God, this was a stupid chapter.  It tried to go somewhere at one point, but it was just so overwhelmingly stupid otherwise that it never managed to completely get there.  There were little bits I liked, though.

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So…at the end of the last chapter, Jeb asked everyone in the room who was up for a game, since the tribunal for Kyle took place in the games room, and that seemed a little weird, but I granted it because there’s not a whole lot he could really have said there to break the tension after the trial.  What I expected would result from that question was either everyone kind of laughing off/ largely ignoring it or that perhaps some people who had been less invested in the trial might play a game, but certainly those who were unhappy with the decision would not.  That’s how things tend to go in the real world when a situation like that presents itself.

Is that what happened here?  Of course not; this is Meyer-verse, so let the ridiculous shit fly!  Apparently, everyone in the room relaxes and starts to feel enthusiastic after Jeb asks about a game, because fuck, all those who feel like they’re keeping a murderer/threat in their midst need is to play a game and it’ll all be fucking fine!  Which, by the way, is everyone, at this point, since those on Kyle’s side still see Wanda as a threat, and those on Wanda’s side know that Kyle is capable of murder!  But yeah, shit, Jared got a new ball while he was out, so it’s all good!  Let’s just forget about that entire life or death situation that caused the destruction of an entire fucking room!

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Why the hell wasn’t that mentioned, by the way?  No one cares that their bathing room/latrine has been at best made incredibly dangerous, and at worst been rendered unusable because of Kyle’s actions?  Why doesn’t Jeb care about that?  And why does he want to keep Kyle there, knowing he’s a threat, when he himself has stated that Kyle serves pretty much no purpose because he’s not good at raiding?  Is Meyer going to give answers for any of this?

I mean, okay, yeah, as Jamie said, Jeb is trying to get things back to normal with the whole game shit, because Walter just died and whatnot, but really, shouldn’t they figure out what to do about the bathing room?  And should they really keep a potential murderer in their midst just because someone has died in another way?

Sorry, I’ll let that go now.

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Jeb smiles at Jared, so Jared leaves to go get the new ball, and luckily he seems reluctant about it, and Trudy seems to think it’s silly that they’re going to play games, so at least I’m not the only one.  Aaron teases Kyle about breaking the last ball they had, then they all form teams, and I’m not going to bother going into who the captains are or who they pick, because this is another entirely wasted page of the book.

To sum up, everyone at the tribunal gets teamed up except Wanda, supposedly because of her leg, though I’m sure that’s not the only reason.  We get another note from Stryder here about how she used to be good at soccer, which just seems like an unnecessary, bitchy stab at Wanda, but it must have been important to her to say since she was willing to speak up when she usually doesn’t.  Then again, Jared is in the room, so I guess she had to talk.

When it’s officially decided that Wanda won’t play because, as she tells Stryder, she can hardly walk (not sure why anyone would have been stupid enough to try to get her to play when she was hobbling just coming into the room), Ian tries to sit out, but Wes and Wanda argue with him about that, so he goes, after reminding us that Wanda is a bad liar again.  Eeeevery second page we get reminded of that.  Yep, that’s not old at all.

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Wanda struggles to get up since she’s in the middle of the field and needs to move, and again, everyone in the room is so clueless that they can’t see either that she’s in the way or that she might need help to get out of the way, so they go on being excited about playing a game, which remains completely and totally fucking unrealistic to me.  It’s like all of a sudden this alien, who has been a huge source of contention since she got there, and a big part of the reason for the tribunal in the first place, absolutely doesn’t matter and no one is concerned about her or what she’s doing.  Don’t Sharon and Maggie care, at least??

Everyone was so paranoid about her that they made Ian and Doc drug her just so she could go to Walter’s funeral, but now, after what’s happened with Kyle, they don’t even notice her.  She just blends into the background like anyone else.  How the hell is that even slightly realistic?  Aggh, this shit drives me insane!  Why can’t these people act like people?  Or at least consistent with their own characters?

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Anyway, Wanda manages to get up, but then promptly starts to fall over, but luckily, Jared catches her.  Wanda is a bit stunned by the fact that it was Jared that caught her, not Ian, so she starts stumbling over her words as she explains that she didn’t ask for help because she didn’t want to make anyone do anything they didn’t want to do.  That…doesn’t explain why you didn’t ask Ian, Jamie or Jeb for help; you know they all want to help you, but okay.

