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text 2016-08-23 18:30
Running from Romeo by Diane Mannino
Running from Romeo - Diane Mannino

Tropes: 19

Welcome to the newest episode of The Next Been Done Before! Today's episode contains a heroine so beautiful that she can't see it herself even when roughly every guy she meets tells her so. We also have a hero who's most valued characteristic is his piercing eye color and how out of this world handsome he is. For good measure we throw in some deaths in their backgrounds, some martial problems among his or her parents, and something sexual in the past that could cause trauma for one of the main characters (you get two guesses on who!).

Introducing our heroine, Emilia King, a college student who's majoring in Shakespeare. She's perfect. Every guy she meets wants her. They ask her out constantly, and while she claims to not see how beautiful she is and how she doesn't want to go out with them, she never tells them outright no, and then blame them for continuing to ask her out, instead she tells them "some other time" or "not now". You'd think they get the message, but still. She's clumsy.

I am so embarrassed and caught up in the beauty of this man that I blush, trip, and miss the chair.

She's... in denial (given that everyone keeps telling her how beautiful she is).

Who am I kidding? He would never be interested in someone like me. I’m so boring, plain and he’s so…well, out-of-this-world gorgeous.

She's never felt sexual attraction before our hero crosses her path.

This is the first time in my twenty-one years where I’ve ever been interested in a man.

She's different from other girls, because... other girls don't listen to music?

“Most girls are all about Adele. You like the Neon Trees, Mumford and Sons, and the Black Keys. Any other favorites?”

And, of course, she's not like other girls.

“I think it’s safe to say that most girls feel that way, you would be the exception.”

“I suppose I’m not like most girls.”

“Emilia, first of all, no one is perfect. But if anyone is as close to perfection…that would be you.”

Now, for our male lead: Logan Prescott. He's perfect (except for once, and it's only so we'll have a cliffhanger at the end). He, also a college student and a business major, is a rich bachelor who, until meeting Emilia lived only for pleasure.

“You bewitched me. I don’t know how else to explain it. I met you and I realized that only caring about pleasure and instant gratification just made me feel empty, lonely. Does that make sense?”

Add to it, he's out of this world gorgeous (in case you missed the quotes above). Either way, he has a reputation of having multiple sexual partners. A fact that makes him avoid Emilia at first, for her own good, of course. He has the ability to cure Emilia of her nightly terrors by his mere presence after knowing her for roughly two hours. (Noteworthy that years of therapy, support from family and close friends could not manage this.) His most important characteristic, apparently, has nothing to do with his actual personality, though.

"He’s not only drop dead gorgeous but obscenely rich. He’s a keeper, Emilia."

Apart from that, his biggest (and only role) is to tell Emilia that meeting her - not knowing her - changed his life.

“I told you. I was quite careless and out of control for a long time. Meeting you made me want to change. Is that so hard for you to understand?”

By the by, this is also the general plot: Emilia's ability to change Logan's life. Because of this we have her doubting him whenever a woman comes within ten feet of him (which also makes it easy to include some casual slut-shaming). Add in some past trauma - hope you'd already made your guess - she must face it head on by simply being in a relationship with Logan. Which causes her best friend to give contradictory advice more or less all the time. Go out! Don't go out! Live a little! Life will hurt you! And more.

There you have it folks! This was another episode of The Next Been Done Before! 'til next time!

Also, before I forget: Authors, DO NOT use rape for shock value. Do not use it for the sole purpose off getting a (poor excuse for a) cliffhanger. Do not use it as a plot device. Do not "reveal" it on the last page.

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review 2016-06-20 00:00
‘I Find That Offensive!’
‘I Find That Offensive!’ - Claire Fox ‘I Find That Offensive!’ - Claire Fox Today's zeitgeist is the pathologised individual. You are living in an era where the 'form of personality' that is valued and privileged is the vulnerable victim, where weakness is treated sympathetically and strength is demonised as arrogance or bullying, where anything smacking of the stiff upper lip is seen as a relic from a cruel, insensitive era. Today, emotional literacy is de rigueur.

