Parent-Teacher Night! Also Everyone In This Book Is Still Terrible: Betrayed Chapter 1

Posted on March 14, 2014 by

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After yesterday’s exciting conclusion, we’re jumping right into the second House of Night novel to continue the story it!

You don't want to know how many times I had to Google the name of this sequel before I finally remembered its name.

You don’t want to know how many times I had to Google the name of this sequel before I finally remembered its name.

Now before you get too worried, I’m sure you have a lot of questions, which I’ll answer now:

Q: Oh dear god, are you two actually going to read the entire House of Night series?
A: Fuck no. There’s like forty billion books in this series.

Q: Forty billion?
A: Okay, it’s actually more like twelve. But seriously, there are twelve books in this series. Somehow the Casts stretched this thing into twelve feature-length novels. And that’s not counting the novellas and spin-offs and tie-in line of Happy Meal toys and whatever the fuck else.

[Ariel adds: If this blog goes on for another twelve years, then we’ll do all twelve books. Self-challenge accepted!]

Q: Why read the sequel if you’re not going to read the whole thing?
A: We were having entirely too much fun tearing apart the last one to just stop now. Perhaps you too experienced this “fun”. That’s good! We want that.

[Ariel adds: Also I have to say I don’t like just reading one book from a series and then moving on. If I like making fun of the characters then I want to see it through at least some if not all of the way, damn it. If this was like three or four books, I’d be all for the whole thing, but fucking TWELVE?!?!? Like I said above, only if we’ve got twelve more years of bloggin’. 

Q: So how many are you going to read?
A: No idea. We’ll stop when it gets boring, I guess. This could very well be the last one. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Q: Matthew, you’ve previously said that Zoey is your most hated main character out of every single book you’ve read for Bad Books, Good Times. That’s quite a claim.
A: It is, but I know deep in my heart that it is the truth.

[Ariel says: I wish there was a crossover where Zoey meets Cary from the Crossfire series and throws all of her insensitivity and horribleness his way because he is pretty fucking horrible too, and his bisexuality is already deeply rooted in stereotypes anyway. It’d be a perfect crossover match!] 

Q: Do you remember how bad Fifty Shades of Grey is?
A: Only every day of my life.

Chapter 1

So we begin a new book about vampyres! So it goes. But first, I want you to think very briefly about sequels. How do you begin a sequel? You don’t have to do worldbuilding in the same way you would for a brand new story, but rather return the reader to a world they’re already familiar with by reminding them about what drew them in in the first place. So what does that mean for House of Night?

Unnecessary explanations of apparent things!

she slid into the big boothlike bench […] in the dining hall (translation: high-class school cafeteria)

Main character Zoey and her friends judging the shit out of people for superficial reasons!

“New kid. Check it out. […] Clearly her fashion sense is better than Sarah’s […] Maybe she’ll be able to help Sarah out with her unfortunate ugly shoe propensity.”

Homophobia!

Damien sniffed, looking offended and superior and gayer than he usually looked (even though he is definitely gay).

It’s just like we never left. [Ariel says: WAIT. Damien is gay?] 

glee happy tears

Perhaps you also pieced together based on those last two quotes that perhaps we also – on fucking page two of this novel – have the return of Damien and his character “trait” of having a large vocabulary that the Casts constantly jizz themselves over?

“Propensity – an often intense natural preference.”

Good news! The Casts still own a dictionary! The sequel will not disappoint!

“Abysmal – absolutely horrible.”

You’re making my job way too easy, Casts.

Anyway, yes, Damien still only has two defining characteristics: 1) Damien is gay (don’t worry about forgetting, the Casts explicitly tell us Damien is gay every chapter or so), and 2) Damien has a large vocabulary. [Ariel says: It’s a sad day when the gay friend in the Disaster series is treated the least offensively. To the point where when Finch came up again last week in Beautiful Disaster no one seemed to remember he was the gay bff of America and Abby who was forgotten for half the book.] [Matthew adds: Honestly, I have no idea who Finch is.]

Weirdly enough, Damien hasn’t gotten the short end of the stick; that’s twice as many characteristics as most of the characters have. It’s notably worse for Shaunee and Erin, who only get one characteristic to share between them, which is… that they’re a lot alike? Dang, this is like that picture of the snake eating its own tail, huh? Shaunee and Erin, referred to throughout the novel as “the twins”, are twins even more insufferably in this novel, because now they finish each others’ sentences:

“Damien,” Shaunee said. “Again you are getting on my damn-”
“-last nerve with your unending vocab bullshit,” Erin finished for her.

