Ahh, Reign. You continue to bring life every week. Guys, I’m so glad I stuck with this show. Yeah, it’s a historically inaccurate hot ass mess most of the time, but it’s a highly entertaining one. It is impossible to hate a show that brought such glory as blood sacrifices, psychotic con artist princes, more parties than Sweet Valley High has dances, faux fur during the Tudor era, and sexing someone out a window (I doubt anything is ever going to top that scene, for real). And since the show was renewed and got an actual budget, it can only get better (and by better, I mean balls-to-the-wall insane). This was a solid episode–so solid, in fact, I felt like i was watching a different show. Now don’t get me wrong–I love weird vampire-beasts in the woods, pagans, bed-hopping, teen angst, and love triangle melodrama as much as the next gal (OK, I hate love triangle melodrama, but 4 out of 5 ain’t bad), but it was extremely nice to see an episode about what the show was ostensibly supposed to be about–political intrigue and Mary coming of age as a ruler and not just as a teenage girl.
OK I know I’m late and all, but you know what they say… better late than never! This is for Top Ten Tuesday on Wednesday at The Broke and Bookish.
My list is mostly in reference to YA novels, but it applies to a lot of other genres as well.
Insta-love So you got two leads that you know are going to fall in LUV by virtue of being the leads. However, this does not mean that the author doesn’t have to show the readers why this couple is meant2b. If a couple doesn’t have any interaction of substance, or doesn’t demonstrate any chemistry or compatibility beyond physical attraction, then I’m going to be hard pressed to care very much about them. And no, “the male lead is really, really hot” is not a good enough reason.
Douchebag love interest OK, I get that the whole “Bad Boy” cliché, despite being overused (in my opinion) still appeals to many readers. But I can only accept it if it’s clear that under the rough edges, the character is a good person. And as always, this is something that needs to be shown, not told. You can tell me all you want that he only does what he does to protect her or because he just cares so much (because real-life abusers never, ever say or think these things, ever), but if his actions are creeptacular stalker bullshit that would send up a billion red flags in real life, I’m not going to handwave it just because he’s really, really hot.
Heroine is a special snowflake I get that to an extent, being special comes with the territory of being the protagonist—after all, there has to be a reason people want to read about this person. However, the character still has to be relatable on some level. If you’re going to keep piling on the special snowflake traits while constantly reiterating how plain, ordinary, or otherwise un-special this character is, color me unconvinced. Either be upfront about writing a Mary Sue, or put your money where your literary mouth is and give this protagonist actual flaws, as opposed to “pretend” flaws that never affect them negatively or even make them more endearing.
Informed attributes/poor character development This one kind of ties into #3, in the sense that special snowflake-y qualities are often told, and not shown. If a character’s going to talk the talk (or in this case, have others talk the talk for them), they better walk the walk. I’m not going to be convinced of how brave/smart/kind/whatever this character is unless there is actual textual evidence.
Poor world building Even if you’re writing a fantasy world, it should still make sense and have some kind of internal logic. If the rules of the world frequently contradict themselves or rest on a shaky and easily-dismantled premise, it’s going to pull me out of the story every time. Building a compelling narrative on sloppy world building is about as effective as building a house on a foundation of pick-up sticks. The whole thing is just going to fall apart no matter how much work you put into the rest of it.
Love triangles I still contend that love triangles don’t necessarily have to be bad, if they’re well-executed and don’t take away too much from the narrative (if it’s supposed to have a plot other than the love triangle, that is). But unfortunately, they seldom are. When I pick up an adventure novel, I am not signing on for pages and pages of angst over which guy the heroine should end up with, particularly when it’s usually painfully obvious which pairing is endgame. Like, did anyone really think Bella would end up with Jacob?
