Dads and Types + Giveaway!

January 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm (General, Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

Last week we talked about Moms and Types in YA and MG books; now it’s Daddy’s turn. I will give a warning with this one, though: there are some spoilers. Some of these fathers are far too tied into the story to be able to talk about without giving away some crucial parts of the books. I’ll add a little warning for the ones that seem spoiler, both before and after, so you can avoid ones you don’t want to learn yet. (and don’t forget, down at the bottom there are instructions for how to win an ARC of Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne!)

On with the show!

Daddy Calls the Shots
Also known as Daddy-as-Puppeteer. This is the type of father who so thoroughly controls his children’s lives that the kids have no say in things, may not even realize there’s any other way to live (or may rebel like crazy). Everything is planned out, everything has to go through the father, and there is no greater crime than in suggesting to this man that his children might be rational creatures capable of making their own decisions. I know there are other examples of this, but the one that towers over everything in my mind is Vaughn, from Lauren DeStefano’s Wither. This thoroughly creepy man controls everything in his house, pulls all the strings, and Linden has been raised to be so grateful for this care that he doesn’t even realize it. Vaughn is a man who feels no compunctions about doing horrible things, who fully espouses the motto “The ends justify the means”. Linden has never been taught how to be the man that could stand up to this, so Vaughn continues his reign unabated. Linden might as well be a marionette. Less successfully than Vaughn, there are dads like Mr. Sage, in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines. Bastard much? His daughters are useful as extensions of his will, not reasonable creatures in their own right, but unlike Linden, Sydney is able to stand up to her father in small ways. Her opinions aren’t useful to him, her desires, her plans, as long as she’s an obedient daughter who will make him look good and serve his ambitions.

Not Now, Dear, The King is Busy
Not always an actual king, this is anyone in a position of authority who is persistently too occupied with affairs of state (city, business, etc) to be an active part of their children’s lives. They’re there, more or less, but there’s a distinct wall and a very strained sense of connection. Sometimes it’s unintentional- he really wants to be there but there’s just so much to do, so much dependent on him. And sometimes there are mitigating circumstances. Mayor Beckett, from Brodi Ashton’s Everneath falls into the first part of that. He wants to be there for Nikki but he isn’t entirely sure how, and being mayor and running for re-election doesn’t give him much time to figure out how to help. The Warden, from Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, is less accidental; this is a man with secrets, and part of is is trying to protect his daughter from those secrets, but most of his life is wrapped up with the prison, not with Claudia. Then there are the fathers who are using duty as an excuse. After his wife’s death, the king in Heather Dixon’s Entwined uses duty as an escape, a way to run from his grief. To his daughters’ detriment? Yes, but grief can make us selfish and the duties are real. Then there’s the king in Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns.He doesn’t have much time for his ungainly younger daughter and never has, but she’s useful as a political arrangement. He loves his daughter, something we see in small, quickly departed moments, but being king is far more his life than being a father.

I Have a Child…Somehow…
These are fathers who are somewhat baffled by the existence of their children. They know- theoretically- how this came about but they really have no clue what to do with these inexplicable children. It’s not that love isn’t there, it’s just that it’s layered into all the things they don’t understand. Like Mr. D’Angelo from Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Every Other Day. In some respects her shares some traits with the fathers listed above, that concept of always being too busy, but his distance evolves more from a basic incompatibility with his daughter. They might as well be speaking different languages on the rare occasions they interact. Lisa Mantchev’s Scrimshander holds a place on this list as well, too wild and wind-souled to understand the strange creature in front of him. Probably my favorite example, though, is Poseidon, from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The gods (sometimes) recognize their children, but they always seem somewhat perplexed by them, too. So they may or may not point them in the direction of the camp, may or may not grant them something special to help them out on quests, but then they just kind of…leave them there.

I Don’t Understand You, But I Love You Anyway
We talk about the generation gap sometimes, that people of different age sets are basically incapable of understand each other. We simply expect that our parents don’t really understand us. Sometimes, that’s even true. For example. Gen’s father in Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series. He and his son? Very little common ground. Gen is his mother’s son through and through. But we never doubt that Gen and his father share a strong bond that survives frustrastions and different interests. It’s there in the wry conversations, the apparently grudging respect, and the true concern that marks their interactions. Then there’s King Georg in Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. He loves his daughters, truly and deeply, but their geis puts a wall between them that he can’t penetrate. He doesn’t understand their silence, their exhaustion, doesn’t understand why they won’t trust him, but he loves them just the same and will continue to support them in the struggle he can’t begin to comprehend. Then there’s Alan’s father in Jaclyn Dolamore’s Between the Sea and Sky. He and his son stare at each other from across a wide gap of misunderstandings and secrets, but when it comes right down to it, he supports his son. Maybe it isn’t easy, maybe it’s even painful with the memories that surface, but the foundation is there and the actions reinforce it.

