This is yet another book I’m reading for my Mystery Grab Bag Ace Fiction Month.
What is this novel about?
It’s set at a high school in a fictional town in Kansas. It is about seven teenagers, each of whom represent one of the seven deadly sins of Christianity (Lust, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, and Pride). As one would expect from teenagers who are metaphors for deadly sins, they each have some kind of serious problem – for example, the one who represents ‘lust’ keeps on hooking up with guys to fill the emptiness in her life left by the mother who abandoned her, and one who represents ‘sloth’ uses marijuana all the time and never does his homework, and the one who represents greed is the high school’s marijuana/beer-for-the-underaged dealer.
Anyway, the school administration gets an anonymous tip that one of the teachers is in a romantic relationship with a student, but they do not know who the teacher or the student is. That is the spark which sets this high school drama on fire.
What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?
The teacher and the student in a romantic relationship do NOT have sex, but they do touch each other a lot, lie down together in bed, etc. – and obviously, it is a student/teacher romance. There is quite a bit of discussion of the characters sexual activities and sexual feelings, and there is on-page sexual kissing, on-page detailed making-out, and a dick pic, but no on-page sex.
As far as violence … one of the kisses in non-consensual. A student is involuntarily outed as being non-heterosexual, and there is some physical violence associated with that (as well as a ton of drama). A student drinks so much alcohol that she has to go to the hospital.
Tell me more about this novel.
There are seven point-of-view (POV) characters.
You serious? SEVEN POV CHARACTERS? And this is a standalone novel, not part of a series, so you’ve never met any of these characters before, right? How did you keep track of all of them?
Well, it did take me about a hundred pages for me to get a good handle on who all of them were. I felt like I ought to have figured out sooner that Olivia Scott and Kat Scott were twin sisters, even though the fact that they have the same last name ought to have been a big hint.
So, which of them was the ace character?
Err, can’t you want until we get to the ‘Asexuality’ section?
I MUST KNOW NOW WHICH DEADLY SIN THE ACE CHARACTER REPRESENTS!
The character who represents the deadly sin of ‘Pride’ is ace.
Now that’s just typical – of course they present the ace character as acting holier-than-thou towards all of the non-asexual characters…
Ummm, this novel is not like that.
… and I bet the ‘Lust’ character is the other non-heterosexual character…
Err, no. The pansexual character does not represent ‘Lust’, he’s the marijuana/beer dealer who represents ‘Greed’.
How about you let me get on with the review?
Fine, get on with it.
I thought this was a pretty good high school drama. It does not really feel like my experience in high school (unlike This Song Is (Not) For You), but it also did not feel as fake as a lot of the high school fiction I’ve encountered.
While Olivia Scott was not the character I liked the most, she certainly had the most colorful voice. Here are some examples:
It’d be less awkward than letting this silence stretch on longer, that’s for sure. But my voice is on lockdown, which is bizarre, given that locking down my voice is usually about as doable as locking down a rampaging rhinoceros.
I don’t want to say anything that might make him go.
Why am I invested? This is a horrible idea. Whoever invented emotions is hopefully frozen in the ninth circle of hell. They deserve it.
I think the POV I liked the most was Kat Scott. The only thing she gives a shit about is theatre – specifically, performing in an intense Russian drama in which nobody is happy. She doesn’t care about her classes, and she doesn’t want to spend time with her family, so she fills her time when she’s not occupied with theatre with playing first-person shooter electronic games in which she blasts away zombies. (If you’re wondering, her deadly sin is ‘Wrath’).
Anyone who has had any contact with the high school fiction genre knows that there is a tendency to pair off characters romantically/sexually for a happy ending. Does this happen here? Yes – there is one pair who gets the sex-and-romance Happy Ending Special (except it’s too clichéd to be special). However, the other five POV characters get more interesting endings, so huzzah for that.
Is the pansexual character one of the ones who gets the Happy Ending Special?
No. And by the way, that character has a name: Lucas McCallum. You don’t have to call him “the pansexual character”.
That’s just typical.
It IS typical. But his ending isn’t tragic either. While I recognize the pattern of heterosexual characters getting the Sex-and-Romance-Happy-Ending-Special while the queer character does not, I actually prefer this to and ending in which *all the characters* get shoved into a Sex-and-Romance-Happy-Ending-Special.
On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I rate this as a 2.
The ace character is Valentine Simmons. A review I read while I was deciding whether or not to read this claimed that Valentine is autistic. This is never explicitly stated in the novel, but Valentine’s character does seem autistic.
The word ‘asexual’ is never used. Instead, we get descriptions like this:
Part of me wonders what it would feel like, a kiss. I’ve never felt compelled to try putting my mouth on somebody else’s mouth. I refuse to believe it feels like a symphony of violins, or a ferociously panning camera, or an eruption of emotion in the center of my chest, or anything else it’s supposed to be.
Then, in a later scene, there is this:
“Right. You’re not into guys,” he says, disappointment settling onto his face.
Frustration mounts in my chest. He’s attractive; that’s obvious. I’ve never connected with a human being the way I have with him. And still – still … “I’m not into anyone,” I say desperately. “I don’t know if it’s because I’ve hardly had a friend, or what, but conceptualizing crushes has always been a problem, and I just – I don’t.” The words stick in my throat. I say them again, a broken record spitting broken words: “I don’t.”
There are other instances in the novel when it’s stated, in one way or another, that Valentine is not sexually/romantically interested in people. Fortunately, it’s not a source of angst or unhappiness for Valentine (with the exception of the above scene where Valentine disappoints a friend). Valentine just finds it baffling that other people make such a fuss about sex/romance.
Was this written by an asexual?
I don’t know.
Hey Sara, do you like this novel?
I do. It’s not a literary masterpiece, and some parts of the novel do not entirely cohere together, but I found it an enjoyable distraction.
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By the way I did start reading this book too a long while ago but didn’t get very far. Not because of the book, but because I don’t get very far in most books I start and it’s hard for me to stick with things without a deadline like a book club discussion. This one actually has an audiobook and i think I was gifted this book by a friend who wanted to get me an ace fiction audiobook. She hadn’t read the book but I knew I was interested in reading it. I saw you mentioned in another blog post this book doing ok with 7 main characters despite being only 300 pages long and then clicked back in to re-read the review. I enjoyed your review and am considering, when I’m in the right mood, actually reading this book in full. 🙂