Abuse of deux ex machina To paraphrase Anton Chekhov, if you hang a gun on the wall in the first chapter, you’d better fire it in the second or third. Conversely, if you fire a gun in the second chapter, it better have been on the wall in the first. Seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many novels make it obvious that the writer has written themselves into a corner and just pulled something out of their ass to get out of it. Look, I get that we all write ourselves into corners occasionally. But that’s what editing is for! Go hang that gun on the wall! There’s really no excuse.
Slut-shaming/girl-on-girl hate I’ve been reading YA since the 80s, and girl-on-girl rivalry is a time-honored tradition. I don’t believe that it is always a bad thing. All narratives need an antagonist, and in the world of a teenage girl, that’s often another girl. The problem is when the narrative gets super heavy-handed and nearly every other girl is seen as a rival to the heroine (usually for the hero’s attention) or a foil to make her look better. The latter often takes the form of slut-shaming, contrasting the promiscuous “mean girl” with the virginal/monogamous “nice girl.” This tendency becomes exceptionally toxic when combined with #2, which unfortunately happens quite often.
Offensive stereotypes Do I even have to explain this one? When every minority character (race, disability, sexual preference, etc.) is nothing more than a thinly-veiled stereotype, I’m out of there. Character tropes (e.g. the ditzy blonde, the dumb jock, the socially awkward nerd, the weird theater kids) are not so much offensive as they are annoying, but unless there’s a clever twist on those (e.g. the ditzy blonde actually has a genius IQ), I’m not here for them, either.
Overuse of tropes While most savvy readers know they’ve read it all before, they like to feel like they haven’t. Putting a unique spin on on classic elements will usually accomplish this. However, when a story’s sources are so transparent that reading it starts feeling like a game of connect-the-dots, that’s when I’ve got to tap out (but not without creating a drinking game for every obvious eference). In my opinion, what makes a story memorable isn’t the story itself so much as the way the author tells it. And when that way just makes readers think they liked this story better the first time around, well, I think it’s safe to say you’re doing it wrong.
Y’all remember Lois Duncan? She was the suspense queen of the 80s/90s and her books were my jam. Her most well-known work is probably I Know What You Did Last Summer, which spawned the 90s-licious horror film starring pre-Lifetime Jennifer Love Hewitt, pre-Buffy SMG, and pre-obscurity Freddie Prinze, Jr. A lot of her other books are pretty famous within YA circles, too—Stranger With My Face and The Third Eye, for example. However, I’m recapping one of her lesser-known books, called Locked In Time.
This isn’t the cover my edition had (I lost it a long time ago and now have an ebook), but it is the closest one google images gave me. There’s a slightly more classy-looking b/w cover on amazon, but it’s in the current minimalist YA cover style and I am nhft. Give me ’90s YA covers with paintings of teens who look about 35, kthx.
This book is actually one of my favorites. It’s also interesting rereading it today b/c the subject matter is so popular within current YA—eternal youth and beauty. Unlike most current YA, however, LiT takes a very different approach to it.
You’ve come a long way, baby.
When I first sat down to recap the MIOBI pilot, I’d have never imagined that three years later, I’d still be here recapping the series finale. OK, I did, because I clearly hate myself and possess this bizarre compulsion to deconstruct bad TV shows in excruciating detail, but here we are. The end of an era.
So does MIOBI end on an appropriately absurd, cheesy, and ridiculous note? Of course it does!
So let’s jump right in for the last time.
Apologies, my lovelies, for running a bit late on this one. I fear the drama was so heavy in this episode that the recap took a little more time than I thought. So let’s get started, shall we?
My apologies for being remiss in my Make It or Break It recapping duties. The past few episodes have been kind of meh. But have no fear. 3×05 is pure gold. Such gold, in fact, it has inspired a very special recap.
WARNING FOR MILD HUNGER GAMES SPOILERS
I find that the movie Mean Girls is actually an extremely comprehensive guide to life, not just high school. Its wisdom can really apply to about anything. In fact, I find I can summarize this entire episode solely in Mean Girls macros.