Fallen Idol
This is a painful type for the children involved, the worshipped father of their childhood rendered merely human in the grand scheme of things. It’s not necessarily that the father is bad- frequently he isn’t- but that he’s not the paragon of perfection that the children thought they were. First on the list? James Potter, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. James initially stands on par with Lily in the martyred perfection, but through the course of the series James gradually breaks down from that ideal to become a real person with flaws and troublesome attributes. It’s painful for Harry to realize his dad was a bit of a prat, especially as it also casts his uncle figures in a not-so-positive light. In Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, we come into the story after the idol has already fallen; Hadley’s father fell in love with another woman, tore apart their family, and- as far as Hadley can see- just expects her to be on board with all this. Hadley can’t balance his selfishness against her mother’s pain. What we actually get to see through the second half of the book is the slow patchwork process of possibly mending the relationship. It’ll never be what it was- the idol is a product of innocence- but it’s lovely to see what happens after the fall. SPOILER FOR LIA HABEL’S DEARLY, DEPARTED: IF YOU DON’T WANT A SPOILER, SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTIONIn Dearly, Departed Nora has mourned her father for a year. She remembers standing beside his casket at the funeral, vividly remembers having to move in with her spendthrift, social-climbing, bitter aunt, and all the emotional pain that comes from his death. Then she finds out he’s still alive (sort of) and continuing to work. Bit of a pedestal smasher, that. Then she finds out even more, finds out about his work, about the consequences it had on their family long before his death. Is he a bad man because of it? Not particularly. Is he a bad father because of it? Still not particularly. But he’s not the father Nora remembers, and they’ll have to forge onto unknown, unsteady ground to find a new relationship in light of those revelations.

/spoiler

Daddy’s Trying to Kill Me
Also known as bad. These men are never going to (honestly) hold a World’s Best Dad mug or shirt. These are the dads that put their children into years and years of intense psychotherapy. Or the hospital. Or, in a few unfortunate situations, the morgue. For some of these dads, there may even be a twisted sense of love or duty, a genuine affection that simply doesn’t stand up to the fact that their children are in the way of what they want to do. First dad that sprang to mind? Valentine, from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. “Father” in this case stretches somewhat, given the circumstances, but there’s no denying that he loves Jace, in his dark and twisty and generally soulless kind of way. He actually does care about him. It won’t stop him from killing the boy, of course, because really there’s that whole destroy the Downworld thing he’s got going on, but he does love him. SPOILERS FOR ANDERA CREMER’S NIGHTSHADE SERIES, ESPECIALLY BLOODROSE: TO SKIP SPOILERS, SCROLL DOWN TO NEXT SECTIONRenier Laroche has a few Daddy-issues on both sides of the spectrum, both the better side of that gets explored a little further down. Emile Laroche is a world-class bastard, a savage and a brute who terrorizes anyone weaker than he is. In the final book in the trilogy, it becomes much more direct when Emile and Ren actually face off. It’s a series a choices and hard experiences that brought Ren to the point of being able to do that, to stand against his father to protect others, but eighteen years of father-son ties isn’t going to keep Emile from trying to win that fight, even when it comes to death.

/spoiler

More Than Average Flaws
Dads screw up. That’s a fact of life. Dads screw up, moms screw up, kids screw up, everybody screws up sometimes. Some dads just screw up to a greater degree than others. Faye’s father, in fact several of the fathers, in Sara Wilson Etienne’s Harbinger simply turn their back on their children. They give up, they let tham get carted off (or ever drop them off unawares) to the sadistic Holbrook Academy to let them be savaged by so-called caretakers. By so-doing, they actively contribute to the harm being done to their children. SPOILERS FOR JOHN GREEN’S THE FAULT IN OUR STARS AND VERONICA ROTH’S DIVERGENT: IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THE SPOILERS, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTION In The Fault in Our Stars, there are several times when we’re led to ponder the identity of a parent who has lost his or her only child. Are they still a parent? Can they still say they’re so and so’s parent? The answer varies by parent, really, but we do get to see a parent who has entirely crumbled in the wake of his child’s death. All identity has been lost, the very core of what he was has been stripped away, and only a vaccuum continues to suck in all the mean-spiritedness a body can hold, a poison he shares liberally. His child is dead, but he’s the husk that died in a living body. Then there’s Marcus, from Divergent, a man who presents one face to the world and another entirely to his son. It isn’t just the emotional abuse, there’s also physical abuse, the kind that batters the soul long after the visible scars have healed. A second example of those specific traits can be found in the memory of Peregrine’s father, from Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky

