Chapter 20! A full third of the way through this crap! Oh the small joys to take… Having said that if anyone has any suggestions for non-romance bad books I’m open to changing things up to help make these recaps a little more tolerable.
As always this chapter starts off less than 5 seconds after the last chapter ended. Wanderer cries and Jeb lets her for a while. He waits till she’s done and then invites her to come out and stretch.
Ironically, considering my week of maddening silence, I wasn’t in the mood for company. But his offer wasn’t one I could refuse. Before I could think about it, my hands were pulling me through the exit.
You know, I never got the sensation she was ever in the mood for Jeb’s company. I know how it feels to be upset and want everyone to just fuck off and leave you alone, but really, did anyone ever get the feeling that she actually wanted Jeb around, ever? I might find this more revealing of her mental state and more emotionally impactful if she didn’t act like she hated the person she was saying she didn’t want around. And just for reference, she doesn’t get any more pleasant to him later in this chapter despite everything he’s about to do for her.
How long had it been since I’d seen Jamie? And how was he now? My already sore heart gave a painful little lurch.
There is one paragraph between this one and the last one I quoted. She doesn’t want to see Jeb, but she sure as hell wants to see Jamie. Meyer couldn’t even keep her consistent for two paragraphs.
“It’s going to be okay, you know.” He grinned a wide, face-stretching grin. “That stuff I said to Jared… Well, I won’t say I lied, exactly, because it’s all true if you look at it from a certain angle, but from another angle, it wasn’t so much the truth as it was what he needed to hear.”
I just stared; I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying.
“Anyway, Jared needs a break from this. Not from you, kid,” he added quickly, “but from the situation. He’ll gain some perspective while he’s away.”
Jeb is a kind, thoughtful man, and Wanderer is an idiot. That’s the only purpose for me pointing out this particular selection. I just want to make sure you keep this in mind for everything she says about him further into the chapter. And I just like pointing out that she’s dumb as a post. I miss Kathy.
I wondered how he seemed to know exactly which words and phrases would cut at me. And, more than that, why should Jeb care if his words hurt me, or even if my back was aching and throbbing? His kindness toward me was frightening in its own way because it was incomprehensible. At least Jared’s actions made sense. Kyle’s and Ian’s murder attempts, the doctor’s cheerful eagerness to hurt me–these behaviors also were logical. Not kindness. What did Jeb want from me?
The relevance of that last selection is obvious immediately, as it’s directly followed by this one. Where Wanderer, dumb as she is, continues to be confused by Jeb’s behaviour towards her. He has been nothing but nice to her. He has explained to her that he does not view her as a prisoner, but a guest. He has even explained why. He specifically said that any parasite hosts that come in are subject to the will of their next of kin. Jared opted to not kill her, and it was implied at the end of the last chapter plus the first trip to the bathroom that the only reason she was where she was was for her own safety not as a prison cell. Jared never specified that she was a prisoner, he was keeping her safe from those who would kill her. He was just also wrestling with his own justifiable, yet still admittedly childishly displayed, anger and frustration.
Jeb is treating her as a guest because that’s what he told her, and everyone else, that she was right from the start. He’s not acting odd or unpredictably. He’s not acting suspiciously. I could accept this distrust at first, but my god. They’ve had multiple interactions up to this point and he has gone out of his way to help her, to protect her, to be friendly to her, and to anticipate her needs. There comes a point where justifiable confusion and distrust turns into just being a paranoid bitch and Wanderer passed that point around the time Jeb took her to the bathroom multiple chapters ago.
Since that came up, I’ll point out that in the first twelve chapters of this book, Melanie was captured, healed, infested. Wanderer became a teacher, saw a therapist, reported the existence of uninfected humans, and went off to kill her host. Melanie and Wanderer bonded (sort of, the book says they did anyway, doesn’t actually show us the bonding but that’s irrelevant to this discussion…) and decided to make the life threatening decision to meander into the desert to follow vague directions to a place that might not even exist. They then walked through the desert for days with limited supplies and nearly died. And I thought all of that seemed slow paced and dreadfully dull/repetitive.
The last eight chapters have taken place over a week with Wanderer stuffed in a hole.
Anyway, Jeb implies that he’s going to get Wanderer a proper room with a proper bed. Wanderer continues to be confused. She says she basically keeps waiting for him to go ‘lol j/k’ and shove her back into the hole. I want her to stop hating on Jeb but it really is never going to happen.
