Tuesday, March 19, 2013

You Know What You Have To Do (review)

1/5 stars

Sometimes books actually make me angry.  They can be so frustrating, annoying and insipid that I find myself wanting to smack something. Unfortunately, after a decent start, You Know What You Have To Do (Goodreads | Amazon) completely fell apart.

I actually like the idea of a book written from inside the head of a villain.  A mild-mannered teenage nobody who's secretly killing people? Odds are I'm going to be curious about that book every time. However this book had piss-poor character building and I hated how it dealt with women's issues.

Mary Magdalene (Maggie for short) is one of the unpopular kids, sitting at the loser table with only two friends, the loyal Abigail and the annoying Lester.  What nobody knows is that Maggie hears voices in her head telling her to kill people.  But that probably just runs in the family since her father's a convicted murderer.

One of the biggest problems with this book is that Maggie is just not fleshed out.  She's a caricature of a high school girl, never really developed enough to have her own personality.  For this concept to work the main character needs to be complex and interesting, someone who feels (either good or bad) about what they're doing.  We don't have to like her but we do have to believe her and be interested in understanding her.  Maggie's not interesting.  Yes she kills people -- but she neither struggles nor relishes in it.  I want to see that internal debate and some strength of character. Instead the voice says "Hey kill that dude he's bad" and off Maggie goes.  Yes technically she resists once but that scene felt tacked on to say "Look Maggie's not completely a monster."

The way it dealt with female issues is where the book really went to hell for me.  There's girl-on-girl hate and that's expected, considered the norm in this book.  As soon as loyal BFF Abigail loses the braces she joins the popular crowd and abandons Maggie.  Having such distinct cliques is a shortcut to actually developing the characters and a believable high school setting.  Instead we're handed these cartoon versions of popular girls, losers and nerds.  There's nothing to make anyone interesting.

If girl-on-girl hate and friendship abandonment isn't enough, there was also a rape in this book that was never really addressed.  It just kinda happens.
"Did you know he used to be a wrestler in his old school?" ... "He was on the varsity team in his freshman year." ... "He's so strong. I couldn't get him off," she says.  ... "When he really got into it, I liked it. It felt good. I didn't want him to stop."  (Note: Only showing Abigail's side of conversation for brevity)
WHAT? SAY HUH? Note that Abigail kept dating him and nobody really says or does anything about the fact he raped her. Nobody. I can't cope with books that don't recognize rape as rape.  I just did a search of my ebook and the word rape, rapist or raping is never used in this book. When they eventually break up she notes that him and his tendencies are another girl's problem now and calls her a whore.

There's more I could say about what made this book bad.  The mundane teenageness of love-triangles, the slut-shaming, the fact that a guy flirts with Maggie by saying she looks like the girl off of the "J Crew commercial", the fact that at least 3 people know that Maggie has killed somebody, lack of character progression, etc.  But do I really need to beat this dead horse?  This book was a waste of my time.

No comments: