Monday, July 9, 2012

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare - Come the Eff On, Clary

That is not the jaw of a teenager.
Just sayin'...
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books: New York, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4169-5507-8
When Clary interrupts what she thinks is a nightclub fight, she finds herself instead in a closet, with one demon and three tattoo-covered, gorgeous teenagers trying to kill it.  Clary has discovered the world of the Shadowhunters, human warriors fighting to rid the earth of demons, and they have discovered that she is not just a regular non-magical mundane human; she can see them and the demon.  In the course of the next day, Clary’s world is turned upside down and she is swept into the company of the cute and flirtatious Shadowhunter, Jace, when her mother is abducted, and she is attacked by a demon.  Clary begins to discover that she, and her mother, are not the ordinary people she thought; Clary has been a part of the Shadowhunter world for longer than she can remember.  Though the writing and plot of this book, the first in the Mortal Instruments series, is often overwrought, it is fast-paced, engaging, and fun to read.  It is recommended for grades 6-9.  Libraries will be advised to keep a copy of this popular title on hand; there is potential for this to be adapted into a movie.
In the interest of not being a huge jerk, I’m including this disclaimer: this book drove me a bit insane.  There are a number of reasons, which I will get into in a minute (the vast majority caused me to work a “come the [EFF] on, Bridget,” face, so I think you too will delight in a Monday eye roll).  However, I will say this about this series.  I totally get why kids (mostly girls, but definitely some boys) of a certain age (middle/lower high school grades) go bananas for these books and why they are on the New York Time Bestseller list, like permanently.  Frankly, it’s probably the reason I go gaga for Diana Gabaldon, or am eagerly awaiting the sequel to A Discovery of Witches.  The story is action packed, the twists are twisty, the OH-SNAPS are snappy, the boys are all hawt, the girls are all gorgeous, crazy supernatural things occur, and it takes place in a high-stakes cool parallel world, one that you kind of want to visit.  It’s a roller-coaster movie ride, and it’s a really fun book (series).  If you are an adult like me, you are excited for this book to be adapted as a movie (rights have been optioned, actors cast), because you see there is a lot of potential for an awesome movie-drinking game.  And honestly, while it is $0.99 on an e-Reader of your choice, why not?  It's a light read for summer. 
For me though…the book wasn’t quite enough.  It’s possible that I judged it more harshly than I would have otherwise, coming off of a book that also has fantasy, romance, excitement, and supernatural weird angels – Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  But where DSB soars, City of Bones is still learning to crawl.   This is not a well written, edited, nor entirely original book.  Again, it is fun, imaginative, and dramatic.  But hot snap, it is ALL over the place.  I probably won’t read the other ones, but I do want to know what happens, other than the likeliness that good is restored to power, Clary discovers that she’s just super and somehow is the key to all this awesome goodness restoration.  (SPOILER) Mostly, I’m just interested in finding out how this whole Luke and Leia grossness between Clary and Jace undoes itself, because, COME THE EFF ON, BRIDGET, obviously it will.  Can someone just tell me?  Seriously. 
Anyways, on with my not-so-kind thoughts about this book.  I’d give a spoiler alert, but I kind of get the feeling if you haven’t already read it, you’re probably too old to want to do this to yourself, or too young to be reading reviews on the Internet; you have been duly warned!

