I hated this chapter. I don’t understand how it’s possible for this book to keep getting worse, but apparently it is, as this chapter absolutely proved that. I could find nothing redeemable about this chapter; it tried to have a whole lot of different elements, but NONE of them worked, and every page I read was worse than the last.
I thought (and hoped) that when the book finally came to this point – where Jared and Wanda are forced to actually interact – it might get a little better, because Jared didn’t seem so bad before, and because Meyer’s been building to this for 28 chapters, so I figured it had to be good…but my god, was I disappointed. And not just disappointed, angry. This chapter made me so angry. Fuck, I hate it so much more than I can possibly convey. I would give almost anything to not have to write this recap. But here I go.
The chapter starts with Wanda doing exactly what we’d expect and going to Jared, despite that Ian told her to stay put and despite that she can hear the coldness and anger in Jared’s voice. Why does she do it? Because he’s calling to her. As though she’s a dog. And she’ll obey even if he’s angry at her and she might be hurt as a result, because that’s not exactly like what I said before about this seeming uncomfortably similar to an abusive relationship. Meyer even makes sure to point out that Stryder is even more eager to dive into an abusive situation than Wanda is. What a great thing to make your readers identify with. You deserve to be slapped. And that’s being nice.
Ian stands ready to guard Wanda from Jared, so his ‘feigning surprise’ at the end of the last chapter was not because he was trying to trick Wanda, so I don’t know why Meyer felt it necessary to describe it that way, but whatever.
Jared is sitting on the ground on one of the mats Jamie and Wanda had apparently left there, though Jamie didn’t actually manage to get any before his altercation with Jared a couple chapters ago, so he must have brought them when he snuck back in to sleep with Wanda later in the night, meaning he must have slept on one but she didn’t. They were never mentioned, though, so either he brought them and Meyer just forgot to mention it, or he never did, and Meyer once again forgot to check within her own writing to see if she was being consistent. It’s probably that, to be honest.
Jared tells Ian to relax because he only wants to talk to ‘it’, and reminds Ian that he already promised Jamie he wouldn’t hurt her, and he’ll stand by that. Ian asks where Kyle is, and Jared says he’s asleep, but Ian doesn’t leave. Jared reassures him he’s not lying, because Jeb is right that Jamie has as much say in the decision to kill Wanda as he does, and Jamie won’t allow it, so she’s not in danger from him. He also reassures Wanda that he won’t hurt her, since he sees that she is cowering away from him.
Wanda moves closer, so Ian tells her she doesn’t have to talk to him if she doesn’t want to, but Wanda says she will talk to him. Jared beckons her to come closer in a very creepily described way, so she does, but stops a yard away, with Ian at her side. Jared says he wants to talk to her alone, and Ian doesn’t like that, but Wanda tells him it’s okay and to go get some rest. Ian (for good reason, given the conversation they were just having before Jared showed up) is worried that she’s just trying to get herself killed to spare Jamie, but Wanda says that’s not the case, because Jared wouldn’t lie to Jamie about that. She pleads with Ian to let her talk to him, so he threatens Jared and reminds him that her name is Wanda, not ‘it’ (nice of him to care about that), and then leaves.
Jared and Wanda watch him go, then there’s an awkward silent exchange between them that feels like something that would happen between teenagers, before Jared offers Wanda a seat next to him.
She doesn’t sit next to him, though; instead, she sits further down the wall, because she doesn’t want to be close to him because it hurts her to have him hate her in such close proximity. Okay, I can understand that.
What I can’t understand is that while Wanda doesn’t want to be close to him, Stryder does, because she wants to smell his scent and feel the warmth of his body. For one, that’s kind of creepy, and two, she still doesn’t seem to get the reality of the situation here. They’re not going to cuddle romantically, they’re just going to sit on a mat next to each other, and he still hates her and is only not killing or hurting her because he promised Jamie. How is it so hard for her to see that? I used to like her, but no. Just no. No one is this stupid for this long.