Yes. Instead of fleshing out their characters more over time, the Casts have actually regressed them back into one-trick pony stock characters. [Ariel says: That was a really odd place to finish her sentence too. Also it reminds me of this joke that somehow has appeared of three of my favorite shows:

“Twin, once again we prove our twin-ness”

SHUT THE FUCK UP. WE GET IT. WE’RE NOT EVEN PAST THE 1% MARK ON MY KINDLE. CALM DOWN.

But what about our favorite, older-than-her-years, chosen one- wow, I couldn’t finish that sentence in good conscience and it’s taken from direct quotes from House of Night. What’s up with our Mary Sue suckfest, Zoey Redbird, since… uh… Hey, Betrayed! Can you summarize the entire first book for us in a single sentence like you don’t really give a shit about it?

“Z got that cool lacy spiral tattoo thing on her face and down along her shoulders when she saved her ex-boyfriend from some scary-assed vampyre ghosts,” Stevie Rae said cheerily.

Wait, they were vampyre ghosts? Not just ghosts, like you (barely) told us in the last book when they showed up without any context in the second-last chapter? Well, thanks for telling me. (Also “Stevie Rae said cheerily” is probably worth mentioning because lol whatever floats your boat, Stevie Rae.) 

Zoey sits through an awkward introduction with the new kid who’s heard stories about how great Zoey is (haven’t we all, new kid). Damien offers us a helpful reminder that Zoey is the new leader of the Dark Daughters and the only fledgling – or vampyre – in history with an affinity for all five elements, in case you somehow read the first book and the one thing you don’t remember is that Zoey is super super special.

Also, time for Zoey’s catchphrase!

“Students and professors, please make your way to the reception hall. It is now time for this month’s parent visits.”
Well, hell.

Get ready to read “Well, hell” a lot during this book. Or just “hell”, because the Casts have come up with the laziest catch phrase in the history of time.

It's like that episode of How I Met Your Mother where Barney's fake son tries to make "Tyler no likey" his catchphrase and Barney keeps telling him no, except it's me, telling a book no, on the New York subway.

It’s like that episode of How I Met Your Mother where Barney’s fake son tries to make “Tyler no likey” his catchphrase and Barney keeps telling him no, except it’s me, telling a book no, on the New York subway.

As for the actual parent visitation part of the chapter, it’s actually not terrible? Don’t get me wrong, it’s hilarious how closely House of Night is trying to follow the structures of other successful fantasy YA series before it. I could definitely see the Casts being like “Well, in the second Harry Potter novel, they open up the world beyond just where the kids go to school, but through the small, transitory step of introducing their parents to introduce the larger issues in the world they exist in,” because today the “rip off Harry Potter, Twilight, or Mean Girls” wheel landed on Harry Potter.

Most of the scene is fluff I don’t give two shits about, but the real reason why we’re here is for the verbal smackdown between Neferet (high priestess of the House of Night and vampyre extraordinaire) and Zoey’s stepdad (ultra strict Jesus freak extraordinaire) aka John Heffer, because subtlety is not the Casts’ strong point. Truth be told, it’s not a bad scene. [Ariel says: I’d just like to point out that it’s weird he even showed up here, but okay.] 

John interrupted in his usual I’m-so-superior voice.

…okay, the Casts’ writing isn’t doing it any favors, but it’s a pretty okay scene aside from, you know, the writing!

“For the love of God what have you done to that Mark?” Mom said […]
“She saved the life of a young man and tapped into a Goddess-given affinity for the elements. In return Nyx has touched her with several unusual Marks for a fledgling,” Neferet said […] “Zoey’s quick thinking and bravery made sure no one got hurt, and at the same time she connected with a special affinity she has been given to draw energy from the five elements.” Neferet’s smile was proud and I felt a wash of happiness at her approval. “The tattooing is simply an outward sign of the favor she’s found with the Goddess.”
“What you’re saying is blasphemy.” John spoke in a tight, strained voice that managed to sound condescending and angry at the same time. “You are putting her immortal soul in danger.” [Ariel says: If John had more carefully chosen his words and instead said something like, “What you’re saying is really fucking annoying and clearly bullshit as Zoey is the worst. You’re not putting her in enough danger.” I would be inclined to agree with him.] 

…okay, in the world of House of Night, there’s apparently vampyres and ghosts and shit running around everywhere and they’re fairly well established in society and history, so this… doesn’t make sense? Like, it’s right there. You’re talking to a vampyre. Like, okay let’s break down religious intolerance and suspension of disbelief, I guess. I got nothing better to do.

