with Valjean allows him to become one in our eyes, leading to one of the richest, most emotionally taut moments of the entire show.

Not every story can support characters so fully intertwined, but those that can are amazing if they can get even half of the depth and bonds of the connections between Jean Valjean and Javert.

Can you recommend any?

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis

April 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , , )

Words have power, be they names or stories, and no one knows this better than Sunday Woodcutter, seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. But what starts as an unlikely friendship with a frog becomes a great deal more when curses cross and stories twist, and not only Sunday but all her sisters will have great destinies to fulfill to save their kingdom from an evil without a name.

So I have this thing for fairy tales. Liiiiike really have a thing for fairy tales. So I saw the cover and thought oh, cool, Princess and the Frog, that chould be fun.

This book blew me away. It is so much more than a single fairy tale, so much more than any fairy tales, and yet somehow it’s everything that every fairy tale could ever be. Seriously, I could gush for days and still not be able to relate how much I loved this book. I devoured it, and having to clock back in for work was painful. I wanted to blow off everything so I could keep reading.

Sunday is an amazing character, joyful and brooding and open and strong. She has a destiny given her by her name but also a burning desire to be more than that, to make a life outside of a name and a fate. She’s a storyteller, but she’s one that knows the power of words, so she’s cautious with them. For all that, there’s an unfettered merriment and love in her, love for all her family members (no matter how crotchety). Everything she feels, she feels intensely, with no filter between who she is and who she seems to be. She’s refreshing, and while she’s not someone who races out to save the day, neither does she stand around and wait to be rescued.

I absolutely fell in love with our frog prince. He starts out as someone with the potential to have great strength- if he can find it. He’s one of those rare people who has the chance to start completely over, but that redemption has a price he may not be able to pay. More to the point, he may have to sacrifice that redemption for something far greater. Determined to be a man worthy of Sunday’s love, despite the history between their families, he has to acquire a lifetime of memories and skills in just a few days’ time. There’s so much he doesn’t know, some he may never know. He doesn’t have to seek adventure because it’s waiting for him right at home.

Most of this cast is phenomonal. In a family of extraordinary people, extraordinary starts to feel rather normal, so they accept things as commonplace that would otherwise be mind-boggling. Why wouldn’t Sunday fall in love with a frog? After all, eldest son Jack Jr was a dog for a time, and brother Trix is a changeling. Each character has a different destiny but each twines through the others. They’re not a loose collection of people in a house; they’re a family. Each is distinct and well-drawn, and like sister Wednesday’s poetry, sometimes the truths lie more in the shadows and the spaces between.

And the fairy tales. Oh, the fairy tales. This isn’t a single fairy tale, but rather a tapestry that weaves through so many. Just a sampling of the stories included: Princess and the Frog, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk. But there are so many others, sometimes pillars of the story and sometimes fleeting glimpses that make us smile even as we’re too absorbed in the book to look away.

This book is as enchanting as the title suggests. Beautifully paced, gorgeously painted, this book is simply not to be missed. Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis, out 8 May 2012.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Slide, by Jill Hathaway

April 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

In the right- or wrong- circumstances, Vee can learn all your deepest secrets. After touching an object with emotional resonance, she passes out and slides into the mind of that person, witnessing the world through his or her eyes. Usually it’s just embarrassing, but then she slides into a girl being murdered. Everyone else believes to was suicide by Vee knows better, so it’s up to her to find the killer before more girls end up dead.

My first couple years of college, my roommate and I used to read and watch mysteries together. About ten minutes before the end of the movie/show or two chapters from the end of the book, we’d pause and write down our guesses and stick them to the fridge with a magnet, and then we’d go back to the book or the television to see if we were right. It gave us a great deal of practice in dissecting clues and double meanings and false trails. I’d say probably 85-90% of the time, we were dead on.

So that being said, there was very little about the path of this book that surprised me. And that was okay because it’s the characters that get to astonish us.

It’s a fantastic concept, especially in that she can’t control the sliding. She can, at times and only ever erratically, exert some minimal influence. She can choose to pick up something with strong emotional resonance, or choose not to touch it, but she doesn’t get to have that power within the event itself. Sylvia is stuck as the ultimate unwilling voyeur. What makes it especially intriguing is that we get these glimpses with absolutely no context. She can try to pull clues from what she sees but she doesn’t get to read their thoughts, so she has to interpret actions and appearances that may be at odds with reality.

