Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Disturbing Trend in Paranormal Romance?

Down with Destiny
Rose Fox -- August 30th, 2011

"While going over my page proofs today (yes, on paper, with a pencil, because we are seriously old school over here), I caught the term “bond-mate” in two consecutive reviews. I took one out and replaced it with an equivalent term, but this got me thinking about how many paranormal romances seem to revolve around the idea of destined partners, much as fantasy epics often revolve around the idea of destined jobs or tasks.

Does anyone else find this idea really disturbing? It’s like all the worst parts of arranged marriage with none of the upsides. It throws us back to a time when women were property and there was no divorce. You can’t even blame your parents; Fate or Destiny or God has made the choice for you, and you don’t get to argue. Initially dislike the other person? Too bad! Fate or Destiny or God has also slipped you a roofie, and you will be so compellingly attracted to your destined mate that your arousal overwhelms your very reasonable concerns. The super-hot compulsive sex will just have to make up for your partner not being someone you otherwise want to be in the same room with.

In anything resembling the real world, this would be a recipe for marital disaster and profound self-loathing. The compulsive arousal/attraction thing particularly makes me cringe. There’s a word for sex you don’t want but are forced to have, and I think that word is applicable even when it’s Fate or Destiny or God forcing two people to behave a certain way rather than one of those people forcing the other. How terrible would it be to be repeatedly compelled to have sex with someone you’re bound to forever, possibly for multiple centuries or lifetimes depending on the paranormal setting, and to have your body aroused by it every single time even when it’s really not what your mind wants, and to know that you can’t escape because Fate or Destiny or God will inexorably draw the two of you back together no matter how far you run? Even if you loved your partner truly and deeply, how could you bring yourself to touch them, knowing that their responses aren’t under their control and that in this setting there is no such thing as consent because neither of you can really say no?

If the destiny is in some way related to race or heritage or gender–all men are fighters, all elves prefer bow-and-arrow to swords, each man gets one woman and each woman gets one man, the prince raised as a woodcutter will be a terrific king because kingliness is inherited, etc.–you get double extra “no” points. Essentialism is bad enough without setting up an entire fictional world that supports and enforces it.

I could be all analytical and muse about why so many readers and writers find these concepts even remotely appealing, but I’m going to keep it personal. The more I encounter destiny tropes, the more they turn me off. Destined love is the opposite of romantic.

Freedom to choose one’s own path in life is such a fundamental necessity that wars have been fought over it and people have marched by the millions demanding it. Let’s stop mining the emotional power of restriction and the quest for freedom by writing endless narratives of people who not only have no choices but whose character arcs begin with defiant struggle and end with giving in. When destined partners fall helplessly in love, it’s no different from “He loved Big Brother”. [Boldface is mine, because this is chilling!]

Give me protagonists who make choices, even terrible choices, maybe especially terrible choices. Give me all the character development that comes from debating those choices. If Fate or Destiny or God forces them to do certain things, they’re not protagonists anymore; they’re puppets, hollow and voiceless, following their script to its depressingly inevitable conclusion."

Fox, Rose. "Down with Destiny." Publisher's Weekly on the Web 30 Aug. 2011. Genreville. 31 Aug. 2011

To paraphrase yet another author (Tina Fey), huzzah for the truthteller! I really am tired of this trope, and it feeds into all the things that make me feel queasy about paranormal romance as a genre. I'd love to get Freud's view on the whole "teen girls going nuts for monstrous characters they have no choice but to love!" phenomenon. It's just so sketchy.

How do you feel about this? Is there a problem with what these books are telling their readers? (I hasten to add that I am not in any way suggesting that books with this theme be supressed or censored, but still.) Is this potentially damaging, or harmless fluff?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hunger Games

Hey fellow mockingjays. There are some interesting new fansites for the upcoming film. Not too much content now, but some are speculating we could receive an announcement from President Snow anytime now.

