Dating Advice from Hush

Super-short synopsis of Hush by Stacey R. Campbell: The Princess Diaries + more romance between hot co-eds.

At first pass, I was irritated with some large leaps in logic that I was asked to take. Example: one character finds the Prime Minister’s phone number after a quick search online. As in, Oh gimme a minute and I’ll google David Cameron’s phone number. This sort of thing happened frequently. But then I realized that this story would be perfect as a Disney Channel Feature Film starring the latest Blondie McStarlet — you know, the kind where the unfeasibility of the story is passed over like last year’s homecoming dress in favor of the idea of a hot British guy falling in love with a laid-back all-American girl-next-door.

I am a logical person. Even fantasy books still need to follow the properties of physics. But say I laid that aside, there was still an important problem that bothered me.

Even though the main character Blakely has a lot of positive qualities, she can’t help that she was written in such a way that she passes on bad advice from the author when it comes to romantic relationships.

1. The cure for a broken heart is to get in a new romantic relationship.

“She needed to get over Stewart. The only way he could see Blakely accomplishing that was for her to get together with someone else, and Max was the perfect candidate for the job.”

I understand that sometimes you need to tell your friend: “Look, you are dwelling too much on the past. Let’s find a way to get your mind off it.” But the way to recover from a hole in your heart is not by filling it with another person. It’s by becoming a WHOLE person. Maybe this means finding a new hobby, setting a goal of some kind, learning a skill, journaling, or understanding more about yourself through personality discovery tools.

2. Ignoring someone will make them want you more.

“...the more he tried to charm her, the more she ignored him. She was driving him mad.”

I think this idea feeds into rape culture. Whenever I see this scenario in movies, it makes me so angry that I usually stop watching. The girl says “No”, the guy says, “She doesn’t mean it,” in the end the girl says “Yes” and the guy says “I knew she didn’t mean what she said. She didn’t know what was good for her.” I don’t just mean about sex. It could be about eating two cookies instead of one. There is a difference between saying “I changed my mind” and caving in to the nagging of someone else. Can I get a book with some examples of relational maturity and respect, please?

3. Making your crush jealous will speed up your relationship status.

“Was that jealousy he saw in her delicious chocolate eyes? Oh, this was rich. … If Blakely felt threatened by Marley, maybe she would finally act on her feelings for him.”

Love/friendship does not try to make the other person feel bad. Love/friendship does not manipulate. Love is honest. Love is patient.

4. Saying that you belong together is pretty much proof that you do belong together.

“The way they laughed, the ease in the way they talked, it was like they belonged together.”

The characters think a lot about how perfect they are together, how perfect their friends are together, etc etc. But as a reader, we don’t actually see them working well together. And we don’t see them having a real conversation about their thoughts, speculations, likes and dislikes… things that people who are dating usually try to find out. Instead, they flirtatiously put each other down, make sexually suggestive comments to each other, and sometimes they talk about homework assignments. Yup, that’s gonna last in the long run.

Note: I got a free copy of this for review, but that didn't change my honest opinion of the book.

Poking past The Hedgehog hype

Sometimes I am a little late to the conversation. I know everyone was talking about The Elegance of the Hedgehog back when it hit the English-speaking shelves in 2008. Six years later, I decided to dive in. (Speaking of being late to the game, Starbucks in Dubai just got seasonal pumpkin spice lattes for the first time…)

The story alternates between the confessional-style musings and conversational-style writings of a rich, super-intelligent Parisian tweenage apartment resident and an astute, menopausal concierge of the said apartment. On the surface level I enjoyed this book immensely—two people on opposite ends of the societal spectrum confront some of their assumptions about the other side and come out better because of it.

I read others’ reviews of it after I finished, and I must say that I have to hand it to the critics. These characters spend the whole book moaning about how other people just assume things about them based on appearances but they don’t really get to know them. But the same two people who are doing the complaining don’t put in the effort to push past the pokey defenses of their cold neighbors, either. I’ve seen this conversation happen before:

“I feel so left out because no one invites me to do anything.”
“Do you invite anyone to do anything either?”
“No, but I’m new here / not good at it / boring so I shouldn’t be the one to do it.”

Except in the book it sounded more like:

“No one wants to get to know who I really am.”
“Did you try to get to know who they really are?”
“No, but I’ve spent enough time with them to know that they don’t care about me / aren’t worth my time / aren’t intelligent enough / won’t provide me with effortless, meaningful conversation.”

Once I realized that, it soiled my impression of the book. But I will hold on to the parts that I liked and made the book worth the read. A truly beautiful aspect of the story was the timid friendship between Kakuro Ozu and the main character Renée Michel. Both middle-aged, both introverted and kind-hearted, both epicurean. Their friendship is one that was in its beginning stages of development, yet already so familiar and trusting. I wanted to become a part of that intimacy. It is a modified Cinderella and Prince Charming story, but with realistic people who are in the afternoon of their lives rather than their mornings, who come with some baggage and history, who are looking more for someone they can talk to than someone they can keep up appearances with.

And, call me out for being a girl who likes to read about romantic relationships (then go right on dissing Jane Austen while you’re at it), but I wish the book was more about that. I don’t wish the story had cut straight to the part where Prince Charming/Kakuro Ozu is introduced. I wanted the story to be longer, and I wanted them to enjoy each others’ lives more. And I wanted that precocious, pretentious 12-year-old to take her know-it-all self elsewhere.

Ciudad: A fast review of a fast read

The basic premise: a Brazilian drug lord’s daughter gets held for ransom, and a bounty hunter is hired to bring her back alive.

(Read without fear… no spoilers be here)

Ciudad, by Ande Parks, Joe Russo, and Anthony Russo, reads like an action flick, which is probably why it was picked up for a silver screen adaptation by Sierra Pictures. It is fast paced, violent, gritty, and features all the twisted corruption that we love about South American politics. In spite of its predictability, and the characters being more like caricatures than real people, I found myself liking it for the same reason people like action movies. It’s racy and entertaining and not from my world.