Claire Fox writes an outraged pamphlet against outrage culture. Polemic, ranty, but not without worthwhile analysis.
The book's structured in three parts: Part #1 outlines the situation, part #2 tries to identify reasons for a mollycoddled youth, part #3 consists of letters to said generation of youngsters.

While Germany's educational system is very, very different from the ones in the US or the UK, a lot of what Fox writes sounds quite familiar and I can relate to many of her points. I'm 34 and I teach semiotics and feminist and gender aware linguistics. You may draw your own conclusions from there. About ten years ago, in my activist heydays, I roamed the streets, chanting „I'm not a victim“. In our work with survivors of domestic abuse, we try to teach them that they are exactly that – survivors, not victims, people strong enough to reclaim responsibility for their life, to change it for the better. And then, in my day-job, on social media, and everyday discussions, there's what Fox and others call offence generation or 'Generation Snowflake', seemingly claiming victim status as a part of their identity.
While I don't want to dismiss peoples' very real pains and bad experiences, I do see “This offends me” and “I feel hurt” becoming the go-to means to silence every reasonable discussion, to silence any critique or simply disagreeing opinions.
I'm not exactly innocent in that regard, especially not when it comes to discussions about the current refugee situation in Europe; discussions that are difficult, often heated, and, at least for me, emotionally draining.

So, yes, I think Fox has some valid points. Most importantly, she's not blaming the “younger generation”, but, as pointed out above, tries to identify reasons for young adults' apparent inability to stand criticism and the tendency to feel offended about divergent opinions, reasons she sees in the parent generation, the educational system itself, and the prominence of “Student Voice”.

Today's overly subjective youth are instead reduced to the status of objects, acted upon by an overabundance of official bodies. However, a lack of awareness of this passivity can mean that young people themselves are flattered at such third-party interests. They seem to enjoy being mollycoddled, gaining an artificial sense of empowerment from their various victim roles as well as feeling legitimised as objects of institutional concern and interventions.

Again, I recognised a lot. But I can't agree with everything Fox says in part #2.
For one, I don't really think what she describes is just a problem of a younger generation (a generation I might still be part of, if only at the very tail-end of it). I see the same overawareness of all things PC happening with much older people – at least here. But that might be the difference between Germany and the UK and especially the US, where “free speech” is defined quite differently.
Also, in contrast to Fox I think that words can hurt and do severe damage. I fear that outright dismissing this notion or ridiculing the concept of emotional abuse, like Fox seems to do, is not going to help the discussion in any meaningful way. Of course you have to differentiate if two children fight on the playground and one tells the other “I don't like you, you stink” - or if there's an abusive relationship where one partner constantly tells the other how worthless they are. Or if parents keep telling their child that their lives would be so much better if said child had never been borne. Of course that's one hell of a difference.
But it's this nuance that I miss in Fox's rant. And it's a pity, because neglecting nuances makes it all too easy to dismiss her points, her very important, very valid points, in return.

What's more, I fear she'll end up preaching to the choir here. Which is also a pity, because I think her conclusion in the third part, addressing 'Generation Snowflake' and 'Anti-Snowflakers' alike (stupid terms, by the way), are well worth considering.

(As a sidenote, I don't get her problem with adult colouring books. But to each their own, I guess.)
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review 2016-06-15 12:09
Perfectly Damaged by E.L. Montes
Perfectly Damaged - E.L. Montes

New Adult Tropes: 20

“You know, I’m learning a lot, and there are times when it’s hard to love myself, but every time I think of you, I always think, if someone else can dig deep and fall in love with even my damaged side, then there is hope for me after all.”

Few things are as stigmatized as having a mental illness. I've met people who don't know how to react when hearing someone is diagnosed with a mental illness. Even when specifying what disorder it is, such as depression or bipolar disorder, they're still uncomfortable despite the two aforementioned are two of the most common disorders discussed openly. There are many misconceptions about mental illnesses going about, which is why it's so important to, when writing (or talking) about them, do it accurately to not feed these misconceptions.