Wanda can’t bring herself to look at Jared, so she looks at her hands instead, while Jared apologizes for hurting her and tells her she doesn’t have to be afraid of him. She doesn’t say anything, which he calls her on, but she still doesn’t respond verbally, even to that. She says it’s because she can’t find her voice with the weight of his antagonism in the air between them. Overdramatic, but okay.
Jared, apparently having no respect for personal space at all, or even just the fact that Wanda clearly doesn’t want to sit next to him, or she would have when he offered the possibility to her the first time, moves down the mat until he’s sitting next to her. Wanda finds it hard to think straight or breathe right with him that close, which I think is supposed to sound like it’s because she loves him, but I would think it’s more because she’s full of anxiety…but either way, she doesn’t move. It probably wouldn’t make a difference if she did, cause he’d probably just come closer again, so that’s fair.
Stryder, though, finds that she’s not as happy with him being close as she had thought she would be, and that she instead feels irritated because she doesn’t like him next to Wanda. She says it doesn’t feel right because of the way Wanda wants him there…except…she doesn’t. She purposefully didn’t sit next to him, and she’s clearly anxious now that he’s forced her to. So Stryder, that is just plain unfair.
Wanda is startled by how hostile Stryder is toward her, which she thinks is unfair, and since I’ve just said it’s unfair, she is right. But Stryder thinks it anyway. Great, two irrational, whiney bitches in the same body. Just what we needed.
Jared tells Wanda he only has one question, which she can probably guess, because anybody in the world could probably guess it, even if they hadn’t read a single page of this book (and I am envious of those that haven’t). Wanda waits for him to ask, avoiding eye contact with him so Stryder doesn’t get angry again, so she stares at the rice bag she slept against last night which she can apparently see in the light Jared has brought…and which is across the hall from where they’re sitting, and therefore nowhere near the mats she and Jamie apparently left.
So…Jamie brought the mats in, but left them on one side of the hall, then went to sleep on the other side of the hall without them, since he woke up next to Wanda? Wtf? Why would you ever do that? Oh, Meyer, you really need to reread shit. This is happening a lot more as the chapters go on.
Jared lifts his hand, which Wanda sees in her peripheral vision, so she shies away, but he once again assures her he’s not going to hurt her, and then cups her chin in his hand and pulls her face so that she has to look at him. I dunno, Jared; that would seem pretty intimidating to me, no matter what you said.
But instead of being intimidated, Wanda gets all heartswelly and teary eyed…or at least that’s how it reads. Maybe she’s scared, but she doesn’t seem it, she just seems emotional about looking at him. Either way, Jared asks his question, which is, of course, if Stryder is still alive inside her.
Stryder apparently mentally attacks Wanda, trying to force her way out, but Wanda stops her because she can tell by looking at Jared that he won’t believe her if she tells the truth. She knows if she tells him Stryder is still alive, he’ll try to use that as evidence that she’s a Seeker or at least a liar, so that he can have her killed. I have no idea how that would work, since Jeb and Jamie already know Stryder is alive inside her, and they clearly believe it, but this is at least Wanda’s logic, if not Jared’s as well.
Stryder does not believe that, so Wanda has to struggle to keep her from speaking to Jared. Stryder says she loves Jared, but Wanda says nothing, though she’s surprised Jared can’t tell what she’s ‘thinking’ (or Stryder is ‘saying’; I’m not sure how to word that) since he’s looking into her eyes and she’s pretty sure it’s evident there.
Jared waits for her to answer, but she never does, despite the look of revulsion in Jared’s eyes (cause yeah, that’d make me want to tell him stuff too) and Stryder’s anger and jealousy welling up inside her. She does start to cry, though, and then jerks her head out of Jared’s hand. Jared is frustrated, but he lets her go, and they sit in silence for a few more minutes.