As if anticipating her confusion (she is pretty predictable at this point so not a surprise) Jeb states that she won’t have to go back into the hole so not to worry. I kind of thought that was covered by ‘we’ll get you a bed’ and ‘that hole is normally used for storage and when Jared comes back with the supplies we’ll need it again’, but I’m not as dumb as Wanderer so I just don’t need it spelled out for me like she does. I swear to god this book is written so people with the IQ of small children can follow it without feeling even the least bit challenged to actually think.
This is the main difference between showing and telling. This book tells you everything it wants you to know, not allowing you to make your own conclusions at all. It doesn’t allow you to actually think about anything because everything is spelled out for you, and put in such simple terms that it’s impossible to misunderstand what the author wants you to take from a scene. But that doesn’t get you to think at all. It’s the book equivalent of reality television, which is the television equivalent of junk food.
She cries again when it finally sinks in that he’s not joking and Jeb gets uncomfortable, but tries to comfort her as best he can. After she stops, he says that they’ve just got to stick to the hallway till they’re sure that Jared is gone, but after that they’ll have some fun. Wanderer is horrified, saying his idea of fun is a Mexican standoff. For one moment she allowed herself to weep at the idea that he was being nice to her, and then immediately assumes he’s going to hurt her again. I would say I couldn’t possibly hate Wanderer more than I do, but I thought that earlier in the book already and she proved me wrong then. I won’t taunt the universe again.
Jeb sees that she’s being judgmental again but just laughs it off telling her not to worry. He offers her up the mat that Jared’s been using as a bed this past week and tells her she might as well get some more comfortable rest while they wait. Despite her previous reaction, she gets teary eyed yet again at his kindness, because you are supposed to see her as grateful and pleasant despite her being judgmental and speciest…specist…bigoted against humans in general. I don’t think it counts as gratefulness if you do nothing but assume the worst about someone’s kind gestures.
When I woke up, I knew that I’d been solidly asleep for a long time–a longer stretch than I’d slept since coming here. No pains, no frightening interruptions. I would have felt pretty good, except that waking on the pillow reminded me that Jared was gone. It still smelled like him. And in a good way, not the way I smelled.
Uhh… He hasn’t had a shower in a week. He’s been fighting, and stressed, and it’s supposedly warm and muggy in that cave… I don’t think Jared would smell particularly pleasant after a week. I don’t know anyone that smells good after a week without a shower or deodorant. I don’t see how it would smell like him ‘in a good way’. Does Jared not sweat?
I remembered my dream only vaguely, but I knew it had featured Jared, as was usual when I was able to sleep deeply enough to dream.
You know you don’t actually dream when you’re asleep deeply right? You dream when you’re in that fuzzy grey area between consciousness and deep sleep. That’s why are capable of remembering your dreams at all, because your conscious brain isn’t entirely shut down at the point in the sleep cycle it’s occurring during. In fact after a week of barely any proper sleep at all she probably would have barely dreamed at all when she was finally in a position to sleep as restfully as she could on a mattress. She would probably pass quickly into the deepest sleep without any dream at all until she was near waking a few hours later. But that’s just a nit-pick.
Jeb says Jared is gone, and that he’s going to take her on a tour. She starts wondering why he thinks she needs to know her way around since she’s not going to last long. But, I really don’t get why they think she’s not going to last long to be completely honest. The people did vote for her death, but the main guy they sent to kill her is away, and Ian doesn’t seem intent to try again. The doctor certainly didn’t seem like the type to just attack, and the masses didn’t swarm her to kill her when Jeb took her to the bathroom, so what reason does she have to believe that her life is threatened now? Honestly?
Meyers has done a terrible job at establishing a threatening atmosphere. Kyle is the only one that seemed likely to take her out and he’s gone with Jared. Ian was certainly cruel to her, but he’s been established now as feeling guilt and regret for that action. Brandt (was that even his name? He left so little of an impression that I’m genuinely not sure and I really don’t care to check) has had no lines and the only thing he did in the one scene he was in was hold Jared’s arm and he sucked at even that much. The random unnamed background characters didn’t so much as form a lynch mob, they sent assassins, so clearly they’re cowards who are incapable of getting blood directly on their hands. And Jeb, Jamie and Doc have been nothing but nice to her.
