Friday, November 30, 2012

City of Bones Chapter 17

I mentioned last chapter post that I like action. But I am not adverse to romance or books that focus JUST on character development. One of my ultimate, all time favorite books is That Hideous Streingth, a book that many people consider to be C.S. Lewis's worst work of fiction. There is so much vitriol surrounding it, I've added it to the list of to-be-bitched books, because yes. Even I acknowledge that the book has severe issues. Why do I like it? Because it's a story about how evil works, and how its ultimate "goal", if you will, is its own self destruction.

Why do I bring this up? What salvages THS for me is that character development. The primary story arc is a man who is an idiot, and probably C.S. Lewis's own self insert, whose mind numbing stupidity almost brings about the end of the world, and how he gets out of that stupid. And of course there is Jane's arc. Jane's arc rocks. These are two people who are not good at the beginning of the book who become good later.

That is not the case here. City of Bones contains one terrible person--Jace--and one prop to reward that terrible person with--Clary. And because Clary is not a real person, and isn't intended to be anything except our vehicle for adventure, anything that focuses on romance is predictable, boring and just...ugh, let's just get to it already.

This chapter is called "The Midnight Flower." Congradulations, we're about to land on Planet Girl.

The description of the greenhouse is stunningly bad. The scent of blooming flowers hits Clary "soft as the padded blow of a cat’s paw." Because the first thing I think of when I smell roses is of my cat batting my face around like it's her favorite chew toy. There is colon abuse, M-dash abuse, and this little gem:

a plant bearing a star-shaped yellow blossom whose petals were medallioned with golden pollen.
That is not a word. That does not even invoke an image I would associate with a plant. I'm thinking of Lillies, and how, if you don't remove the stamens before they mature, the pollen gets everywhere. Festooned, covered, coated, dusted, glazed, all of these are words I would apply. But medallion implies the big gaudy thing at the end of a necklace, not the soft fluffy stuff on the tip of your nose. And that noise you heard? That was the sound of spellcheck underlining "Medallioned" so hard it burned out a couple pixels on my laptop's screen.

And of course, the lights of the city glitter like "cold jewels".

Jace assures Clary that they'll be left alone up here because Isabelle and Alec have allergies. This is their house. Why would they have flowers in their house they are allergic to? Clary asks what all the flowers are, and Jace says he doesn't know, he's not a botanist, he only needed to learn how to kill things. This strikes me as less "Jace is a Badass" and more "Cassandra Clare didn't want to write about flowers."

Which sucks. Yes. Flowers are a boring topic and having characters talk about flowers might be difficult...if you do it wrong. In Sunshine, my favorite book of all time, a vampire gets the main character to keep herself alive (it's complicated) by talking about her activities as a baker. It develops her character and his at the same time, not because she's talking about baking muffins but how she's talking about those muffins. This is a moment for Clary and Jace to connect. He could talk about something that grew in Idris, about a peaceful moment he remembered from his childhood that's connected to flowers, she could mention something else, and through their movements and how they react to each other they could develop their relationship subtly. Nope. They talk about birthday presents, about Jace's dad doing nice things for Jace for a change, and you get the feeling that this is being rushed along. This is a CONNECTION moment, after all. These two will feel a CONNECTION, and we must rush along to that moment.

Jace confides that he had no friends, his Dad homeschooled him and that he never saw another kid his age until he was ten years old. Then he says "Don't feel sorry for me, Dad was great."

Clary does not call bullshit on this. I will. Bullshit, Jace, your dad was emotionally and physically abusive. Idris needs CPS like YESTERDAY. He goes on to tell Clary she's lucky her dad died before she was born, so at least she doesn't miss him.

...BULL. FUCKING. SHIT. JACE. Death of a family member creates an absence. Perhaps not an acute loss, but I miss the chance to get to know my paternal granddad. It's not the same as knowing the person you lost, but it's still something that you can miss and mourn. But once again, Clary is perfectly okay with somebody else invalidating her feelings. And then, at midnight, all the pretty flowers open.