As they sit, Stryder compares the Jared she sees next to her (who is apparently hard and stonelike) with the Jared she remembers from when they were on the run, so we get thrown into another flashback. Honestly, when I saw there was another one, I was kind of looking forward to it, because I was hoping it would be like the one in chapter 8 that was actually good…but nope, this was like the other annoying ones I hated that came after chapter 8, instead. Yaaay.
In the flashback, Jared and Jamie are watching a basketball game in the house of one of the aliens that they’ve raided, who is going to be at work for a while longer. The first page of this flashback is pretty much about nothing other than how boring and annoying sports are now that the aliens are running them, because everyone gets a medal for participating, no one really ‘wins’, and they’re overly polite in how they deal with things.
Not only could we have guessed that’s how they’d be, given what we’ve been taught of the aliens thus far, but we also COULD NOT POSSIBLY CARE LESS. Why the hell did she go on for a page about this? There is nothing interesting here at all! What a fucking waste of time. Stop wasting our goddamn time, Meyer; you’re not even halfway through the fucking book yet.
Jared calls Stryder over from where she’s standing by the door and tells her to relax with them, so she goes and they cuddle on the couch, sitting in a way that I cannot possibly understand how is supposed to work unless Stryder is the height of a child, or Meyer worded it wrong, but either way sounds completely unappealing to me.
At this point, Stryder starts to think about how comfortable she is in an alien’s house, and then about all the weird things her dad used to say, which Meyer takes the time to list despite that again, NO ONE FUCKING CARES, especially because for the most part, they mean jack shit to the average person, and are not explained. This is just a lead-in for Stryder to think about a specific term he used to use, which is “safe as houses“.
Stryder goes on about the different scenarios in which her father used to use that term, and then how the meaning of it changed for her and Jamie when the invasion happened, because houses were one of the most unsafe places to be. Not sure how that works, cause you can still lock down your house, whereas if you’re on the street you have no cover, but I guess she just meant it in terms of having to raid the aliens’ houses and that not being safe, and she just needed some way to bring that up.
It’s all different now (in the flashback) though, because Jared is there, and Jared makes everything safe and happy, and blah blah blah about him being the most wonderful thing in the world, which you already told us, Stryder, even though I can’t see what he’s doing that’s any different or more special than what you were doing before, or how he made you any safer aside from giving you his dad’s desert cabin thing to live in…and then there’s another description of her breathing in his scent and feeling the warmth of his body, and that makes me think that’s the only way Meyer knows how to convey attraction to someone.
The flashback ends with this cheesy line:
“Jared makes everything safe, everything happy. Even houses.”
And that’s where I lost all hope for this chapter (or book) ever getting good. Stryder tells Wanda Jared still makes her feel safe, which just proves what a gigantic fucking idiot she is, because he has been and still is her biggest threat so far, but Wanda doesn’t feel safe loving Jared. Good. She shouldn’t. Someone has to have some reason.
Wanda wonders if Stryder would have loved Jared even if he’d always been the way he is now, all hard and cold and a fucking abusive jackass, instead of the smiling, happy guy he was in the flashbacks. She references the fact that he did not turn cold or hard after his father and brothers died (where was his mother?), but he did after losing Stryder, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. He was probably much the same after losing her, though perhaps a bit sadder, because he was still around people and he still had Jamie; the fact that Jamie only now seems to see Jared in a different light makes me think that what made him hard and cold was Stryder returning as an alien, not losing her in the first place. Though maybe that’s what Wanda means, but that’s not how it’s worded.
Anyway, Stryder says she would love Jared in any form, even like that, because he belongs with her, but I really don’t know about that. She is obviously a naïve fucking idiot, who caters to Jared’s every whim, but that’s because she still seems to be in such denial that she doesn’t actually see what Jared is like now. She still looks at him as though he is the way he used to be. If he had always been this way, I don’t think she’d have ever ended up with him. Or at least, for the sake of the impression this will make on Meyer’s readers, I hope not.
Though I guess Meyer did the damage anyway by saying she still would have loved him if he was always abusive. Another great fucking job, Meyer. I’m going to blame you when teenage girls are staying in abusive relationships from now on. It’s all your fault.