Come to think of it, why the hell did Ian just walk away when he knew she was in the playing field and would have to move, instead of helping her out and then joining the others?  That’s not like him at all!  He’s put her at priority one ever since he came around to her, and so has Jamie; one of them would have thought of it!  Especially since they couldn’t help but see her there, if she really was in the middle of the goddamn field like Meyer describes! Fuuuuuck!

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Jared helps Wanda to the cave entrance and sits her down, saying, as they go, that he doesn’t think Jamie or Ian would have minded helping her either.  Her excuse for not asking them?  They were having too much fun to even notice she was gone, and she didn’t want to interrupt their fun.  Yep, there’s our martyr again, folks.  Ah, whatever.

Jared comments on how much Wanda cares about “the kid”, and she agrees that she does, and then he asks about “the man”, and…come on now, Meyer; he knows their names! He might refer to Jamie as “the kid”, possibly, but he would never refer to Ian as “the man”!  Who does that?  He would have called him by name!  Ugh.

Regardless, Wanda reacts as awkwardly as I would think she should when being asked that question by Jared, and at first I was quite pleased with her answer, until she ended it with:

He can be so very kind…for a human.”

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Anyone who has read this blog knows how I feel about that, so I won’t get into it aside from saying wow, Meyer, really?  You haven’t dropped that yet?

Also, I find this line…

Almost like a soul, I’d wanted to say.  But that wouldn’t have sounded like the compliment it was to this audience.

…completely unbelievable, given what she just said at Walter’s funeral about how the ‘souls’ were wrong about humans, and wrong to do what they did.  She’s figured out that they are the bad guys and that the humans are actually mostly decent people just trying to survive, and she’s still acting like the aliens are better than humans? What??  Does Meyer have some sort of memory loss problem or something that keeps her from being able to follow the developments in her own story?

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As for Jared’s response to what she says…

For a human.  A more important distinction than I’d realized.”

…I’m not actually entirely sure what he’s trying to say there.  I could think of a few things that could mean, but none of them really seem to suit the situation too well.  Oh well, surprisingly enough, I don’t actually care.

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Wanda thanks Jared for helping her, and for defending her during the tribunal, though she says Jeb did the right thing in letting Kyle stay.  Jared says he disagrees about Jeb, but that he was just telling the truth when he was defending her, and then Wanda tells him that she would never do anything to purposefully hurt anyone there, and apologizes for hurting him and Jamie when she came.  That’s nice, I guess.

Here we see a bigger change of heart from Jared than we’ve seen to this point, in that he admits that Jamie is “better” since she came, and implies that Jamie hadn’t laughed before she came, which Wanda thanks him for because it eases her worries that she had damaged Jamie permanently by coming.

Jared decides to cut right to the heart of things and asks Wanda why she loves Jamie.  He obviously feels awkward or nervous about asking, but he assures her she can tell him, and the way he says it seems to imply that he’s got no hostility toward her anymore, so Wanda answers him.  She tells him that she loves Jamie in part because Stryder does, because of her memories, and in part because when she met him in person, she couldn’t not love him.  She says she hadn’t realized how much influence a host had on her, and she’s not sure if that’s just human bodies, or if it’s just Stryder.  I have to think it’s just Stryder if the alien invasion has been a success for the most part, and it’s only a small minority that ends up like her, but meh.

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Jared asks how often Stryder talks to Wanda, and she answers honestly, even down to telling him that Stryder is currently mad at her.  When Jared asks why she’s mad, Wanda tries to avoid answering, but Jared figures it out; Stryder is mad because she wanted Kyle to “fry”, and Wanda kept that from happening.  Wanda says Stryder can be violent, which apparently is not an insult in Jared’s eyes, but I would think it would be…and explains that Stryder wants Wanda to fight back, but that she can’t do that.  Jared says he can see that now, and apologizes for hurting her.

Wanda basically shrugs off his apology, saying even she would do the same if she was human, and that she wasn’t even thinking of that when she said it, she was thinking of the Seeker.  She explains how Stryder had wanted her to “throttle” the Seeker, but that even she (Wanda) couldn’t find it in herself to blame her for hating the Seeker.

Then they discuss how the Seeker is still searching for Wanda, but just up and down the highway, without the helicopter, so it’s no big deal, because she won’t find Wanda.  Again, I don’t know how they have all this surveillance information when they’re living in a cave, in hiding…and I don’t know why she had a helicopter in the first place.  None of this makes sense to me.