Problem the first:  The “Not-quite-Romance-Novel” Trap
Frankly, I was excited for this, after hearing about it for years from my students.  But then, page one, chapter one happened, and I realized what I was in for, except that there would be no romance novelesque payoff, because I got my copy from my middle school library.  The jig’s up guys: this book is secretly a vampire/supernatural Romance novel, except it lacks of the sex.  Same crazy ups and downs, slightly stupid female protagonist (because she is unaware of how super she is, as she is waiting for the supernatural male protagonist to show her, not because she’ll experience any sort of self-actualizing moment of great awareness), a rampantly confident bordering on arrogant-offensive male protagonist with mommy/daddy/child abuse issues (who will eventually be healed and made whole by the naive female protag) who finds himself inexplicably drawn to our inexperienced lady and drags her into his lair/mansion/some combination thereof (for her safety, of course), lots of melodramatic shouting and storming off, some shanking of monsters, at least one rescue ending with one of the leads pressed up against the other in a dark corner, a big reveal, and a cliffhanger.  Throw in some hot sidekicks to make everyone jealous, some discovery of memories or super powers, a party requiring a short dress, and , well, there, I just summarized this whole book for you.  Except…this doesn’t even end romance-well, because of the whole, maybe-possible incest crush-kiss thing.  EXCEPT YOU KNOW IT CAN'T BE TRUE.  Come the EFF on, Bridget Cassandra Clare. I don't want to be Luke and Leia'd!  UGH.
Here are some clues to help you identify if you too have fallen into a similar reading trap, and find yourself reading a romance novel in disguise:
  • Nightclubs: On the very, very first page, of the very, very first chapter, Clary and Simon are at a nightclub.  They are like, 15.  Sure, maybe it is an under-18 nightclub.  BUT REALLY?  As with every vampire/supernatural Romance novel, everyone is dressed like a Russian prostitute on meth, going through her Goth phase.  Come the Eff on, Bridget.  Writers of this type of book, please clear this up for me.  Have you ever been to a night club? If no, are you basing this on old episodes of Femme Nikita? Or are you just going to very different nightclubs than the ones I’ve had drinks spilled on me in?
  • Charming: If a guy is described as “charming,” in most cases by himself, that’s code for “douche.”
  • If you see a scene like the following, you can stop right there.  You’ve pretty much read the whole book:
Clary went to take another sip from the cup and found that it was empty.  She no longer felt hungry or light-headed either, which was a relief.  She set the cup down and hugged the sheet around herself.  “What happened to my clothes?”
“They were covered in blood and poison.  Jace burned them.”
“Did he?” asked Clary.  “Tell me, is he always rude, or does he save that for mundanes?”
“Oh, he’s rude to everyone,” said Isabelle airily. “It’s what makes him so damn sexy.* That, and he’s killed more demons than anyone else his age.”
Clary looked at her, perplexed.  “Isn’t he your brother?”
That got Isabelle’s attention.  She laughed out loud.  “Jace? My brother? No.  Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Well, he lives here with you,” Clary pointed out. “Doesn’t he?”
Isabelle nodded. “Well, yes but…”
“Why doesn’t he live with his own parents?”
For a fleeting moment, Isabelle looked uncomfortable.  “Because they’re dead.” (p. 60)
Problem the second:  The “Horrible Little Beast” Trap (Spoilers abound)
Clary is kind of awful.  Sure, she’s meant to be 16, in an emotional situation, and freaked out.  But man, she sucks. 
A)   She’s totally stupid.  Seriously, I figured out who her dad was the first time she heard the story of Valentine.  DUH.  Sure, I’ve read some YA, seen some Star Wars.  BUT SO HAS CLARY.  Come the Eff on.
B)   Also, Clary, if I may directly address you, how do you not notice that Simon has a crush before like, the last third of the book?  He basically beats you over the head with this information in the THIRD CHAPTER. 
C)   Clary isn’t just stupid, she’s also kind of vicious.  Case in point: what kind of person confirms someone’s closeted homosexuality with their sister, and then threatens to out them in the heat of a fight, and then, on top of that, shows close to no actual remorse, thinking instead about how the gay dude probably doesn’t like her now?  You think? It’s probably the kind to make a gay joke thirty pages later.  Homophobia, so hot right now!  Seriously, Clary, you’re kind of horrid.  Cassandra Clare, what’s up with that?
Problem the Third:  The “This Smells Like Harry Potter” Trap
Okay, it dawned on me about halfway through the book (about the time I stopped being annoyed about Problem the First), that this book has a lot of…um…similarities to Harry Potter.  Once I started seeing them, I couldn’t…unsee them, either.   Presented in no particular order:
  • Protagonists find and keep a copy of a group photo of their parents and parents friends, used to point out who was members of this group later.
  • Flying motorcycles
  • A person is transformed into a rat
  • Characters live inside a “school” disguised by a glamour as something else
  • Pointy magic objects used: Steles and wands…are pretty much the same thing
  • Non-magical people have a cute pet name: Mundanes v. Muggles
  • 3 magical objects used to destroy or recreate

Anyways, end of persnickety snarking.  For $0.99, you should absolutely read this book on the beach.  With a cocktail, if you are over 21.  You’ll need it. 

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