Jeb starts basically talking to himself wondering which part of the cave he should show her first. She continues to not say a word. Which honestly I find quite rude and disrespectful. I know she’s scared but she’s been there for a week and I think I’ve done enough to establish Jeb’s harmless intentions, so her continued fear of him and unwillingness to talk just makes her seem rude and I don’t like it. I have a thing about rudeness. Nothing irks me faster than people not even being willing to show the smallest modicum of respect. It’s such small gestures, but that’s really the point! You can’t even do that much?! In this case it’s even giving a one or two word response to acknowledge him when he knows full well she can talk! She spoke to Jamie at length. She had a reason to not talk to Jared, he didn’t want her to. This is just her being distrustful and self centered.
Got off track…
Jeb kept right on chatting at me, either missing or ignoring my terror.
Or maybe I didn’t. See? He’s being nice to her, treating her like a human being, which I will remind you she actually isn’t so it makes sense not to do so, and showing her the most kindness he can and she’s just thinking about how he’s treating her badly. He’s not ignoring her terror, he knows he can’t alleviate it so he’s attempting to at least mitigate it by acting normal. If you coddle a pet or a child and assure them that everything is fine and comfort them, you’re actually reinforcing in their minds that there is something worth worrying about. It’s a safe assumption that the same goes for adults. If he took the time to comfort her more than he already has (I will remind you that he has actually assured her everything would be fine multiple times, just not at length) then it would just make her feel like he believed they were taking a risk and he was just trying to make her feel better. By just taking her along as if nothing was wrong, he’s essentially telling her subconscious that nothing is wrong.
Jeb talks about how the carrots should be sprouting today as they come to an open area. He says how beautiful it is to see the ‘spring green’ which it probably very much is in a cave in the desert for more reasons than aesthetics. He invites Wanderer to take a look and as she looks she makes sure to remind you how all 15 people working the carrot fields are looking at her with hostility before she notices the sprouts. Because we have to genuinely worry about her, except I don’t. At all. Like I said earlier, if these people had any intention to actually hurt Wanderer themselves they’d have fucking done it already. But she does actually say something here! She says ‘Carrots?’ Hey, it resembles progress…
As I predicted, the people in the fields basically just ignore her after the initial shock wears off. Wanderer says they glance at her occasionally but they just go back to work. Yup, these people are definitely going to all come in the night like cowardly ninja’s and slit her throat. Because every human is totally a brutal, merciless killer.
Jeb explains that the light they get down here is a bunch of mirrors drilled into the side of the walls that line the holes going up to the surface, redirecting light into the cave. I thought this was already established when she said that when she looked at the light source at night she saw a bunch of mini moons. Did anyone not figure out that they were mirrors from that? How did she not figure that out? Though I will point out that that would never work in an actual desert unless all the holes into the cave somehow were sand free since the blowing sand from the desert above wouldn’t just make the mirrors dirty, it would buffer and erode the surface. The mirrors would have to be replaced pretty much constantly. But that’s the least of this books inaccuracies so I’ll move on.
They enter an area Wanderer hasn’t been yet and she freezes up. Jeb assures her there’s nothing to fear once again and tells her that she’s ‘third to the left’ so to not get lost. She gets confused, he explains that he means her room is third to the left. He’s giving her a room. A room with a real bed.
“That’s right. Don’t forget. It’s easy to get lost around here, and that wouldn’t be safe for you. Folks’d just as soon stab you as send you in the right direction.”
I shuddered. “Thanks,” I muttered with quiet sarcasm.
He laughed as if my answer had delighted him. “No point in ignoring the truth. Doesn’t make it worse to have it said out loud.”
It didn’t make it better, either, but I didn’t say that.
You didn’t have to say it Wanderer. It’s so well established that you’re a bitch I’m pretty sure everyone already guessed that’s how you felt anyway. Could he have put that better? Yeah, probably. But why? She already knows the truth. He’s trying to make her feel at home, but there are legitimate dangers for her here and while he wants her to be comfortable, she also has to be mindful of reality. Also, Wanderer being sarcastic is consistent with the character we’ve been shown so far but it sure as fuck isn’t consistent with who they keep saying she is. That’s really aggravating.
He takes her to her room which is apparently quite nice for what it is, and he tells her that it’s available for a few weeks so he’ll put her up in there and figure out an alternative when the time comes.
