Sunday, June 30, 2013

On Writing: Top Ten Things I Learned About Young Adult Fantasy Fiction

Okay, so I was going to do one more review about City of Bones by Cassandra Clare...but as anyone who follows me on Twitter or facebook knows, that idea has been scrapped. I couldn't write the review without getting irritated with it because the book was awful...just awful. Suffice to say, don't buy it: go buy Harry Potter or even the Percy Jackson books. City of Bones made Unclean Spirits seem better by comparison, and that's saying something.

So rather than rant and rave about a book, putting myself in a bad mood and ultimately getting myself into trouble, I decided to wrap up Young Adult month with a new list piece, since I haven't done any since the list of books I just can't get into anymore. This one will be the Top Ten Things I learned About Young Adult Fantasy Fiction, starting with number ten.

Number Ten: Save your questions for when there is a lull in the story, not when they actually come up.

A lot of information is bouncing around in a YA fantasy book. What are casters? Why do vampires sparkle? Why did they rip off Harry Potter? These things will likely confuse you as you read the book because there are so many things happening at once. Don't worry. YA books have you covered. YA books hoard questionable situations like Golum on an episode of Pawn Stars, rationing them out like Donald Trump as a guest start on Survivor. Don't worry though...all of your questions will be answered when the writers get stuck somewhere.

Number Nine: A man or a woman only has true value if they are together.

Life is dull and boring and without true zeal. When that special person comes into your life, they bring light and life and meaning that you could never have achieved without them. Forget that you know nothing about them and have nothing in common. As the song says, love is all you need. Well...relationships are all you need. Ever. Don't ask questions...just go with it.

Number Eight: Have your main character be a clean slate so they are more relatable rather than a role model.

It's a common misconception that many authors main characters have been incredibly boring, lifeless and dullwitted. I have to tell you that this is not the case. Authors have been writing characters as blank slates that readers can then project themselves onto. It's a kind of immersion that readers could never have experienced just by simply reading the book. Think about it, this way, you too can become a dull, lifeless, selfish teenager in love with a shiny disco ball. It's not lazy writing if people still buy the books.

Number Seven: Use caricatures to create characters who never have to develop or change.

Also known as archetypes, caricatures are basic story crafting ideas that have been used across the ages. The lone warrior, the hopeless romantic, the town fool. These basic ideas are used in formula writing because they are popular in almost every culture and transcend time. They also never develop as characters or really change. There's nothing wrong with this because if they did then you would be doing something original, and that would be unheard of. Just take your basic god of war, give him a sword and bathe him in blood. People like that kind of thing

Number Six: The journey is not important - it's the destination that matters.

Forget the old saying that it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey. Wait, switch that, reverse it. Forget all the wonder of what you would see along the way. Who wants to see that? Just get there as soon as possible, showing as little interest in what's going on as a five year old with ADD at the zoo who just wants to go see the monkeys. Readers don't want to waste time driving or flying a magic horse over cities. They just want to focus on what color the horses feathers are until they get to the castle they were headed to to begin with.

Number Five: Your parent got kidnapped? Better go train to save him...for a few months

Oh my gosh! My dad just got kidnapped? I better go off to train for a few years. I'm sure he'll be okay until I'm at least mostly done. Gotta save something for the sequel so that I can show just how much I still have to learn.

Number Four: Girls can do anything boys can, even if they shouldn't.

Now since this is such a touchy subject, I won't bullshit this one. I strongly believe that women can do anything men can, and always have. The fact is that it's a poor choice when they do some of the more suspect things that men do. Such as playing on the affections of the opposite sex to get the things they need for whatever reasons, (something I'm fairly certain a male character would be crucified for doing.) The opposite has been proven true, as well, taking female protagonists and devolving them back to helplessness like Clary Fray in City of Bones, and Kitty in Kitty and the Midnight Hour. Make up your minds, authors. There are good books out there with main female characters who kick ass.

Number Three: Plot? Oh, right, better put that in somewhere...

Authors have so much love to share that sometimes they forget that there has to be an actual plot, climax and conflict in the story that doesn't revolve around prom, or badly cooked pizza, or whether your best friend will have a date so that you can get the four seated table at the fancy restaurant. Don't worry, gentle reader: they'll get to it when they get to it. There's no rush, right? You are perfectly willing to sit through days of exposition to find out that something mildly interesting will happen for five pages before you go back to a picnic in the woods...right?!

Number Two: It's not stalking if you're in love.