Wanda wonders if the same is true for her, but she’s not sure, which is NICE TO SEE, and then she’s interrupted by Jared telling her that because of her, Jeb and Jamie are convinced that it’s possible to continue some awareness after insertion, because they’re sure Stryder is still alive inside Wanda. Which, y’know, he already said, and we knew even before he said it the first time.
He taps her on the head, which I find quite condescending, so I’m glad she flinches away, and then he goes on, saying that Jamie thinks Stryder’s talking to him. He says it’s not fair to “play a kid like that“, but that that’s assuming a sense of ethics that doesn’t apply to the aliens, and…well, yeah, he would actually be right here, if Wanda has in any way made it seem like Stryder is talking to him beyond the first time she did, because Wanda has repeatedly mentioned how Stryder doesn’t say anything anymore. If Jamie still thinks she’s talking to him, then Wanda is just lying to him, but I didn’t take that as being the case.
Jared keeps talking, saying that Jeb does have a point about not knowing what she’d be after if her story wasn’t true, because the Seekers who searched for her didn’t seem suspicious about any humans living in the area, they just seemed to be looking for Wanda. At the same time, though, he wonders if maybe she’s doing some kind of undercover thing, which Wanda thinks is foolish speculation…which it kind of is, but I can see why he’d think it if he’s hesitant to believe the bit about Stryder being alive, which he logically would be.
He says that maybe Jeb and Jamie are right, at least about not killing her, and then strokes her arm and starts speaking softly to her, telling her no one will hurt her as long as she doesn’t cause any trouble, because he can see their point, and it might be wrong to kill her. He says there might in fact be no justifiable reason to harm her, except that he’s worried that Jamie is becoming too attached.
He regrets leaving Jamie when he went on the raid, but knows there’s nothing he can do about that now, and he worries about what will happen to Jamie “when“…implying when Wanda dies. Which he just said wouldn’t happen, because no one would hurt her anymore. So he’s trying to make her feel threatened while telling her not to feel threatened? This is mental and emotional abuse. Again. He’s manipulating her, and I don’t fucking like it.
Jared says he’s surprised Wanda “got to” Jeb, because he usually sees through deceptions easily, but Jeb believed something was off about Wanda from the start, or he wouldn’t have brought her there, saved her life repeatedly and been so kind to her, so either Jared’s wrong about Jeb, or Jeb somehow knew all along.
And then, oh my good god, he keeps talking. Because he apparently never stops talking, even though Wanda has not responded verbally even once, and only responded non-verbally at the beginning of the conversation.
He says what bugs him is that he wouldn’t know if they were right in thinking Stryder was still alive, and that he hates the way their logic makes sense to him, because there has to be another explanation. Stryder keeps trying to speak at this point, but Wanda continues to block her, and then Jared changes position so he’s facing Wanda.
He asks her why she’s there, and Wanda notices when she looks up at him that he looks gentle and kind, not like he looked before, so she starts having a hard time controlling Stryder. She realizes she wants to touch his face, which Stryder doesn’t like, and chastises Wanda for thinking of it. Wanda apologizes, thankfully, because she knows she’s hurting Stryder. She says she and Stryder are both hurting different hurts, and she doesn’t know who has it worse, but I’m still gonna go with Stryder. She’s still the one that never gets to experience Jared the same way again, even if he does believe her. She’s the one that would have to deal with any closeness he tried to have with her going to Wanda, instead.
Jared says that Jeb has the crazy idea that Wanda is there for him and Jamie, and then puts his hands on either side of her face and asks again for her to tell him why she’s there. She shakes her head, but she’s not sure if it’s actually her doing it or Stryder, as they both have their reasons for not telling him, I guess?
Jared tightens his grip on her, which sounds painful but apparently isn’t, and then leans toward her, and Wanda realizes that he’s about to kiss her. She gets all the regular physical feelings you get when that’s about to happen, and realizes that she knows exactly how he’s going to do it, even though she’s never been kissed before. That was entirely necessary to explain.