Also, check out for links to the facebook fan pages for the Capitol and each district.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Forbidden Sea

Forbidden Sea- Sheila A. Nelson

When Adrianne comes face-to-face with the mermaid of Windwaithe Island, she is convinced that the mermaid means her harm. After all, the island is steeped in stories of mermaids' curses and the ill-luck that they bring. But Adrianne is fierce-willed and courageous and is determined to protect her family and the islanders from danger. Yet when the islanders find out about Adrianne's encounters with the mermaid, her family is scorned. They believe that once active, the mermaid cannot be quieted until an islander sacrifices herself to the sea. But is the legend true? And will their fear make them force Adrienne to test it? This is a haunting story of love, surrender and strength. -Plot summary borrowed from Good Reads

This one was a bit of a disappointment. The setting was obscure- pilgrims... kind of? (New) England.... maybe? Most of the secondary characters were underdeveloped, and it all felt a bit Mary Sue somehow. Oh, and the mermaids are barely a factor until the last third of the book, and when they do play a major role they seem bland, unrealistic and don't seem to fit with the rest of the book. And there are major plotholes- at one point Adrianne is offered a job at the Manor, is thrilled, and then proceeds to never mention it again. Ho hum.

There are some upsides, including the interesting and complicated family dynamics. Adrianne loves her little sister and mother fiercely, despite her mother's extremely passive role and willingness to allow Adrianne to shoulder all responsibility for the family (Katniss Everdeen, anyone?)/harsh criticisms from a meanspirited, old maid of an aunt living with them. The setting is interesting if murky, and there are some bits with horses as well as the mermaids, which might be enough for some readers.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau

Freak of nature takes on a whole new meaning...
If she hadn't been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?
Most. Embarrassing. Moment. Ever.
Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?
Jade is determined to find out. So how does a plus-size, aqua-phobic mer-girl go about doing that exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend, Cori, and to her crush, Luke?
This summer is about to get a lot more interesting... -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Ok, getting a smidge tired of the "I'm a teen girl whose parent died/drowned/disappeared, and oh no, now I'm part fish!" plotline now. Especially when it may turn out that the parent did not in fact drown, as they were also part fish. Ho hum. This is what I get for picking a mermaid theme, I suppose. ^_^

Tired premise aside, this book was ok. You can't help loving Jade and Bridget Jones-esque ability to place her foot firmly in her mouth, while struggling with her weight and trying to manage her relationships with friends, family and crushes. This one was pretty fluffy, but still a decent read. On the bright side, there are a few things that make this mermaid novel stand out a bit. For one, Jade is pretty freaked by the thought of being a mermaid, and her search for her mother yields some interesting questions about mer-biology (is fresh water as good as salt water? How do mermaids communicate above/below water? How does the transition from legs to tail and vice versa work?). Another fairly satisfying beach read, but not the best of the pack (school? what is the collective noun for mermaids, anyway? Super bonus points for an answer!).

Forgive My Fins

Forgive My Fins, by Tera Lynn Childs  
Lily Sanderson has a secret, and it’s not that she has a huge crush on gorgeous swimming god Brody Bennett, who makes her heart beat flipper-fast. Unrequited love is hard enough when you’re a normal teenage girl, but when you’re half human, half mermaid like Lily, there’s no such thing as a simple crush.

Lily’s mermaid identity is a secret that can’t get out, since she’s not just any mermaid – she’s a Thalassinian princess. When Lily found out three years ago that her mother was actually a human, she finally realized why she didn’t feel quite at home in Thalassinia, and she’s been living on land and going to Seaview high school ever since, hoping to find where she truly belongs. Sure, land has its problems – like her obnoxious, biker boy neighbor Quince Fletcher – but it has that one major perk – Brody. The problem is, mermaids aren’t really the casual dating type – when they “bond,” it’s for life.
When Lily’s attempt to win Brody’s love leads to a tsunami-sized case of mistaken identity, she is in for a tidal wave of relationship drama, and she finds out, quick as a tailfin flick, that happily-ever-after never sails quite as smoothly as you planned. -
Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

This book was a cute, fun read, a sort of  teen rom-com with mermaids. Lily's voice always rang true and despite her unreasonable fixation on Brody and the fact that she can be pretty dense in the romance department, she was really likable. Combine a great cover and an upbeat, quick read about a teen mermaid and you have one great beach book. Looking forward to the sequel, Fins are Forever, out now.