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Jared asks Wanda if she can hear Stryder currently, so Wanda tells him she’s aware of Stryder listening to their conversation.  Jared asks what Stryder is thinking, so Wanda prompts Stryder, telling her it’s her chance to talk to him.  Stryder asks why Jared believes Wanda now, because she’s apparently cautious and anxious now instead of giddily, stupidly excited.  Good.  I prefer her this way.

Wanda asks the question for Stryder, and Jared answers that he believes her because of her kindness to Walter, which he had never seen in anyone but Doc (but he knows that the aliens are supposed to be these kind, compassionate creatures, so I’m not sure how that would prove Stryder’s existence to him…Stryder certainly didn’t give a crap about Walter, so I doubt she’s anywhere near as compassionate as Doc), and because she saved Kyle’s life, when most of them would have let him fall…on top of the fact that she’s a horrible liar.

Of all of that, the only thing I can see proving that what Wanda said is true is that she’s a bad liar.  The rest seems to prove that a compassionate alien is in the body, but does not at all prove that Stryder is in there with her.  It could prove that Wanda has no intentions of hurting anyone there, or turning them in to the Seekers, sure, but not that Stryder is present.  I don’t buy it at all.

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Jared does mention that there’s a possibility he’ll wake up in the morning thinking everything Wanda has done is all part of some big plot again, which is reasonable, because it’s new to him to be open to this…but he says that when everyone started attacking her, he snapped, because he could see everything in them that shouldn’t have been in him, so it’s unlikely that will happen.

He admits he’s believed Wanda to some degree since the first night when she put herself in between him and Kyle to protect him from Kyle, but he’s good at lying to himself, so he didn’t let himself actively believe.  He refers to the way he treated her as “obstinate” and “cruel”, and I’m glad he says these things, because we’re coming back to the Jared I liked again! Smart, not petty Jared!  Yayy, I might like a character again!

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Wanda tells Jared that Stryder is afraid he will change his mind again, but hopes he won’t, and then I kind of like the next section, especially this bit:

He closed his eyes.  ‘Mel.'”

That actually touched my heart when I read it.  Such a simple sentence, but it is so easy to picture, and even feel the little twinge of feeling that he would feel there, that would be a mixture of heartbreak/longing and love.  Very effective, Meyer.  This is what you need to be doing; there was more emotion in that one line than in any other section of this book, I think.  Show, not tell.

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Jared tells Wanda to tell Stryder that he won’t change his mind again, so Wanda tells him that Stryder can hear him, and explains that Stryder can see what she sees, hear what she hears, and feel what she feels.  I like this from Wanda; she’s letting Jared talk directly to Stryder instead of relaying it, so she’s letting her have that connection with him as much as she can.  That would hurt her (Wanda), but she is doing that for Stryder, and not expecting anything in return.  If she was always like this, I could actually get behind her character.

Jared touches Wanda’s face, and tells Stryder that she doesn’t know how sorry he is.  Wanda is a little hurt by the fact that he is sorrier to Stryder than to her, but she tries to remain reasonable by reminding herself that of course he would be, and that it shouldn’t bother her.  Again, this is good character, finally.

Kyle calls Jared over to play, apparently not realizing that Jared is with Wanda, and acting completely normally given what just happened with the tribunal.  Wanda suspects that he might have known all along that everything was going to be fine, and I have to think the same, even though the only reason I wasn’t expecting him to get kicked out was because Meyer needs him to further the plot.  Unless he’s no longer an enemy, in which case there is absolutely no reason to keep him.

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Wanda realizes that though Kyle hasn’t noticed Jared is with her, others in the room have, and that Jamie is smiling at them together.  Wanda questions whether her new connection with Jared is as good of a thing as it might look like to Jamie, which confuses Stryder, so Wanda explains that Jamie sees his family put back together when he looks at her with Jared, but that there is one unwelcome addition as well (meaning her; Wanda).  Stryder says it’s better than it was the day before, which is a nice bit of positivity, and Wanda allows that that’s true.

Stryder says she’s glad Jared knows she’s there, but she doesn’t like Jared touching Wanda, and Wanda apologizes for the fact that she likes Jared touching her too much.  I like that she’s being honest, and not just trying to make herself look better anymore.  These are really steps in the right direction.

Stryder says she knows she shouldn’t blame Wanda for liking it, so she’s trying not to, which Wanda thanks her for, and I think that may be the most adult, respectful exchange they’ve ever had.  Good on you, girls.

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Wanda notices that Jeb is watching them too, with a smile, but that Sharon and Maggie are also watching, looking angry as usual.  Ian is watching as well, looking worried, so Wanda smiles at him because she wants to reassure him that Jared is not hurting or upsetting her, as she thinks that’s why he’s worried.