The room he revealed gave me a strange feeling of vertigo–probably because it was so much taller than it was wide. Standing inside it was like standing in a tower or a silo, not that I had ever been in such places, but those were the comparisons Melanie made.
This is something I’m noticing more and more frequently. Melanie’s thoughts are no longer getting a voice. Wanderer is just stating them in this manner seen above. Melanie is so unimportant now that Wanderer just takes center stage 100% of the time, with just enough mention of Melanie’s existence to remind you that she is, in fact, still there. I’m not terribly fond of Melanie, but I like her a lot better than Wanderer, so I find this frustrating as well.
It also makes me wonder what the fuck is the focus of this goddamn story? It’s hardly a romance novel at this point. It looked like it might be about their struggle for dominance and who would end up winning, but things like this make it pretty damn clear that Wanderer will never be in danger of being taken over. Jamie has only been in one chapter so far, so it’s not a mother-son/brother story. Even if he was in it more, since Melanie is being back burnered if they tried to make it one between Wanderer and Jamie I would have to set someone on fire
(I already know I shall eat those words soon enough. You have been warned. Not this chapter though thankfully.) Is it about Wanderer’s struggle to be accepted? I sure as fuck hope not, there’s still forty more chapters of this crap.
So, twenty chapters in, there is no central plot focus. There is no driving force to keep you invested outside the draw you’re supposed to feel for the main character. The main character I have called a bitch four times already in this review alone. Lovely.
Anyway, Wanderer gets uncomfortable at being set up in the room of someone who probably hates her. Jeb tells her to stop being so scared and uncomfortable, that this is his house and if the other guests don’t like it that’s their problem because he will decide who stays where in his home. And good for him. She’s proven to him she’s not a threat. The general populace knows the seekers have stopped looking for her, and while they certainly are free not to like her or want her around, they have no justification for violence or fear, and even if they felt they did have justification for it, Jeb allows them to stay there. He can allow them to leave if they no longer feel secure.
Anyway, they make their way to the kitchen and Wanderer describes stuff some more, and is terrified of nothing some more, and describes stuff some more. Then she describes the people she’s terrified of. Ian is there. Remember how I was horrified that he might be a secondary love interest? Now he’s going to be alone with her for a couple of weeks. I’m so shocked that something in this book was so predictable.
Jeb acts passive aggressively at everyone’s reaction to Wanderer, calling them ‘easily distracted’. He’s attempting to make them feel silly for thinking she’s a threat, and it seems to work as most of the people in the cafeteria return to ignoring their presence. But then they see Jamie.
Oh, Jamie, Melanie thought. She hated the sad, adult expression on his face, and I probably hated it even more. She didn’t feel as guilty as I did for putting it there.
If only we could take it away. She sighed.
It’s too late. What could we do to make it better now?
Establish trust and then reveal that Melanie isn’t dead? Just a thought. And a prediction as to what’s going to happen as well, because of course it will. Jeb will realize it first because he already seems to suspect there’s something off there, but then Jamie won’t be far behind because his only scene before this was establishing a bond between him and Wanderer.
Jamie asks Jeb if he can tag along on their tour. Sharon and Maggie are in the cafeteria as well, and Sharon shakes her head no at Jeb, but he ignores her entirely and says sure. Have I mentioned that I like Jeb yet? Because I really do. Please don’t let that change…
As they walk away, Ian and Doc race to catch up and after Wandanie tries to protect Jamie and Jeb takes out his gun, they ask if they can join the tour too. I actually find this surprisingly reasonable. She is a fucking alien goddammit. I know they’re a hostile species that took over the world, but come ON! She’s an ALIEN! And they have a chance to learn more about her in a safe, non-threatening way! Would you pass up that opportunity?! If I had no emotional connection to the host body I certainly would want to ask a few million questions!
The chapter ends with Jeb making a joke about missing killing people so for them to not try anything. Wanderer takes him seriously of course because she still thinks he’s the worst human being on the planet, just waiting for the opportunity to strap her to a torture device. The next chapter starts off with them continuing the tour, because we all already knew that.
There is so much nothing happening in this book. There is so much happening in this universe, but this book is just page after page of nothing. But we’re a third of the way done and dammit I will finish this garbage!
Till next time, check out The Llama’s review of this chapter as well!