Did you wake up in the middle of the night to find your boyfriend staring down at you, the window open wide, his breath slow and deep? Is he following you around wherever you go, staring down and even threatening any man who comes withing fifty yards of you? Does he often tell you how you are the only person he has ever loved and would do anything to keep you safe from an uncaring world that is only out to hurt you? Call the cops...this is not natural, it is not romantic, it is stalking and it can devolve to domestic violence. Not even kidding, I'd even suggest you carry pepper spray or a taser Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman style.

And....Number One: Teenagers are stupid and will buy anything based off Twilight, Harry Potter and Popular Mythology

Pretty much anything that can make money by being made into a moving that draws teenagers into the theaters will get a free pass these days. That doesn't make it good. The Eragon movie taught us that. Watching the preview for City of Bones, I can tell you that as bad as the book was, the movie is only about 2% based off the original source material, and the actual book is based off Harry Potter. Eragon was based on Star Wars. Beautiful Creatures was based off Twilight which was based off of a much better book, dumbed down for teenagers. Pretty much all major archetypes come from popular mythology anyway, which is why they transcend generations. Put a stop to YA authors insulting teen intelligence. Pick up a real book by Jim Butcher, or Brent Weeks, Mark Lawrence, Ilona Andrews, Rachel Aaron. All of these authors are incredible, and whats more important, they are easily accessible and they won't insult your intelligence

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

What ever happened to the Great American epic teen fantasy? No seriously, this is me being serious, not snarky. I remember when I was a pre-teen, (back before it was called tween *gag*,) and into my teenage years, reading epic fantasy books written for teens. Mostly, they were by K.A. Applegate and her contemporaries who are my heroes even to this day. I never even got to finish the Animorph or Everworld series because I was tragically broke before they finished and too old for them afterwards. But, I know that writers must have written a few more books of that genre since then, I just don't see them now. Writers like Christopher Paolini and Rick Riordan have done an...okay job of picking up on it, but for the most part, YA writers seem to have missed out on the fantasy part of the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre. What I'm seeing in exchange, is a lot of romance and not enough carnage.

Don't get me wrong, romance has it's place. It has it's own section in the bookstore, even inching into a new one titled: Paranormal Romance. It's even inching into Science Fiction; the new Enders Game movie trailer has been showing some girl smiling at Ender in it. Since it's not exactly my genre, I can't say for certain, but you know what I remember about Enders Game? Boys kicking each other's butts. That's not to say that there weren't women in there, but I'm fairly certain they weren't there to play slap and tickle.

The reason I wanted to say this, is of course because I'm reviewing Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Why did I decide to review this book? Because this is still YA month for me, and I didn't want to review Twilight...I didn't want to suffer a brain hemorrhage that series induces in the unwary. That being said, Twilight and Beautiful Creatures, five years away from each others publication date, at the least, are very similar in genre, style and plot. I've heard a lot of people complain about the similarities between the two, and to be honest, I don't get it. It's kind of like comparing a rock and another equally unimpressive rock and trying to say which would win if you pit them against each other.

And yes, I do know what I'm talking about. Being of literary mind, I did read Twilight about a year before the movie came out. Heck, I even read New Moon, to my infinite displeasure. That was about as far as I got before started to actually consider a Bonfire of the Vanities movement. I digress though, this isn't a Twilight review...I don't hate myself nearly enough right now to attempt that. Though, I will say this: writing a bad book, in every meaning of the word, no matter how popular, is tragic. Writing a boring book like Beautiful Creatures, now that is just plain criminal.

Beautiful Creatures is a lazy book, written back in 2009, but just waiting for that Twilight novelty to get out of the way to become more popular this year. To be honest, I'd never even heard of it before this year, and that was mostly because of the movie adaptation to come out. To be honest, the movie might get a little more popular if they hadn't cast Jeremy Irons in it, because the man is just too dated for a work like this. Just to get it out of the way, the overall plot of the book does owe a lot to twilight fame, only in reverse. Ethan Wate is a boringly dull teenager living in the South when a new girl comes to his town, Lena Duchannes, who is a caster girl, (a breed of human who can cast magic [oh, so imaginative]) and turns his world upside down. It's basically what would have happened if Edward Cullen hadn't been a shiny disco ball and Bella Swan had had more depth than a puddle of spit.

At first glance, it seems that the authors of Beautiful Creatures decided to try and make their characters as different from Twilight as possible, and in doing so, drained their characters of any truly interesting character traits. Instead, the book focuses on this things that keeps popping up in YA fiction and television shows, and that is: being different is bad and should be punished and anyone who accepts said different person is automatically some kind of saint. Lena isn't a fashion model or a beauty pageant queen, and is instead more of an average beauty, and because of this, (and her relation to her uncle, the town hermit,) she is immediately ostracized. And for what?

