Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 2: The Hermit

When we last saw Zade, she was reeling from her audition and celebrating the start of her new, “somewhat normal” life. as a performer in Las Vegas

Now, Zade is. . . still reeling from her audition. She’s waiting for Beth, the assistant from the last chapter, to bring her some contracts. She’s trying to keep herself from falling asleep, but drifts off for a moment.

“Hey there, Sleeping Beauty,” Cam said softly after lightly touching my shoulder and sitting down next to me. “It looked like you met everyone that works here today. The line to say hello to you after your performance resembled an autograph signing by a boy band. I don’t really know what the latest one is, but Backstreet, Five Directions, One Second of Winter, 98 Celsius, O-city, NSYNC Boys or Old Kids on a Curb or something like that.”

“Sleeping beauty?” I can’t tell if Cam is hitting on her, or if he’s just gay.

I really like when you can tell an author had an idea for witty line of dialogue, but they just couldn’t figure out how to make it work. The line about boy bands is one such case. Despite the awkwardness of the line, though, you can tell Lani Sarem was really proud of all the mangled boy-band names she came up with, and just couldn’t stand to choose just one or two.

I laughed hard at his combo of wrong boy band names and his clear indication that he knew all the boy bands; he purposely had made the small wrong switches in their names.

I also like how you can tell that Lani was worried the audience wouldn’t be smart enough to get the joke.

When most people write a joke they’re worried won’t land, they cut it. But Lani has ensured that her joke will not go unappreciated by explaining exactly how the joke worked and what it tells us about Cam’s character.

What perhaps made it funnier was the fact that he was pretty enough to be in any of those bands.

See, this is an instance that could use some explaining: how is Cam pretending to not know boy bands made funnier by him being attractive? Is it funny that someone who looks like he could be in a boy band wouldn’t know them, or is it funny that he would?

Zade and Cam chat about how overwhelming it is to meet hundreds of people at once, and about how everyone’s names are shortened to a single syllable. Then Mac interrupts this totally necessary and import conversation.

“Ahem.” Cam and I both looked up to see Mac standing directly in front of us, holding a clipboard pressed against his stomach. He still looked angry and bothered for reasons I had yet to figure out. I looked at him with my eyes narrowed and he puckered his lips together in a manner that resembled a very fake smile.

  1. Zade still hasn’t connected Mac’s confusion about her trick and his frustration at her lack of safety gear to his attitude towards her.
  2. Lani’s description of a “very fake smile” includes puckered lips. I have never, ever seen someone pucker their lips in an attempt to smile. I think that smiling and lip-puckering are kind of opposites.

Maybe Mac was coming in for a kiss?

And then Mac rudely tells Cam to go away. Zade will not stand for such injustice:

I wanted to ask him if it had been absolutely necessary to be so rude,

But decides, “nah”.

but figured Cam was a big boy who could stick up for himself.

Zade gets sidetracked by Mac’s appearance again, and honestly Lani is so preoccupied with all the characters’ hotness levels that it’s a little bit worrisome. That, combined with “everyone goes around sizing each other up all the time” makes me think that Lani Sarem is kind of superficial.

As annoyed as I was, I couldn’t help but notice how piercing Mac’s deep hazel eyes were when he looked at me, despite the anger that was engulfing him. Cam stood up, looking a little confused. I could tell he wasn’t accustomed to Mac acting that way, confirming that Mac’s odd behavior was related to me.

The World Revolves Around Zade count: 5. Mac is so uncharacteristically grouchy because of Zade that the people who know him are surprised.

Mac continues to confuse Cam with how cranky he is, and, after a quick word to Zade about looking forward to working with her, Cam leaves.

Now that the two are alone, we can get started on some raw, uncensored compulsory love-interests-hate-each other dynamic that every romcom ever uses.

“Hopefully I wasn’t interrupting something important,” Mac said, with no attempt at feigning actual sincerity. I could tell he didn’t care that he had interrupted, or that he had been rude.

“Just kindness.” I responded. I don’t think he expected my answer to be truthful, and he looked taken aback.

SICK BURN ZADE. Mac can’t handle her realness. Or maybe he’s just surprised that this complete nobody who randomly showed up is acting so unprofessional towards the technical director of a world-famous show.

Mac makes the reasonable request that Zade shows him how her trick works, so that they can make sure she doesn’t die.

He calls her act a “trick”, by the way. Zade knows he’s trying to offend her, because it’s not a trick; it’s an illusion. A trick is something whores do for money, or cocaine.

Or, as Zade puts it:

It’s sort of like telling someone who had just won an Olympic gold medal and was proudly wearing it around their neck, that their necklace was cute.

First of all, it’s hilarious to me that Zade is getting offended by the fact that Mac doesn’t call her act an illusion. Zade did not perform an illusion. To use Zade’s analogy, Mac calling Zade’s act a trick is like telling someone who has just cheated their way to a gold medal (and was proudly wearing it around their neck) that their necklace is cute.

What Zade’s behavior actually reminds me of most is, coincidentally, Lani Sarem’s behavior when her book was taken off the bestseller list, because she got there via dishonest means and reacted with anger when called out on it.

If this were written by a better author, I think that this would actually be an interesting situation. A character who lies and gets offended when the lies are not wholly accepted definitely has issues that might be worth exploring.

Zade won’t take any of Mac’s (totally reasonable) attitude.

I stood up slowly and calculated, looking him square in the eye, which probably surprised him a bit, since he was at least six feet tall[. . .] I half smiled and slowly spoke, “Maybe you misunderstood. I don’t show anyone how it’s done. That wasn’t just for the audition. I handle this illusion on my own.”

No matter how good Zade’s trick is, this would be a serious red flag. She’s aggressively confronting the show’s technical director on what isn’t even her first day, and refusing to comply with completely reasonable requests. Again, if a good writer wrote this book, Zade would be an unreliable narrator with delusions of grandeur.

“Listen, lady, I don’t know who else you worked for, but we don’t do that Lone Ranger stuff around here. I’m the technical director and in charge of everyone’s safety, no matter how stupid you want to be. You do what I say, and I keep your pretty self from getting hurt. Got it?” I’m fairly certain he growled at me as he spoke.

Does anyone else think Mac talks like an old-timey sheriff?

Mac has said literally nothing unreasonable. Even implying that she’s stupid is reasonable. And he thinks she’s pretty!

Myriad thoughts ran through my head and I’m pretty sure several seconds passed in silence as we stared each other down. I could feel my hands tightening into fists. I really did want to punch him. I could see it happening. I’m not strong by any means but I’m also not a wimp. I wouldn’t have broken anything, but he would have been bruised and sore. I quickly ran through the possible outcomes of punching the technical director on my first day of work. It didn’t really seem to be the best idea.

Holy shit. Zade becomes violent when someone tells her she can’t do whatever the fuck she wants. She seriously considers punching her supervisor, but thankfully, she wisely remembers that it’s probably not unwise to attack her supervisor.

I’ve excerpted so much here because it really has to be read to be believed. This is the work of Lani Sarem, who ripped off another artist’s work for her novel’s cover art, and whose book got to the top of the NY Times bestseller list through shady system-gaming. When asked for an statement, she said something about the YA book community being hostile, and denied any wrongdoing. Then when you read her novel, it’s completely unedited, and obviously crafted so that she can play the lead in the movie adaptation. The character is the center of everyone’s universe, makes hot girls jealous, is the insta-favorite of nearly everyone, but has no respect for superiors and has violent impulses when questioned. It’s honestly a little bit disturbing.

Zade and Mac continue their confrontation. Zade leans in closer, and she imagines that any onlookers might think she’s about to kiss him, which I think is supposed to make the scene have more ~sexual tension~. She tells him that she doesn’t think he’s listening to her. He calls her “lady” again, tells her she needs her ears cleaned because she’s not listening either. He turns to walk away.

I grabbed him by the shoulder, stopping him in his tracks and swinging him around to face me. My face had flushed and I’d raised my voice to a full yell. “And you need to get some manners. I’m not showing you how it’s done, okay? If we have a problem I can go to another show where the technical director doesn’t have a God complex. I’m not a girl who needs a knight in shining armor.” I was practically snarling at him.

I keep trying to think of non-ablest ways to describe Zade’s behavior, and I can’t. She’s psychotic, by which I mean that she has delusions of grandeur and has completely lost her temper on the first day of her new job because the tech guy asked her for information about her dangerous act. She is not in-touch with reality.

She also accused him of having a God complex immediately after threatening to quit and find another show because he wants to know how her act works. She’s horrible. And I can’t even figure out why she said that she doesn’t need a knight in shining armor; it had nothing to do with anything.

Mac gritted his teeth and looked like he might hit me, but I knew that wasn’t really an option for him. Guys like him didn’t hit women, no matter how mad we made them.

How does Zade know this? What are “guys like him?” And the way the next bit is phrased,  it sounds as though Zade takes the fact that Mac won’t hit her as a permission to be as awful as she wants.

He laughed loudly. “Ha! Good luck finding a Technical Director who will treat you like the princess you clearly think you are. If I found you locked in a tower, I promise I’d leave you there.”

I agree with Mac. He is the only character who is believable at this point, despite the fact that his dialogue is horrible.

Mac tells Riley, who’s been hanging around awkwardly while this goes on, to go get Charles Spellman. A crowd of people have arrived to see the drama, and Zade uses 112 words to tell us about one of the audience members, who is a girl with red hair. I honestly cannot tell if she’s significant, or if Lani’s just trying to inflate her word count.

Zade tells us her face is red.

I was angry and embarrassed to be so shaken up in front of everyone.

At least she has the decency to feel embarassed? But then she quickly shifts the blame to Mac.

Mac could have at least tried to talk to me in private; not in front of people I didn’t even know yet.

I don’t know if it’s intentional (and my guess is that it’s not) but this is an excellent look into the mind of a narcissist. She feels embarrassed by the attention she attracted by picking a fight with the technical director, but then she quickly redirects her anger toward Mac, because he had the audacity to ask her a quick question about her act in front of other people.

I was back in his face, stern and loud. “Look. It was part of my deal, end of story. I didn’t know Joffrey Baratheon worked here now.” I wondered if Mac even watched Game of Thrones, but hoped he would get my reference to the child king from the first two seasons who acted like, well, a child given power he didn’t deserve or know how to handle.

Holy projection! Zade thinks Mac is the one being childish!

And thank you Lani: once again, you think your audience needs to be spoonfed everything. Also, as a huge fan of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, Joffrey is in the first four seasons.

Zade admits to herself that she doesn’t know if Mac is actually a spoiled brat, and also admits to herself that she “might have been over-reacting”. But we can’t be self-aware for long, because she instantly justifies her behavior by saying that she needs to protect her secret at any cost.

You think she would have thought about that before her audition, but nope.

Zade turns around to leave, but just then, Charles Spellman arrives on the scene.

 I didn’t even really see him walk out but I felt his presence—he is definitely that kind of man. He had quite possibly been standing behind the curtain this whole time we had been arguing, just listening.

Doesn’t Zade drive home the point that Charles is absurdly busy? But of course she would think that he’s been watching her, because she is the center of the universe. The count is now at 6, just because Zade said it was “quite” possible that he had been hiding and listening to her.

I had wanted to look professional and put together and I instead ended up looking like a five-year-old child throwing a temper tantrum. It’s not even technically my first day yet and I’ve already made this huge fool of myself

Hey, that’s what I’ve been saying! Zade is 24, you guys. Lani Sarem is 35. How on earth does she think that this situation is believable, or that Zade can come out looking like anything except the real asshole?

Zade worries that Charles will fire her, which, well duh.

Everyone in the theater is staring at Charles, Mac, and Zade. Charles approaches Zade, and does this:

He reached his hand out and pulled up my chin. I hate it when people do that. My mother does that to me, too. I finally allowed my eyes to look up and straight into his eyes. He gazed directly at me for what felt like ten years.

That’s creepy. And sounds significant. What could it mean?

But then he turns to Mac, and tells him that before Zade auditioned, she could have total secrecy about how her tricks work.

Silly Mac, of course Zade is in the right: she’s the protagonist! It sure was nice of Charles to let him know. That being said, no, Zade is not in the right in any way. Couldn’t she have told Mac that Charles agreed to letting her keep her act secret, instead of flying into a rage?

Mac protests, correctly, that not knowing how Zade’s trick works is a huge liability and probably an OSHA violation.

Creepy Zeb agrees with Mac, which makes Charles consider things for a moment, before he arrives at a solution: Zade will tell Charles how it’s done, and no one else. Zade considers this for a moment:

Finally, I mustered the words, “Sure. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. But only you.” My words were soft, but I looked directly at Charles when I said the “only you” part.

I’m not sure why Lani specified that Zade looked directly at Charles while she was speaking to him, because that’s usually what you do when you talk to people. It makes sense, though, if you assume that Lani has never interacted with a real person before.

Charles dismisses everyone, by saying that and invites Zade to his office. But before they leave, Charles says one more thing:

“See, children? We can all play in the sandbox at the same time.”

Which is essentially telling people to compromise. Which is ironic, for reasons that will soon become clear.

“Mac, please talk to Zeb and Beth about how we are integrating Zade’s act into the show.” He started to turn, but paused mid-motion. “Oh, and we are cutting the Dance Illusion.”

Sofia looks irate. This is because the Dance Illusion is her act, as she reminds Charles.

I could tell that she didn’t intimidate him. Everything was always on his terms, including his relationships. I doubt the word “compromise” was in his vocabulary.

Charles=Christian Grey CONFIRMED. And of course his employee/younger girlfriend doesn’t intimidate him. If you don’t understad why, google “What are power dynamics and how do they work”.

And remember how it was ironic that Charles just defused the situation by telling people to compromise? Zade seems to have forgotten all about that, and now makes the assumption that the concept is foreign to him.

Zade and Charles go to his office, and Zade is thankful to get away, and finally, they’re alone:

Charles told me to sit down. I did so, slowly feeling my heart pound again and my chest tighten. I swallowed hard. He was facing the wall, but he spoke deliberately. “Well, my dear. Tell me everything.”

I don’t know what the implication here is. Is he pissed at her for causing a scene? Does he know she used real magic? Are they about to fuck?

But that’s how the chapter ends, so come back next time to find out!



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