The author watches too many AMVs when she was writing this, because I could hear the music and the anime shininess in the background.

Anyway, Jace and she discuss tattoos and if he and Isabelle ever dated. He says no, it'd be too weird, Isabelle was too much like a sister to him. And then they clean everything up and have the accidental kiss know, I thought this would be more vomit worthy. This is more like watching two actors who have no chemistry whatsoever try to convince you that they're going to make like rabbits when the screen fades to black. He takes her back to her room, kisses her one more time, and OF COURSE Simon catches them and Simon's hurt because, DUH, he's in love with Clary. What I don't get is why Jace suddenly goes cold on Clary. Well, I mean, I do get it. Romantic Cliche Number 2227 requires the romantic leads to have wacky misunderstandings before they lip lock in true love. But Jace knew that Simon had a thing for Clary, and he knew that Clary didn't return the emotion. But nope, he burns her off because, you know, the special snowflake must show off his softer side, as covered by raging jealousy and total disreguard for the feelings of others.

And then Simon and Clary have a fight, and Simon proves to be the most perceptive male alive.

“Details,” said Simon dismissively. “He’s an asshole. I thought you were better than that.”

And then, after several paragraphs of Clary missing the very fucking obvious, Simon confesses his love, then walks out the door, leaving Clary to collapse into a helpless pile of angsty, blubbering tears.

Human beings whose brains are wired correctly are goddamned good at reading social cues. The healthy human brain can read when someone is happy, when someone is sad, when someone likes you or when someone hates you. When the brain is not wired correctly, the individual becomes socially handicapped. Now, what I am about to say will probably be very ugly to some people, and I apologize ahead of time. Clary Fray shows no other signs of being severely autistic, but her utter inability to read the people around her has no single other possible explination.


But no, we have her collapsed in little sobby tears because she didn't know, and now Simon is gone and she never understood how much she loved him before, only she loves Jace too because he made her happy for a few minutes, making her forget her mother and Luke's betrayal--given how often Clary has thought about Mom and Luke, she forgot it a LONG time before Jace took her to see the pretty flowers--and...and...and maybe it's her fault she's losing Simon, because she committed the terrible sin of being happy.

Words cannot express how fucking angry that makes me.

I am not going to rant about this, because it will make this post way way way too long. So I'm just going to state the plain facts and move on.

I had issues with Self Injury, starting when I was eighteen and running until I was about 21. I still have them, but 21 was when I stopped actively doing it. One of my triggers was accepting the blame for things I had nothing whatsoever to do with. One of the worst episodes, one of the few that has left permanent scars, was when I bought dinner, for myself, and did not offer any to my grandfather. I overheard him telling my grandmother what a horrible, inconsiderate person I was for buying myself food and not offering it to anyone else, and for daring to eat it in front of him. I blamed myself for making my grandfather hate me, and I effectively removed the top layers of skin from my right knee using a razor blade as a reaction. Accepting blame for the actions and behaviors of another person is not healthy. That's what Clary is doing right now. I know exactly how Clary's brain is working right now, because it's what my brain does all the time. And the fact that this is never brought up, never mentioned again, and kind of glorified in these passages as a normal way to react to teenage stupidity, has made me extraordinarily angry. 

We cut from Clary being emotionally triggered into a state of dejected and unwarrented self hatred by the two most important men in her life to Clary realizing that her absent scrawling of magical runes on the edge of one of her drawings has made the wings in the drawing feel like feathers. Now, because are two thirds of the way through this crap-tastic novel, this triggers Clary suddenly realizing something important. And I'm not going to spoil it for you guys, but this book has finally begun that wonderful tradition in terribly written fiction of swiveling around and shooting itself in the face.

Brace yourself kids. The next chapter is going to be pretty vicious. 

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