Stryder points out that she doesn’t think Ian is worried about that, again insinuating that Ian has feelings for Wanda, but before Wanda can ask Stryder to elaborate, Jared asks if Wanda is listening to Stryder at the moment.  She says she is, and he asks what she’s saying, so Wanda explains that she and Stryder are noticing the others’ reactions to his change of heart.

Jared basically shrugs that off, obviously no longer caring what other people think, so yay, and then Kyle has grown impatient, so he says they’ll start playing without Jared.  Jared tells Kyle he’s coming and runs off, and then most of the next page is about how it is too dark for Wanda to keep score aside from by listening to Jamie’s reactions when there’s a goal, how everyone is playing including Maggie and Jeb, how good they are at it, blah, blah, blah.

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After a half hour, Trudy and Paige leave and get some granola bars, which they then come back and give out to everyone, and Jamie, Ian and Jared all try to bring some to Wanda at the same time, with Jamie being successful, and Ian and Jared both seemingly displeased that the other tried to bring them to her.  Kyle asks where the food is, since they’ve taken it all, so Ian and Jared give half of their stuff to him, and Ian tries to get Kyle to leave.

Kyle won’t leave, though, even when Jared tells him to, because he decides he’s got something to say to Wanda.  He tells her that he’s not sorry, because he still thinks trying to kill her was the right thing to do, so Ian and Jared try to push him out and get him to leave again, but are unsuccessful, which once again begs the question as to how the hell Wanda was able to hold her own against him, when two supposedly strong guys can’t even keep him out.

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Everyone in the room is quiet, having noticed the confrontation, and all the absolutely stupid, not realistic at all happiness from playing ball is gone, and replaced with the tension that was there during the tribunal.  Did anyone expect that that wouldn’t happen?  This is why I find it unrealistic that they would all just be able to go about playing again; this was obviously going to be lurking under the surface the whole time, and I can’t see how no one would have been too concerned about that to just play games.  Oh well, whatever.

Kyle says he’s not done talking, then continues by saying that he doesn’t think he was wrong in trying to kill her, but she saved his life, and though he doesn’t know why, he figures it’s a life for a life, so he won’t kill her.  Ian calls him a stupid jackass for saying that, so Kyle calls his brother out on having a crush on a “worm”, and those are apparently fighting words for Ian, but then Wanda interrupts.

Wanda says she’ll tell Kyle why she saved his life, so everyone looks at her instead of fighting, and she explains that she didn’t let him die because she’s not like him, not in the sense that she’s not human, because she knows there are humans who would have done the same (like Ian, Jeb and Doc; I have to note that she didn’t list Jared), but because she’s not like him personally. Burn!  Nice one, Wanda.  😛

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Kyle reacts better than one would expect considering she just directly insulted him, laughing it off, then walking away, repeating “Life for a life“.  Wanda is not sure she believes Kyle will keep his word on that because “humans were good liars“, but I don’t think that’s why she shouldn’t believe it, I think it should be for the exact reason she just stated by saying she’s not like him personally — it’s Kyle we’re talking about here; he couldn’t be trusted before, how can he be now?

I honestly cannot see him being an honorable enough person to keep his word on something like that, so he has to still be an enemy, even though Meyer is trying to make him look like he won’t be anymore.  He just has to be; there’s no way around it.  I could see Kyle saying he felt that way to trick her and everyone else into trusting him, but I really can’t see him actually being that moral.

So anyway, that’s the end of the chapter.  I liked the bits with Jared, because as I said, they made him seem like he’s going to be a better person again, and I so hope that’s true…and because there was a tiny spark, even if only for a moment, of what I liked about chapter 8 in there.  I’d like to see more of that.

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The rest of the chapter, though, was incredibly stupid, and I found it hard to believe, though others may not.  I’ve never been around people who would react that way after a trial like that, but hey, maybe they exist somewhere.  Either way, that being the scenario surrounding the good parts with Jared just really took away from the emotion of that scene, and Meyer has to stop doing that.  She could have some good shit here if she’d cut all the fat, but given how many chapters are left, I’m pretty sure she’s not going to do that.

Back next time with more of the same, most likely, though I think we should probably hear something about how Wanda reacts to Kyle’s “crush” comment…but in the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever you’d like to hear at this time of year!  Hope it’s wonderful for everyone!!

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(See Mike’s take on this chapter at http://emptystress.wordpress.com!)

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