Vee is a great character, independent because she has to be, careful, protective, and resourceful. Both in being detective and being her sister’s mother figure, she’s stepped into roles too big for her. And there’s no one to help her. She sees these things but has no one she can confide in about them, because she doesn’t think anyone would believe her. The one time she tried to tell, she got sent to a shrink. That’s enough to make anyone try to hack it on their own. There’s a fine line between self-preservation (protecting her secret) and doing the right thing for others, and sometimes she’s not sure which side of that line she’s on. Her reactions are sincere and real, at times turbulent with the stress of all that’s going on, but always and essentially Vee.

I loved the relationship between Vee and her younger sister Mattie, most of all the transition that relationship undergoes through the book. Sisters, especially sisters close in age and in high school, will always have a unique tension between them. Especially when you compound the difference in age with the difference in maturity and interests. Mattie’s progression is heartbreaking but it gives so much hope for the type of person she could become. They have the moments that bring them so close together, almost clinging to each other for comfort. And they have the moments where they would gladly tear each other’s hair out or do anything to get the other one out of the room or the house.

I would have liked to have known more about Samantha. As Vee’s former best friend, as someone very close to Mattie and her friends, she’s a significant character in the influence she has over the sophomores. The strength of that influence is clear- the value of that influence is questionable. Still, she does extend an olive branch of sorts, and that makes her interesting, because it makes her complicated. I hope we get to see more of her in the next book.

I love Rollins and the friendship between him and Vee, but sometimes the tension there fell a little flat. Everyone has secrets and boundaries, and the communication will never be as open as we could hope for it to be, but their complete lack of communication felt unnatural. Still, there’s hope for Rollins, and he is definitely a character I want to know more.

There was one element that I found rather problematic, but it’s not something I can really talk about it. Spoilers. To dance around it as delicately as possible, there was some long-run timing that raised a few questions.

All in all, this is a beautifully paced mystery where every clue and hint and possibility and false lead is laid out in perfect timing, where we hurt and cheer for the characters in equal measure, and it leaves us wanting more. Check out Slide by Jill Hathaway, out in stores now.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Enjoy the Unexpected

April 15, 2012 at 8:13 pm (General, Writing) (, , , )

I people watch.

I always have. It started out of curiousity, then developed into a useful exercise for both theatre and writing. When we seek to make characters come alive, whether on the stage or on the page, it’s helpful to look at real people and notice the things they do. When I’m stuck or bored or in the need for some inspiration, I go people watching.

I had to go to the post office last week, which is not something I particularly enjoy doing. It isn’t just the lines or the office being out of my way; it’s that 90% of the time, I get really, REALLY rude employees. I manage to get one woman a fair percentage of the time who actively seeks reasons to deny me media mail. The last time I had to go to her window, I kid you not, she denied me media mail because I had a bookmark in with the book, and bookmarks, I was told, do not count as media mail. So I had to pay twice as much to send out the book because it has a 1″x6″ piece of cardstock between the pages. Just the chance that I might get stuck at that woman’s window makes me dread going to the post office at all.

But.

A package had to be sent out and bribing my brother proved unsuccessful, so off to the post office I went, after checking the Saturday hours. Our branch opens at ten on Saturday mornings; I got there about 9:45. I spent five minutes or so sitting in the car, double checking the address and making sure the packing tape and paper was secure. The last package I had sent out managed to get mangled despite multiple wrappings, and this perfectly, precisely cut square of butcher paper with my address, the recipient’s address, and my tracking number came back to me in an envelope with a “loose mail, so sorry” note. Another time, I got yelled at- ACTUALLY yelled at- for using Scotch tape instead of packing tape, and the guy threatened to make me send the package priority because that was the only tape they offered. I…may have told him to bite me (but the package got there without a problem).

I mentioned that I have bad experieneces at the post office, yes?

So about ten til, I get out of my car and go to the lobby, which opens around eight so people can check their P.O. Boxes or use the automated machine (which I would love to use, but it does not give you media mail as an option). There was an older couple loudly arguing over the best way to send something and whether or not to get insurance, and nearby was a woman who had apparently never seen a copier before. She burned through almost ten dollars of dime copies before she finally got the page correct, but whenever anyone offered to help her, she started swearing and clawing at them with artificial nails so long they curved like talons. You only offered her help once. There were two couples who kept to themselves on opposite sides of the lobby, a young Chinese couple trying to send something to their family members, and a middle-aged Mexican couple trying to pick up a package.