I know it's been a little over ten years since I was in high school, but I don't remember things being like that. Yes being weird meant that you didn't hang out with the jocks or cheerleaders, but it didn't mean the entire school hated you. There is always a niche out there that will accept you for who you are. And if not? Who cares? It's high school You will know these people for a few years and then likely never see them again. Even Ethan, who is completely blameless in tormenting Lena, like the others in his class do, makes a point of feeling bad because he feels he has done some amorphous wrong in the past like the others of his peers and this apparently makes him a bad person. This was a deal breaker for me, because at no point in the story does Ethan have an example of how he follows the crowd and makes people feel bad. In fact, early on it's made clear that Ethan just goes along and does his own thing most of the time.

But Beautiful Creatures can't seem to get enough of this, and indeed focuses on it for the rest of the book and almost nothing else. Even the main plot of whether Lena will become a Dark Caster or a Light Caster is shunted to the side for most of the book, instead focusing on how She and Ethan are going on their first date, or going to a dance, or just hanging out. I know all of these things are relationship necessities, but in a genre of fantasy fiction, it is just so, so, SO boring. This is something that YA books have in common, too. They are so focused on drawing young adults in with things that they might do in their own lives, or might have had to deal with at some point, that they lose the actual fantasy aspect of the book in the process.

I would have to say that the main problem with Beautiful Creatures is Ethan. As the main character, the story is told from his perspective with the exception of one pacing-ruining moment towards the end. The problem with him is that he is boring - not in the soul-sucking, brain-hemorrhaging way that Bella is, but almost just as bad. He is a man who sees four weird things right before his eyes and only asks questions about one of them for the better part of the book. What? Is he stockpiling them? Ethan has no qualities about him that make him important other than that he is in love with Lena. And their chemistry is so awful. I get it that they love each other, and that this is a very star-crossed lovers ordeal, but they have no real drive to be together. Lena, for the most part, spends almost every waking moment trying to get rid of him, calling him stupid, running away from him, not calling him. And yet he just keeps going.

Similarly to Twilight, I get an overwhelming feeling that the authors are drawing conclusions that a man or woman only have worth because of each other, and I have to say that that is bunk and leave it at that. Ethan goes about his life in a kind of bored fashion before Lena shows up. He plays basketball but doesn't really enjoy it. He has ex-girlfriends who hate him, but it's never really explained why or how they broke up, she's only there to be a foil to Lena and even that is pretty half-assed. The only thing he really is interested in is Lena, and that just shows a kind of codependency that isn't exactly a role model for young adults. It actually kind of reminds me of two things, one that someone mistakenly told me, and one that I brought up in a piece on writing. The first is that someone once told me that because I was a man, I wasn't fit to talk about anything female as far as writing, perspectives, etc.. Normally I would say this is bunk, but it goes back to the old adage of "write what you know", and obviously neither of the authors really know men if they think this is a positive reflection of the gender. The other is that there is a fine line between believe-ability and realism. It's believable that Ethan was a loner before Lena came along, (it happens,) but it is unrealistic that they should have to the kind of bond that they authors create because there is nothing to build off of.

Lena on the other hand is only interesting because she is quirky, and that's it. As a Caster, she has until her next birthday before she becomes light or dark, and has no choice in the matter. Because of this, she draws less attention to the caster part of her life and tries to live a normal life. What parts of her life that aren't Caster related are all about her being quirky and edgy. She has a necklace full of knick-knacks she has to remind her about her life. She dresses in uncool clothes. She plays violin. And she is constantly defined by other people as living with her uncle Macon. Even her powers are quirky and ill-defined. She's shown to have some power over the weather that is effected by her mood, cracks glass and even controls fire later on. But for being touted as one of the more powerful types of casters, she doesn't quite come up to par.