/spoiler

Mischief Makers Together
This is a fun group, one tied rather closely to the next group. These are the fathers that are- often but not always- friends as much as fathers to their children. Their positive influences may be debatable but the lessons they teach are important nonetheless. This kind of relationship exists where there’s a lot of common ground, where the basic personalities of those involved are similar. For example, George from Tamora Pierce’s Trickster pair. He’s supportive, mischievous, frankly devious, all things he’s taught Aly, but there’s a line between father and friend and he isn’t afraid to both draw it and stand by it. The skills they share between them used to be a game to learn, a fun father-daughter exercise, and that shows in the true enjoyment Aly has for utlizing those skills. Very similar in nature and result, though somewhat less firm on the line of distinction, is Bobby Bishop, from Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. A thief from a family of thieves, he continued the tradition with his daughter. While other fathers and daughters still at the kitchen table and talk report cards and extracurriculars, Bobby and Kat scope out a museum and talk manuevers. It’s not the most orthodox of relationships but it is a real one, built off of love and affection and concern for the other’s well-being, something we see clearly in their interactions in Paris.

Legacy Bound
The Mischief Makers are the lighter side of this same coin; where Aly and Kat continue their fathers’ businesses out of a sense of enjoyment and passion and skill (and in Kat’s case, a fair amount of family expectation/bullying), there are others tied to their father’s legacies by a bit more. For Cas, from Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood, he’s out for revenge, pursuing his father’s work for a chance to get at the ghost who killed his father. He’s good at his father’s work, no doubt, but he’s in for his father’s memory. Sean Kendrick, from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races also follows this pattern. Not for vengeance, but to continue the work, to honor the memory.

The World and My Life
This is the type of father who will do anything for their children, even when it’s hard and the child doesn’t always understand the purpose of it. These are the fathers who sacrifice, who care more for the fate and well-being of their children than anything else. Like Arthur Weasley, from Rowling’s Harry Potter series. This is a man with seven children who has scrimped and saved and cut corners to give them the things they need, who exhausts himself trying to win a better world for them. This is a man who loves them beyond reason, even when they’re turned their backs on him, and will always be waiting to welcome them home again. Another example is Monroe, from Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade series. He will do everything he can to keep his daughter safe, as well as reclaim the child that was lost and try to ease the brutality that child has grown up in.

As before, there are definitely other examples that fit these types, as well as other types. So share one with me below! Tell me how a father from YA or MG fiction fits into one of these types, or give me an example of a type I didn’t mention. That enters you for a chance to win an ARC of Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne. Want another entry? Head back to the types of moms (shortlink at head of post) and comment there to answer the same question about mothers, and you’ll be entered twice. Giveaway will run through Saturday, 4 February!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne

January 25, 2012 at 11:17 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Wracked with visions, Faye gets shipped off to Holbrook Academy when her parents can’t deal with the crazy anymore. Holbrook isn’t your typical school, though; student brutality is a fact of life and the goal isn’t to heal the students so much as break them and make them conform. Fortunately for Faye, her assigned Family actually has a way of looking out for each other, of supporting each other even when they all have to take the pain for it. Then they wake up filthy and exhausted, their hands covered in red like blood, and Faye’s floor has a strange design painted on it. Between navigating the atrocities of their so-called caretakers and the mistrust inherent in meeting new people, they’ll have to get to the bottom of the mystery. Except…Faye’s pretty sure handsome, full-of-secrets Kel knows more about it than the rest of them. She’s also pretty sure he’s trying to kill them, and maybe the entire world.*

I have to admit, even before I got to read a description, this was one book where the title and cover totally drew me in. I have a completely geeky love affair with the word ‘harbinger’ and have for a long time, and the cover? Just look at it! My first thought was that it’s like a tarot card (which turns out to be a pretty valid assumption), but it blends all the elements together so well that while you’re very sure the book is going to have a great deal of mystery and intrigue and danger to it, you’re not quite sure what that setting is going to be. It could be anything- fiction, historical, sci-fi, fantasy…with the bright-glowing sea and the rocky shore and the blood moon low and heavy in the sky, this cover leaves you open for anything.

