I already touched on The Tragedy Paper, but now that I've finished it and started reading Ally Condie's Reached, I feel like I need to talk a little bit more about believability, or at least common sense.
Let's start with The Tragedy Paper, which I wrapped up earlier
this week. Throughout, there seemed to be some behaviors and reactions
that didn't quite strike me as realistic. But it was pretty clear from
the pacing of the book that we were building up to some reveal, and it
wasn't clear how it would affect all the characters.
have Tim who likes Vanessa, who has a boyfriend Patrick. Tim is
narrating his version of the school year to a student the next year,
Duncan, who's listening to this audio recording. Duncan likes Daisy.
Tim and his class were seniors last year, so you don't expect them to be
on campus, but it's clear that something happened and it's not clear
how the year ended, so Duncan's tension, his being drawn to the story,
all of these could theoretically be resolved if their behavior feels
authentic in light of the big reveal.
Now, right away
that's off-beat. It's a pretty daring move to write a book that feels
wrong for the first 80% and depends entirely on the payoff at the end.
Not unheard of, but risky. And then there's the reveal, which I won't
spoil except to say that, while the circumstances were crazy enough to
be a crisis, the actual way things play out is not satisfying. People
who are blaming themselves for things need to be able to come to that
conclusion with at least a slim layer of rational thought for it to be
satisfying--otherwise you've got a psychological drama with no
But the least convincing part of
the book? So the whole thing is structured around the notion of the
classic, literary, dramatic tragedy. The students are studying tragedy
and writing a HUGE (I cannot overemphasize the HUGENESS of this
assignment) paper on the subject. And then the events of the year
parallel the elements of tragedy that they're learning about.
trying not to give away the end. But let me say that when the
principal of the school comes to you and says "maybe we've been teaching
you too much," I find myself strangely unconvinced.
So how has Reached unconvinced me in the first 50 pages? Well, the first two books and 50 pages? We'll move beyond the Teenage Love May Save The World plot, or the whole Yes, The Rebellion Matters, But Not As Much As My Heart thing. Let's touch on the little things.
Like Cassia being called in to do an important Sort, and making a mistake on purpose, knowing that if the failsafes aren't in place, she'll be caught instantly. Tell me, if they know the "right answer" to the sort she's doing, why did they call her in the middle of the night to do it? Now, this can be lifted out of the realm of unbelievable by finding out that it was a test, but if that's true, why didn't she think of that? What powers does the Society have, and what do the citizens believe it can do, anyway?
And Xander's repeated, drilled-in conviction that the Rising can cure the Plague (because Xander is a Good Guy, and Good Guys only infect little kids with curable Plagues) has me already wondering about his lack of skepticism. As does everyone's constant debate about the true identity of the Pilot, with no one saying, "Hey, maybe this Pilot who is everywhere and always is Metaphorical, and there is a Pilot In Each Of Us." No one seems to have thought of this.
Honestly, it's not like I loved the series. And there's no way this one will be as tough as the second boo, so I'll read it. But dude, I am SO Spartacus.