If I had a rating system I might consent to give Beautiful creatures 2 out of 5, possibly a 3 out of 5 after reading City of Bones. But I don't. I don't suggest reading this book to anyone who values good literature, but if you liked Twilight and wish it had gone on longer, then this is probably the book for you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Single Handed Part 3

The snow hasn’t always been this bad in Asgard. When the city was founded, it was cold,
yes, but only in the last fifty years or so did it get to snowing full time. Everyone and their
mother had a reason for it: from global warming to some sign of the apocalypse. Myself, I have
a theory, and one I’d shared with my father when I was fifteen. I told him that God was suffering
from Post-Partum Depression. God was trying to slowly drown us with the kind of careful,
absent-minded, neglect of a man with an unruly pet leaving for a week without feeding it.
My father, then a thirty nine year old SWAT sergeant and a devout catholic to boot, had
stared silently at me for a full five minutes before smacking me in the side of the head.
Still, as I walked down the deserted street, watching small snow devils race through the
drifts of powder like hyperactive children, I had to admit there was something, if not beautiful,
then scenic about the weather. As I watched small flakes march through the sky to land in the
clear streets and dance along as the wind blew them gently away, it was almost peaceful.
I would have enjoyed it more without the damn sweater my shrink had suggested
wearing after my, “little accident”, as he was fond of calling it. With every meeting I’d been to in
the past three months I’d felt myself drifting further and further away from him. With a little
Freudian beard, jackets with the elbows replaced, and a name so damned German I felt like I
was coughing it out everything time I said it, he was far and away the last person I wanted in my
head. I’d even stopped calling him by his name, and simply referred to him as “Shrinky-Dink” at
the beginning and end of every session. I doubted he was aware of the little twitch his eye
made at the sound of it.
In the part of town I was living in, it would have looked out of place seeing a six-foot-five,
three hundred pound man walking around in a t-shirt and jeans. The streets were empty of any
parked cars, (nobody in the neighborhood could afford one, anyway.) The buildings were all
plain, insulated stone so cracked and pitted it was a surprise anyone could live in them. Not one
of the buildings were above five floors, and many of the apartments above two were vacant due
to poor heating units.
“The sweater,” Shrinky-Dink drawled from his posh, Italian, leather chair, “will help you
adjust to being part of the crowd again.”
I’d have to have a little talk with him about the fact that my hand was so busy being out
of sight that it made me the perfect target for the young woman who slipped out of the alley to
my right and settled the barrel of a gun in my lower back. I was pretty sure that wasn’t his
intention, because wearing the sweater was already irritating enough without the threat of
digesting a bullet with my hand stuffed ineffectively in my pocket.
“Can I help you, miss?” I asked, more curious than anything. In a pair of ragged jeans and
a sweater, I wasn’t exactly shouting out “rich”, so I doubted I was being robbed.
“Look to your left, Chief,” the voice behind me spoke, her tone lacking any emotion. I
shuddered. Passionate people make mistakes, but someone who sounded like they didn’t care,
they were dangerous. I looked to my left.
It wasn’t immediately clear what she wanted me to see until I looked at the building
across the street and a little ways up. On the third floor of the apartments, in the third window
from the end, was a man waving at me in an overtly cheerful manner. He was short, squat, and
mean in a way I hadn’t seen since I’d seen the wolfish grin on Fenton’s face. He was wearing a
plain white t-shirt, and had a young woman in a chokehold, a knife pointed at her throat.
“That woman’s name is Norah Raines, and she has two children in the apartment. Both
of them are locked in their rooms and their father left for work an hour ago.” She spoke in such
a clear, precise manner, that I had no doubt that she had planned this all out, and a cold rage
bubbled up inside me like heartburn.
“You’re going to do everything I say, because if you don’t then someone is going to get
hurt. If you think for a second it’s just going to be you paying for any stunt, then you are sadly
mistaken. Now let me ask you, Chief,” she jabbed the gun barrel into my back for emphasis,
“Does Graham up there need to get creative, or are you going to be a gentleman for me?”
For half a second, I considered making her eat her own gun and going up there to make
sure “Graham” never threatened another family again. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Images of things falling apart on me, of things left unfinished because of poor judgment,
stopped me and I felt my shoulders slump in submission.
“What do you want, miss…?”
“Helena, and nothing illegal,” she said, shuffling around behind me. I imagined her
finding a creative place to hide the gun so she could mow me down at the slightest provocation.
This didn’t seem like a woman who took chances, even with gentlemen. “We’re just going to
make a little withdrawal from the bank.”
Helena moved around to my right side, and I got my first real glimpse of her. She was
pretty for a sociopath, in a cold, cruel kind of way. She wore a plain gray button down coat that
went down to her knees, covering a pair of thick work jeans. Her shoes were a kind of brave
stiletto boot, and I had to admire that she could walk on the ice covered sidewalks.
She had long, silver blond hair that cascaded down her back in a glistening sheet. Her
nose was a delicate button, and she had a full, pleasant face, marred entirely by the dead look
in her eyes as she looked at me. Her eyes were a shade of green I’d never seen before, almost
the color of dirty ocean water, or sewer sludge.
Well, I shouldn’t say “entirely marred”. The scars pretty much took care of the rest. From
scalp to her exposed neck, from nose to ear: the entire left side of her face was viciously burned
and ravaged. The skin was thick and irritated red where it wasn’t crisscrossed by dead brown
skin reminiscent of under-dried jerky. What were worse were the pockmarked sections of
chemical burns interspersed across her cheek. There was no doubt that all of this had been
intentionally done. It had all the marks of a sadist.
For the first time, Helena’s face lit up with emotion. Joy transformed her right side from
pretty, to damned near beautiful, and made the left side into a menagerie of horror.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” She smiled up at me. It was clear she was enjoying my discomfort. “It’s
one of those ‘man with no shoes’ moments for you, I’m sure. Now as you well know, a
gentleman always holds a lady’s arm on their walk.”
I growled deep in my chest, but did as she asked, grimacing in discomfort as I took my
arm out of my pocket. Helena watched, a look of eager anticipation on her face as my wrist
escaped the confines of the sweater. The end of my wrist, freshly bandaged before I’d left the
apartment, ached in the cold. The jagged remains of my right hand had long ago healed from
their stitches, but even mild weather made the stump painfully sensitive. My physical therapist
swore my insurance covered a prosthetic and would help with the sensitivity, but honestly, I
didn’t see the point. As I watched her, Helena shivered a bit, smiling to herself before placing
her arm around mine, the tips of her fingers caressing the edges of the bandages.
“Spectacular,” she crooned, humming a bit to herself. “Well, let’s be off.”