Which is a good thing, because this book has a strong element of WTFery all the way through. And it WORKS. This is one of the very few books I’ve ever read where the uttery confusion of what’s going and the fact that characters are completely clueless actually works in its favor. From the first scene in Dr. Mordoch’s office, we know that separating the line between reality and appearance is going to be very difficult, maybe even impossible, but we’re placed into such a lush, vivid description of the visions that we’re pretty much okay with that. The characters are in such a welter of confusion and we sink into that chaos with them. Enough comes together at the end to give us belated comprehension, which makes for a fantastic reread when you know what to look for already.

I love Faye. Even just her narration- she’s honest and vivid, an artist that never has to tell us she’s an artist. It’s there in the way she describes things, in the words she uses to relate a thing, even just in the way she looks at things for the individual pieces of their overall shape. I love her pain and bewilderment, her betrayal, and in light of that I especially love how- until memory and purpose intrudes- she still tries to protect other people. I love the sense of loss that comes when the thing she’s feared, hated, the things that made her different, are stripped away. Maybe they were terrifying but they were also hers, part of her, and I love the ache that comes with that. She’s a good middle ground between rebellious and passive, which lets us appreciate the more extremem qualities in others.

I really enjoyed the layers and layers of complications in Kel and Faye’s relationship. Even from the first moment there’s a lot that goes into it. Complicated? Yes. Angsty? Not really. Emotions and tensions are high, they’re both used to being betrayed by others and abandoned by the people supposed to care about them, but there’s something very real about all of it, something grounded in everything they experience even over so short a time. It’s a strong bond, even when pulled taut between them with distrust, but there are reasons for that, and I love it. (I’m not going to tell you what the reasons are, though- spoilers)

The degree of brutality at the school strains credulity a little bit. Granted, these kids are mostly unwanted or given up on by their families, so their parents aren’t going to raise a fuss, but it’s hard to believe that there could be that kind of savagery (especially against minors) without repercussions. Though, granted, given the overall setting I suppose there’s not exactly much in the way of governmental oversight. The atmosphere and danger the school itself represents is important, but it’s also a little off-putting that there is genuinely nothing to act as a limit.

I would have liked to know more about the others. It’s Faye’s story, that’s true, and the relationship focus is on her and Kel, but the others of their Family unit are really quite interesting and we only get to see them in flashes. They’re separate and distinct, with individual personalities, but they’re relegated to role of crowd most of the time. They’re strong enough to band together, to stand together against outside interference even at the price of being tasered, starved, humiliated, etc, but we’re only left with echoes of the connections, rather than seeing the connections forged.

Dr. Mordoch, the head of Holbrook Academy and a not-quite-remembered figure from Faye’s past, is a monster, but she’s a monster who is at times almost sympathetic. I love that we get to see those flashes in an otherwise multi-layered repugnant personality. She truly is repulsive and what she does to the students in the claim of helping them is egregious, but I loved seeing how her guilt compounds with severe flaws to render her nearly insane. We stop just short of actually feeling sorry for her but the impulse is there- the idea that we would feel sorry for her if she were a better person.

Honestly, I think the only thing I didn’t particularly enjoy about this book was how heavy-handed the environmental message was. Is the setting believable? Aside from the brutality of the school, yes. An oil crisis has caused a severe shortage of fuel, resources are being pillaged, and communities are drawing together into cooperatives to shield against the outside world and protect what resources they have. It makes sense and it’s certainly a worthy cause and a concern, but I rather felt like I was being bludgeoned with it. Rather than being part of the book, it becomes the book.

Harbinger is a book you sink into, like floating on the ocean and gradually sinking below the waves. It envelops you completely, draws you in to barely contained chaos and a pain that stretches across time. It is, in short, gorgeous. AND- it comes out first week of February, so you don’t even have to wait for it (long).

Want to win an ARC of Harbinger? Just answer a question here and you’ll be entered to win, PLUS there’ll be another chance to enter on Sunday. Answer both questions, be entered twice.

Until next time~
Cheers~

* As a disclaimer, I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

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