Ever get too caught up in a book character’s drama? I do. No apologies for that. Some stories hit a little close to home.
I just finished reading one such story. I’m not divulging the book’s title because then I’d have to say this post contains spoiler alerts. Which means you mightn’t want to read the rest of the post. And what would be the point of that?
I’d been totally absorbed in the book. Uplifted and inspired, I thought, ‘Five stars, for sure.’ Until I neared the end where the author gives short shrift to what I consider to be a really, really important aspect of the story.
You see, two-thirds of the way into the novel, something awful happens to one of the protagonists. A nerdy seventeen-year-old girl, she crushes hard on a boy outside her orbit: He’s popular, good-looking, athletic, a member of a band. Both she and he take part in a community program, chat every week, and develop an easy rapport.
One night they meet up outside of the program and—be still her heart—he kisses her. In her mind, he’s a total god because he wants her. Friendless, dorky, homely her. Even so, she redlights his attempts to go further. He then plies her with alcohol. When she keeps curving him (which apparently means to reject with a smile), he gets a bit rough. Yet she romanticises the situation.
And as this typical narrative unfolds, he loses interest; she works harder to win him over. Even goes so far as to buy him a ridiculously expensive present that she gets engraved. And then she tells him how she feels … whoa!
Course, he distances himself. And down the rabbit hole she falls.
Desperate and in damage control mode, she reasons that maybe making light of the situation via a PM on Facebook could be just the ticket. You know, tell him the gift (which, incidentally, he gave back to her without unwrapping) was a joke. But then she stumbles on his most recent post—a mean-girl-bitchy-level comment about her, saying she’d hit on him. Just because he’d been nice to her.
And the bastard’s sycophantic FB friends chip in with their troll-like comments. They say she’s a ‘skank’, a ‘psycho’, ‘gross’, ‘delusional’, and that her ‘butt’s too big’.
Just. Because. She’d. Confessed. Her. Feelings!
Anyway, adolescence + public humiliation on a social network lead to utter despair. So, on New Year’s Eve, with her self-esteem in flames, and drowning in unrequited love and vodka, she decides to take her own life.
But she has … let’s call it a sort of out of body experience, and at the eleventh hour, she decides not to take her own life. Still, she’s admitted to hospital emergency with carbon monoxide poisoning at the very moment the masses are ringing in the new year. And that’s how the epilogue starts.
Vengeance is Not Mine
‘New Year’s a good bit of symbolism for a rebirth,’ I say to no one. All the same, it rekindles my revenge-fantasy ashes.
I look off into the distance, pretend I’m her, and let these fantasies play out in my head. I’ve done a lot of work on myself, so, most imaginings involve a dignified response. Until I continue reading.
Now, I’m not big on the fairy-tailish HEA (happily ever after). Too unrealistic. HFN is fine. That she survives hardly verges on a happy for now, though. She doesn’t avenge the harm done by Mr Fancy-pants.
Dignified has gone out the window, the ashes have turned into an inferno, and I’m having ugly thoughts about the not-so golden boy character.
It’s at this point I decide the book’s not five-star worthy.
I check out the reviews* on Goodreads and note a 3.87 star average. I also note that many of the low-rating reviews are not constructive. And what … they’re personal? The author himself has become the scapegoat in these readers’ revenge fantasies because he hasn’t given them what they want.
Success Depends on Your Backbone, Not Your Wishbone
The story hasn’t given me what I want, and yes, I’m pissed off. But he’s a great writer and I realise his words have given me what I need. A conduit into my own wound, where it’s time to reflect; time to feel.
And under the vengeance, under the anger, under the pain, I uncover the memory of something I once read: The best revenge is making your own life work. You might’ve also read this. But …
Did you also read the fine print, the kind that sits between the lines?
The underplayed ‘let it go and move on’ jingle is overplayed here, there, and everywhere. Yet there’s a lot more involved in making your own life work. It starts with healing your hurts. And that’s an ongoing, cyclical undertaking.
Through and within those cycles, you can discover your purpose and start to live your best life.
The good news for the once hapless protagonist: She goes on to live her best life. Years later, she achieves unprecedented success in her field, which has the potential to save millions of lives.
But what of the covert bully-boy?
I wonder about this type of person who subtly manipulates others to do his/her dirty work. And what about those ‘others’, like the mean-spirited reviewers who habitually stand on the densely populated sidelines of life and engage in the widespread sport of mud-slinging? When this lot arrive at the Pearly Gates and are asked, ‘Did you work at being the best you, and what difference did you make?’, what will they have to say for themselves? Sadly, not much, I expect.
*See earlier blog post on negative reviews: https://paulahouseman.com/super-shitty-reviews/