Review: Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journa by Chris Colfer (Audiobook)

Last month I decided to do some new things like reading books I didn't particularly enjoy and reading books in new ways. One of those new ways was experimenting with audiobooks, something that up until this year, I was dead-set against. It's not that I don't appreciate what audiobooks do for the reading community as a whole: bringing literature to the young and illiterate, as well as giving literature as a media for long drives. I also understand that it helps with pronunciation and experiencing new words. When people read a new word, sometimes they might look it up to see how it's spelled or what it means, but in all honesty, most people just put it into context with what was said before and after and go "ah-ha..."

My main problem with audiobooks is twofold, and simple enough that I won't go into too much detail about it...this time. The first is that it's lazy: listening to an audiobook instead of reading a book is like looking at a painting of a landscape in front of the landscape it was drawn from. The second is that it's expensive: Audible (sponsored by Amazon) gives one credit a month for its standard account (charged 14.99 a month if I remember right.) If you want to get something outside of the credit, a new book can cost up to forty bucks, with the cheaper ones around twenty. It all goes back to the laziness though: with the audiobook you aren't just paying for the printed media, you are paying for the voice actor's time reading it rather than you, yourself, taking the time and effort to read it yourself.

The benefit, on the other hand, for me at least, is that reading young adult books is always pretty taxing. The books aren't quite as advanced as the ones I am more accustomed to, and it always makes me feel that authors are dumbing their work down for people who aren't smart enough for Stephen King or Jim Butcher to name a few. I think it's a pretty shady system, to be honest. I was reading Dragonlance books and other such fantasy novels when I was in high school, and to me the quality of work is pretty low lately. That being said, using the audiobooks for reading YA books lets me bypass the generic writing quality of some books *coughPercyJacksoncough* and focus on the meat of the story, the character development, and how the book reaches out to an audience.

So with that in mind, and I know this was a longer introduction than usual, I decided to read Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer. I know that this book isn't fantasy all, in fact. This book is actually a holdout from last week’s focus on doing things different, (that is, audiobooks and general fiction) but it actually covers this week’s focus, Young Adult fiction, and so I thought I would hold onto it. The story, written by Glee famous Chris Colfer and a surprisingly well written read. The book is a memoir like recollection of a forward thinking high school writer and his attempts to get into Northwestern University so he can escape his Podunk classmates and his alcoholic mother and neglectful father. Along the way, he blackmails his fellow classmates through various means to contribute to fulfilling that dream.