And there were the ones I really enjoyed watching: the family. It was a mom with two boys, one around ten and the other probably four or five. They played war between the aisles of P.O. Boxes and the mother made very sure she emptied out the water pistols. What Mom didn’t realize, as she stood near the table in the middle of the lobby talking with a friend, is that there’s a water fountain at the far end of the lobby, tucked away past three aisles of boxes. I wasn’t sure if the boys had found that, as they were mostly playing in the lobby and first aisle.

About five minutes to ten, a very tall gentleman walked in with a very short woman who could barely see over the enormous box she was carrying. She definitely didn’t see the small boy as he ran in front of her, so she stumbled over him, dropped the box- something definitely broke inside- and the boy raced back to his mother and ended in a dive for her ankles that will probably get him a scholarship when he’s older. Mom was wearing a long housedress, and he seats himself around her ankles and tries to disappear up her skirt. When she sees the woman moaning over the box, she lifts her skirt up past her knees, looks down at her son over an enormous bosom (and yes, it did in fact qualify as a bosom) and very sternly informed him “Tryin to get back up in there ain’t gonna change what you done”. When small boy showed no signs of moving, she bent over, hauled him out with a firm grip on his ear, and marched him over to apologize. The short woman smiled at him, thanked him for his apology, and told him it was no harm done. Her husband, meanwhile, looked relieved- as they left, he mentioned something about ‘that hideous thing’.

My guess? They were trying to regift and were worried about getting caught at it.

Five minutes after ten, the manager finally comes over to unlock the doors, and first one standing in line is the small boy. The manager looks down at him and smiles, clearly recognizing him as a familiar fixture on Saturday mornings. Little boy smiles back, brings up his water pistol, and soaks the front of her shirt.

Yeh, I’d say he found the water fountain.

Manager- still smiling- reaches to the back of her belt, pulls a water pistol, and squirts him back.

SO not what I was expecting that reaction to be.

And I loved it. LOVED IT. It’s a real life moment that’s so much better than fiction, because we don’t have to set it up, we don’t have to make sure we leave all the clues, because everything is already there. Everything about the scene told us what we needed to know. The mother telling her friend they came every Saturday morning to pick up the certified letter with the child support. The Mexican woman who went and found the water fountain because she was thirsty. All the things you gloss over in telling the story, all the things that bog down the narration as unnecessary, but in real life, we take all of that in without really noticing.

I didn’t even mind having to wait half an hour for them to go through three people at the windows, because I kept giggling over the look on that boy’s face when the manager squirted him back.

Enjoy the unexpected- that’s where we find the best of what we do.

Until next time~
Cheers~

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Book Review: The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated, by Gerald Morris

April 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , , )

At his christening, Balin is proclaimed as the victim of a heavy prophecy: he shall be known as the noblest knight in England! But- he’ll bring misfortune wherever he goes, bring down two kingdoms in a single day, strike the Dolorous Stroke, and in the end, destroy the knight he loves most in the world. His mother just hopes he’ll marry a nice northern girl. As he gets older and starts his adventures, he seems doomed to fulfill this prophecy, but is there a way to escape his fate?

I love Gerald Morris. I have been reading his books since I can’t even remember when. I checked them out almost every time I was at the library and read them again and again and again. They made the Arthurian tales come alive for me, and more than that, they made the idea of retellings stick in my head and lodge there in a very satisfactory way. I was incredibly saddened when the Squire’s Tale series started drawing to a close- sad, but also content, because everything was as it needed to be. So when I head rumor of a series of Arthurian retellings for a younger audience, I was intrigued.

And they’re just as wonderful.

Like the other installments (none of which have to be read in the order in which they’re written) this book is laugh out loud funny, with a keen sense of absurdity and a Shakespearean delight in highlighting the ridiculous. And the humor isn’t just for kids- adults can fully appreciate the sly, understated wit in the repartee, even as kids giggle over the accidental happenings. They’re easy stories but they’re not dumbed down, perfect for any child who’s ever loved knights and damsels-not-in-any-distress-thank-you-very-much.

The illustrations are perfectly pitched, a little cartoony but not distracting. They help to break up the page for newer or reluctant readers, but there aren’t so many that they overshadow the text and the story in any way. This is a perfect book to read aloud with kids. What’s more, they’ll learn scads of fun words without even realizing they’re improving their vocabulary.