It's also important - and I can't stress this point enough - to not romanticize mental illness. Which brings us right back to this book, Perfectly Damaged.

Jenna is a young woman who's lived with her parents her whole life. She's also diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which has made her parents incredibly protective of her, almost believing she isn't able to do things on her own. Jenna, to some extent, agrees. Although she'd like nothing more than to get out from under their watchful eyes - but they're almost never home - she still doubts herself and her abilities most of the time due to her mental disorder. Add the fact that her sister died a few months earlier, Jenna has now lost her most important supporter. When Jenna's mother decides to build a guesthouse, she hires a company to do it. Enter does Logan. After an awkward meeting where Logan saves Jenna's life, and then Jenna demanding he kiss her, they now spend the days rather close to each other. Jenna is hesitant to let him in due fearing he'll leave when he finds out about her diagnosis. And so the story goes.

It's sad to say, but this is exactly the same story as any other new adult story there is. We have all the usual elements: hot guy saving a damaged heroine from her insecurities and past. A heroine with a tense relationship to her parents. A best friend that's obsessed with sex (and unfortunately that's as much personality this woman gets). Both the heroine and the hero constantly slutshames, and their thoughts (and comments) are filled with misogyny. For good measure there's also the topics of suicide and rape as well as death of a close family member (actually, there are two).

So where does the mental illness join the story? To be perfectly clear: The mental illness aspect of this story appears to be more of an afterthought than the crucial aspect it should be. As said, this story is nothing different from a lot of other new adult stories, but instead of rape or past abuse - two of the most common devices in new adult - the mental illness takes their place. Jenna is damaged because of it. It causes the tension in the family. It's what holding Jenna back from pursuing a relationship (of any kind). And yet, the focus is always on the romantic tension between Jenna and Logan. The illness isn't a big part of the story and could've easily been replaced by something else as an excuse for Jenna to be "damaged".

That said, I'll be the first to admit I'm not familiar with Jenna's disorder. As far as I gather, it's a disorder with the same symptoms as schizofreni, but also of a mood disorder. In this story it means Jenna hear voices, has hallucinations, and has periods of depression. It needs to be mentioned that Jenna's episodes (as she calls them) often seems to be convenient plot devices to progress her relationship with Logan and little else. Anyhow, Jenna hears voices at times (although I only recall two instances in this novel) and sees hallucinations (also two, if my memory serves me right). These scenes were very generic, but that's all I can say.

However, I feel more confident talking about her periods of depression. To be blunt: they sound nothing like depression. Jenna, as it's written, is not depressed. She whines, complains, and is just plain pissed off. Which is not what depression is, and I'm speaking from experience here. Given how inaccurately portrayal of her periods of depression are, it's hard to determine if the other aspects of her mental illness are portrayed this way. Accurate portrayal of the mental disorder or not, the story nevertheless romanticizes the condition. Jenna focusing on Logan accepting - and loving - her "damaged" part. Logan being portrayed as something akin to Jenna's savior. It all adds to painting a romantic picture around the mental disorder. Instead of a story about a young woman learning to live with her disorder, it's a story about a woman waiting for a man to love her despite her mental disorder in hope of accepting herself by accepting his love.

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review 2016-05-08 14:43
Offensive Behavior
Offensive Behavior (Sidelined Book 1) - Belinda Holmes,Ainslie Paton

I borrowed this through Kindle Unlimited.  It took me a while to get through it.  That's never a good thing.


I guess the author is Australian, but this story takes place in California and the characters are American.  A lot of the phrasing seems to be Australian.  It's definitely not spoken like an American would.  Some work on the punctuation would help, too.  Some additional commas and quotes.


Otherwise, I liked Reid.  But I didn't care for Zarley so much.  Reid is SO in to her, but Zarley is somewhat callous.  He basically kisses her ass and does anything to keep her, including letting a neighbor watch them have sex.  After she completely freaked out about seeing Reid kiss a random woman in a club where Zarley is performing as an erotic dancer, she then has sex with him in a public park and expected him to be okay with a random guy touching her breasts and upper body during the act.


The relationship seemed unbalanced.

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