Struck by Lightning is definitely a novelty as far as fiction goes. To clarify, a novelty is something you buy not because of its quality, but because of its popularity. Have a Disney Land mug somewhere in your cupboard? Or a cheap coke glass you got from McDonald's "for a limited time only"? How about a broken pair of $400.00 sunglasses you bought after The Matrix first came out? Those are novelties, and they tend to come out after something popular happens to cash in on its success. Almost all of the YA books and movies that have come out this year after Twilight finished up are Novelty books, cashing in on the success of a much more popular successor. It doesn't make them good or bad, just something to take note of. Wondering why you were compelled to go watch that god-awful Beautiful Creatures movie months after Twilight Breaking Dawn finished up in theaters? Or why the second Percy Jackson movie waited so long to go into production? Well the answer is very simple, "Ch-ching".

Struck by Lightning doesn't purely hold to its novelty, but it is very noticeably "Glee-ky" if that makes sense. A failing high school club is revitalized through blackmail. Gay sex scandals, awkward losers who are better people than everyone else because they are good people. Cliques cliques and more cliques. Colfer definitely recognizes his audience, (I'd say 16-25 at least) and keeps things light and fresh with a strong solid base of character development. The "writing" was well done, at least through audiobook. I know that a lot of people have complained about the format of the book, done through journal entries, and I thankfully, (but not coincidentally,) was spared that irritation, but it shouldn't really matter because books aren't supposed to be carbon copies of each other anyway.

Where the book fails, is in its inability to really connect with its audience, which I understand kind of goes against what I just said, but bear with me. While the characters are recognizable to its audience, there were several times that it was just a little overdone, which is what a lot of YA books have a problem with. For example: cheerleaders, jocks and other popular-esque characters in the story are so overdone as to make them caricatures of themselves, and therefore less identifiable and more like interchangeable names pulled out of a shallow hat. The cheerleaders are stuck up, bossy, soulless, and get their way. The gay character is super gay, (which is something I still blame Will and Grace for,) and have no substance. Even Carson himself is a caricature of that know-it-all, better than everyone jerk who never really develops because he doesn't see anything wrong with the way that he is doing things. More than once I had to wonder at why Carson said or did some of the things he did, (because he really does seem to see nothing wrong with insulting people when he wants something in return,) and couldn't come up with any reason other than that Colfer thought it would be fun to put it there.

There are several times, almost in a row, where Carson interacts with the other characters that he is blackmailing and actually has really in-depth dialogues with them about something important to each character. Rather than take these things and show that the characters, Carson or otherwise, grow from it, it's largely ignored towards the end of the book. I get the feeling that the stories are supposed to be PSA announcements about these problems and how they effect the regular Joe, but for the most part they seem more like trite platitudes because they are so rushed. I got more out of it when Daniel Radcliffe did a commercial for the Trevor Project.

This leads me to the worst problem the book has, and I thought that I would lead this with a cliché, but apt saying. That being, "Familiarity breeds contempt." I won't go into the history of the saying of course, but the usual meaning is that the more often you have something, or are around something, the less you like it over time. For me, and with this book, it was that I caught a similarity the book has with another famous movie, and that is, "Clue". I know, sounds a little wonky, but I draw conclusions from other things for less than this. An intelligent but devious student uses peoples secrets to get them to do what he wants them to do and feels little to no moral qualms about it. His victims, (who probably could have saved their anonymity by telling an adult and getting him expelled) protect their secrets and go along with it because...I don't know, Colfer wrote it that way.

Now, while I see nothing wrong with drawing inspiration, on purpose or not, I have to say that the results between the two were completely different. Whereas in Clue, the story was spiced up by sex and violence and murder and intrigue, Struck by Lightning uses...writing, within writing, within writing to show that everyone is better off being blackmailed because they were awful people and deserved to be schooled.

I could go on and on about the intricacies about the story and how they work and not, but I've been told my reviews are getting long enough to begin with. It wasn't bad. Not like King of Thorns wasn't bad, but just the same it was a decent read. Listening to Chris Colfer narrate a book he wrote about a character who sounds a lot like himself does sound a little bit like Writers Masturbation, but listening to him say something like, "I never considered myself gay," was perhaps one of the funniest things I've personally ever heard. I will comment that it's also irritating that Carson doesn't develop any love interest, but not uncommon to see out gay authors make their main characters out to be asexual in nature.

I smack myself for saying this, I would definitely see the movie over reading the book...*Smack*. Ow, but really, the story is written and played by Chris Colfer, as well as showing Rebel Wilson in it as Malorie. Also, parts of the story that weren't included in the book, like Carson's future step-mother and his mother's reaction at the end of the movie are particularly moving. It also casts Carson in a more favorable light, being this dejected soul with his life ahead of him but not the one he wants. Also I just think its better edited than the book and is more sad for it's less than random use of plot.