There are fabulous lessons in each of the Knights’ Tales books, but they’re not presented as morals. There isn’t a big block of bold print somewhere near the end saying “HEY LOOK AT THIS THING I AM TEACHING YOU”. They’re presented with the same tongue-in-cheek widsom as all the other accolades and foibles the characters present. Everything Sir Balin does seems to fit perfectly within the bounds of the prophecy, so that even when he deliberately sets out to obfusticate it, he still seems to be fulfilling it. But as his mother, his brother, and the adventurous Lady Annalise remind him, prophecies are just words. Ultimately, his life and his choices are his own, to do with as he will. It’s foolish to let a few words by a raving old woman make you scared to live your life. But, as with any wisdom that’s granted rather than earned, it takes time for him to appreciate the truth of their sentiments.

These books are a fabulous addition to any home or classroom library, and for more advanced readers, be sure to check out The Squire’s Tale, the first book of his older readers series.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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A Moment of Shameless Self-Promotion

April 8, 2012 at 9:17 am (Writing) (, )

Thank you guys so much for your congratulations here and on Twitter- it’s been a crazy week! It’s all happened so quickly that I haven’t had much of a chance to figure out how much I can say about the book and things like that. Obviously I’ll be talking about it on here at some points, especially as it comes closer to release date next fall, but I don’t want to turn this blog into something that’s all about my book, rather than celebrating the wide range of amazing books out there. I may be a little wobbly trying to find a balance.

But, here’s a start.

This week I ran around like crazy adjusting things and starting things and generally swearing at facebook (I think they make it more complicated each time just to sit back and laugh at us), so here are various places you can gradually find out more about my book Elsinore Drowning.

If you’re like me and don’t have a Publisher’s Marketplace subscription yet, here’s a copy of the official announcement:

Dot Hutchison’s ELSINORE DROWNING, a contemporary Hamlet adaptation, wherein Ophelia narrates and the roots of her madness are intertwined with modern pharmacology, Celtic and Breton faerie mythology, and her own promise to her parents, to Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda Lab, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2013, by Sandy Lu at the L. Perkins Agency (World).

Apparently PM has a rule that all announcements have to be one sentence long; it leads so some pretty funny announcements, really, and by funny, I mean so awkward that you can’t help but laugh. Every time I read a PM announcement, I hear several of my English teachers in my head, lecturing us on run-on sentences.

Elsinore Drowning also has a Goodreads page. You can add it to your to-read shelves if you’d like, and I’ll be updating details there as I get them.

I also started a Facebook page specifically for author/book type stuff, and funny how that took four times as long as everything else.

And I’m on Twitter as @dothutchison

Like I said, I’ll definitely be talking about the book here, but in an attempt not to make it overwhelmingly-Dot-oriented, I’m also going to be keeping a lot of the smaller updates on these other sites.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

April 4, 2012 at 9:16 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

The Hunger Games.
Once a year, a boy and a girl from each district are selected by lottery and sent to the Capitol as punishment for a failed rebellion. Twenty-four enter. One survives.
Katniss Everdeen doesn’t need the Hunger Games to make her struggle for survival; every day is a battle to overcome severe poverty and starvation. Since her father’s death, she’s done everything she can to keep herself, her mother, and her younger sister Prim from following him, but when Prim’s name is called at the Reaping, there’s only one more thing she can do. But the Hunger Games are about far more than surviving, and she’s in far more danger than she realizes.
The Games are just the beginning.

At first glance, this is a book that seems brutal, and make no mistake, it absolutely is. But what makes it particularly brutal isn’t what we initially think, and that’s what makes it truly brilliant.

Katniss as a narrator is complicated, largely because she’s not particularly complicated as a character. Her motivations are simple: survive, and keep her family alive. That’s it. That is the sum of Katniss Everdeen’s goals in life, and it’s the entirety of her focus. Her attention is narrowed to what will keep her family alive, so she doesn’t tend to notice the bigger picture. She doesn’t notice people who aren’t directly linked to her family’s well-being, or at least doesn’t give them much thought. She’s solitary, awkward, and so much of her energy is put to surviving that every other emotion, every other reaction, is buried.

As a narrator that becomes problematic, mainly because her stoicism and her determination to just get through things- in other words, to be stronger than her mother- can create a flat affect that distances us from what’s going on around her. In one sense, this is a necessary conceit of a narrator- no matter how overwhelming and emotional a scene, the narrator can’t break down because his/her words are what carries the story. In another, though, it’s hard to invest in her as much as we’d like to, because even as she builds a wall between herself and the rest of the world, she keeps us on the other side of it as well.