  • God-fearing religious zealots not believing in homosexuality? Sure. Technically an abstract thing based in how a person thinks and feels, so someone who doesn’t think and feel that way could not “believe” in it because they don’t see it as valid. Does not break my suspension of disbelief, because one could merely “not understand” this and be intolerant about it if that’s how they dickishly so choose to roll.
  • God-fearing religious zealots not believing in vampyres? No. They’re physically all over the place in this book. Totally breaks my suspension of disbelief, because you can’t “not understand” something that’s physically evidenced right in front of you.
  • God-fearing religious zealots not believing in evolution? No. Evolution is physically evidenced by things from fossil records to why you need a new flu shot every year. Totally breaks my suspension of disbelief, because you can’t “not understand” something that’s physically evidenced right in front of you. *Reads note from editor.* What do you mean there are people who don’t… are you fucking kidding me?

So the religious conservatives seem a little too inexplicably oblivious to support any real social commentary, but it’s a pretty okay scene aside from, you know, suspension of disbelief!

Neferet turned her moss-colored eyes on him. She didn’t look angry. Actually, she looked amused. […] “Then let us come to an understanding quickly, Mr. Heffer. I would not think of coming into your home, or into your church, and belittling your beliefs, though I disagree profoundly with them.” […]
John’s eyes had become mean little slits and I could see his jaw clenching and unclenching.
“Your way of life is sinful and wrong,” he said fiercely.”Thus says a man who admits to worshiping a God who vilifies pleasure, relegates women to roles that are little more than servants and broodmares, though they are the backbone of your church, and seeks to control his worshippers through guilt and fear. […] Have a care for how you judge others; perhaps you should look to cleaning your own house, first.”

Yeah! ’cause messy houses are… can be judged… and God? God is… a house? Okay, there’s a clumsy mixed metaphor, but it’s a pretty okay scene aside from- fuck it, what was I going to say?

IT'S HERE SOMEWHERE WHERE IS IT

IT’S HERE SOMEWHERE WHERE IS IT

Okay, seriously, though. I do want to point out that there is a huge difference between irritating characters who induce feelings of hatred and “bad” characters. As insufferable as John Heffer’s character is, he does work as a character who is supposed to drive us up the wall with his blind intolerance (compare with Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, whose prejudice is absolutely infuriating, yet is arguably the series’ best villain). However, his character is “bad” because he’s pretty heavy-handed and his simplistic character carries no subtlety and thus no real weight (contrast with Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, who is a character we’re supposed to hate, but has enough detail and layers to really grind your gears even when she’s not even there doing anything). That is a fair criticism to make about this book being “bad”. But there simply being a frustrating character included in the book doesn’t make it “good” or “bad”.

Although the perplexing oversimplification of such characters is “bad”.

“Zoey, I can’t believe what you’ve gotten yourself into now.” [My mom] shook her head and, as usual, followed John’s lead and left the room.

Hahahaha pfffft okay, I will believe that there are vampyre schools and a spirit world that ghosts can sometimes escape from and even that fucking Shakespeare and Kenny Chesney are vampyres in this world if I have to, but I absolutely cannot buy into a mother-daughter relationship this awful and this one-dimensional. Awful parent-child relationships? Totally. That happens all the time and I actually initially liked how this book didn’t pull any punches there. One-dimensional parent-child relationships? Zoey’s mom and step-dad hate Zoey more than Ariel and I do, and it’s our job to hate her.

Neferet closes the chapter by giving Zoey a pep talk after her awful visit her her parents and a lesson about forgiveness. It goes poorly.

“Did you ever forgive your father?” I asked tentatively. […]
“No. No I didn’t ever forgive him, but when I think of him now it is as I’m remembering someone else’s life. The things he did to me he did to a human child, not a High Priestess and vampyre. And to a High Priestess and vampyre he, like most humans, is completely inconsequential.”

Ah, cool, cool. I see we’re subtly laying the not-at-all-half-assed groundwork for that totally unpredictable Neferet-is-actually-evil plot twist that’s gonna be totally surprising.

God, I hope Neferet turns evil before we give up on these books, though. At the normal speed the Casts progress the plot, that could be like seven books from now.

God, I hope Neferet turns evil before we give up on these books, though. At the normal speed the Casts progress the plot, that could be like seven books from now.

[Ariel says: At least she has room to be a slightly more interesting, layered villain than Aphrodite is supposed to be or even Zoey’s parents. I don’t get the feeling she’s faking any of her kindness to Zoey or anything like that. So that could maybe be one thing this book doesn’t fuck up completely?]

And that’s the first chapter of Betrayed. The next post will definitely be shorter, since, as you may have noticed while reading this post, there is still nothing happening in this story. [Ariel says: Except we found out that Damien was gay.] [Matthew adds: WAIT. DAMIEN IS GAY?]

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