The next few paragraphs consist entirely of a description of their passionate kiss, which, honestly, I find to be very poorly described. A kiss like that should feel passionate, I should be drawn into it, I should get lost in it even though I’m just reading it…and I really didn’t. It felt sloppy and weird and lifeless. I tried to get into it; I even reread it a few times trying to view it differently, and trying to get from it the feeling I got from chapter eight…but it never ended up working for me, no matter what. Sad; I was really hoping something good would come of this.
At the end of the kiss, Wanda reaches one hand up and entwines it in Jared’s hair, but presumably because she’s so distracted by the kiss, Stryder is able to gain control of her other hand and uses it to punch Jared in the face. Yesssssss!! Now we’re talking.
Jared scrambles away, horrified, and Wanda is revolted by what she’s done, so she grabs the hand that hit him with her other hand and looks at Jared, noticing that his expression is changing to one that is shocked, then completely defenseless. It’s then that she realizes that what happened was not what he had expected, but it was what he’d been testing for. Kissing her was a test, to see if Stryder would react. Clever. Or something.
He’d expected it to fail, though, so he was surprised when it didn’t, and the fact that it was just a test hurts Wanda severely, so she runs away and scrambles into her hole, despite the boxes in it, which she just crushes as she goes, because she’s mortified. Yeah, I gotta admit; I would be too, if I got really into kissing someone I loved and then found out they were only doing it as a test. That would suck. Poor Wanda. I never thought I would say that seriously.
Jared tries to grab a hold of her to pull her out, but she manages to get in anyway, accidentally hitting him with a box as she does so, and then begins crying heavily, which embarrasses her even more. Wanda is apparently bothered by the fact that violence went through ‘her’ body, even though I’m sure when it was Stryder’s body, she probably did something at least somewhat violent before, but Wanda is more upset because she had wanted the kiss to be real, and it wasn’t, and she feels stupid. Probably for a few reasons, not the least of which is simply how much it actually hurts her.
Stryder is also in pain, though, apparently having not yet realized it was just a test, because she still thinks that Jared has betrayed her. They’re both WAY too dramatic about this, saying they feel like they’re dying, but for opposite reasons. Stryder is especially hurt because she knows Jared did it intentionally, she just…doesn’t get why, I guess, even though Wanda is right there thinking it and being hurt by it, so I’m not sure how Stryder can’t see that. Has Wanda blocked her out? If so, why would she do that?
Wanda calls Stryder stupid and tells her no one has betrayed her, which isn’t entirely true because technically Wanda did betray Stryder, because it wasn’t a test on her part…but Stryder’s not listening anyway, since she still keeps asking how Jared could do such a thing. Wanda doesn’t try to make her feel better, she just gets annoyed by the fact that Stryder’s pain is an “extra burden” on her, so there’s the bitch we know and hate.
Both of them keep crying, and I keep wishing Stryder would stop being brain-dead, until Jared snaps them both back into reality by saying Stryder’s name in a “broken, childlike voice“.
That’s where the chapter ends. So Jared believes that Stryder is alive in Wanda, I guess, now that he’s tested her. I guess it should get exciting from here…but oh wait, it won’t, because this book is completely incapable of that. This chapter shouldn’t have sucked, but it did, and it gives me zero hope for the romance elements of this book. Why couldn’t it be like chapter 8? Why did any of these other 21 chapters have to exist? Why is it so clear that the second half of this book is going to be no better than the first, if not much worse? Why am I still reading this? Why won’t this book just self-destruct?
Agggh. Next chapter, I officially start the second half of the book. It feels like I’ve been doing this for so long, and knowing there’s so much more to go, and that the most climactic parts so far have generally been the chapters I’ve hated the most…ugh, I don’t know how I’m going to do this.
Wish me luck. I’ll need it.
(See Mike’s take on this chapter at http://emptystress.wordpress.com!)