Still, she’s a solid character, strength with deep vulnerabilities, a good heart tempered by bitter experience and an inability to trust other people’s motives. We root for Katniss because even though she’s had a crap life, she hasn’t ever given up. No matter how bad it’s gotten, no matter how much she’s had to struggle, she’s come through it. That determination, that deep well of strength, is amazing, and the way she looks at people- the way she pares people and things down to the most essential aspects with little more than a glance- is a mark of a survivor.

This is a world of extremes, pitting the excesses of the Capitol against the deprivations of the outer-lying districts. We see some of the best humanity has to offer, as well as some of the worst. We see what pure adrenaline can do, as well as pure despair. And we see how we become conditioned by the atmosphere in which we’re raised. It seems horrific that people in the Capitol can gleefully watch the games year after year, that they can look forward to it in any way, and it is- but that part shouldn’t be surprising. We know very early on that this is the 74th Hunger Games- most of those alive in the Capitol have never known a time without the games. They’ve been literally raised in them, the ultimate in cultural desensitization, and they’ve never had to face the threat of anyone they know being in them. They’ve been raised to believe that it’s right- worse, that it’s natural- and that informs their worldview.

What makes this book terrifying- which it is at its best points- isn’t the violence, or the kids killing kids. It’s that it doesn’t seem as far-fetched as we’d like it to be, and that’s not at all a comforting thing. You see these reality shows and most of them are harmless, but then you have people competing for extreme plastic surgery. You have people starving themselves on islands or in deserts or jungles. You have people putting themselves in extreme danger and risk of imminent death for a few minutes of fame and glory. So what happens when they feel the need to go just a little further, do a little bite more to boost the ratings? In the Capitol, in the Games, we have the ultimate falseness of reality television, all the more striking when put against the severe deprivations of true reality in the outer districts.

This book is the Roman circus brought into our current sensationalist mentality. This book shows that when you put enough effort into manipulating the appearance of something, eventually you lose the ability to discern between the truth and the created facade. But it’s also proof that appearance is a powerful tool, if double-edged. It’s about making choices, about deciding who you are and who you want to be, about what you stand for. It’s about deciding the face you want to show to the world- and then deciding how much of that face is truth.

But most of all, it’s about the difference between surviving and living.

Until next time~
Cheers

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BIG BIG NEWS!

April 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm (Industry, Writing) (, , , , , )

The Lolcats are going to help me with this one: I have BIG BIG BIG news, and big news always goes better with a lolcat or twenty.

Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t post on Sunday; there’s a very simple explanation for that. My brain right now, let me show it to you:

Well, less with the caffeine than with “OH MY F#*&Y^($Y# GOD IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!”. Yeh, the brain? It was none so good this weekend. There were lots of questions and worries and what ifs, most of them painfully ridiculous. You know the kind I mean, the ones you know- even as you have them- are stupid and unnecessary but you can’t help but freak out over them a little anyway? Okay, so maybe the caffeine does play into it a little.

But now I’m all:

I queried for three years on different projects before signing with the fabulous Sandy Lu, and if I’m honest, there was a large part of me that expected to have to slog just as hard to find an editor to take me on. How much of that was me trying not to get my hopes up to unmanageable levels is anyone’s guess. For three years, my computer greeted me with emails that left me wondering:

And some days that led to:

And sometimes, when a bite had seemed particularly promising or I was staring at the decision whether to keep querying a project or start over with something that might be stronger, my wonderful friends and family jumped in with:

But although I didn’t know it at the time, there was a light! And not even the ACME train tunnel painted on the rock wall kind of light, but REAL light! Because I found Sandy, who was:

And she sank her teeth into mine!

Now, all of this you’ve heard before (plus or minus some illustrations), but here’s the BIG BIG NEWS! A month ago, after some revisions, Sandy started pimping my manuscript out (because let’s face it, that’s really what it is, right? As bloggers, we pimp the books we love, and agents do the same thing; it’s just a different audience). And now…

And now…

*drum roll please*

MY BOOK SOLD!!!!

The official PM annoucement is yet to come, but Elsinore Drowning sold to Carolrhoda Lab yesterday, and I am…well, over the moon doesn’t even seem like enough. It still hasn’t entirely sunk in and there’s still a lot of work yet ahead of me but…HOLY CRAP MY BOOK SOLD.

So next fall, you’ll be able to find my book on a shelf and:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go dance around the apartment like an idiot again. There’s a lot of the dancing going on right now. Feel free to dance with me!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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