Previously: Bitchy Sofia hit on Mac, who rejected her. Mac asked Zade to go scuba diving, and accidentally said a sex joke. Tad made fun of Mac for refusing to admit that he’s into Zade.
We start a few days after the last chapter ends, and Zade is camping with the cast/crew. She says she likes the outdoors, and that she has no survival skills. She says she should have put up her tent right away, but procrastinated and went swimming until it was nighttime, and now she has to set up her tend in the dark.
She’s been struggling for fourty-five minutes, and even though she knows she could ask for help, she can’t because of her pride. She struggles for a few more paragraphs, but then baby Riley shows up and offers to help. She declines, and he wanders off.
Zade tells us that she can see the stars out here, which you can’t do in Vegas, and we get a quick explanation of how light pollution works:
Apparently, moonlight and large glittery casinos drown out all but the brightest stars.
If Zade had been feeling insecure about her place in the Charles Spellman Show pecking order, I would interpret this to mean that now that she’s out with her friends, she feels more accepted. But she’s never expressed any insecurity except about having her magical secret discovered, so I think it’s just meant to be a little fun fact about Las Vegas.
Zade looks at the stars and thinks about how much she likes them, which makes her think of a quote she likes:
“[A] star is a huge flaming ball of gas. . . . [T]hat is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.” What we are made of and what we are, are not there same.
Maybe the point of this bit about light pollution and stars is saying that in Vegas, she’s this huge star because of what she can do, and therefore, she overshadows the rest of the cast and crew. But now that they’re all out here, she can interact with them as equals: Out here, everyone gets to “shine.” And then the quote about being more than the sum of your parts means that in all Zade’s fame, she feels like she’s been reduced to a spectacle, and out here, she gets to be her true self.
It wouldn’t actually be a bad bit of symbolism if we had been given any evidence that Zade was anything less than 100% happy with her life, or shown any sort of inequality between the cast members and the crew.
People also think Vegas is hot all the time, but it is a desert, so at night it cools down pretty quickly and the air at our campsite almost had a brisk chill to it. I was happy to be out here feeling like I belonged even a little bit, though I was nervous. A group of the crew were sitting around the campfire. Most of them were drinking beer, and a few were cooking.
Again, if I’m reading this correctly, Zade is saying that even though you might think being a star in Vegas is super awesome and fun, it can get lonely if you don’t have a group of friends (symbolized by saying that Vegas is hot by day but cool at night). Now Zade is out here with friends, but she’s still trying to keep to herself (the campsite has a bit of a chill), even though everyone else is hanging out together (being warm by the campfire). Again, this isn’t a bad metaphor, except for the fact that Zade’s been shown to be super popular and hasn’t had any problems with anyone except Sofia.
But maybe this is because Zade is an unreliable narrator, and she intentionally leaves out any scenario where she comes out looking anything less than the best person ever.
I might have literally just hallucinated that, because rather than realizing that she should accept Riley’s offer to help:
I wished I had a guy. If I had been dating someone, anyone, then he would have also been sleeping in the tent with me–and therefore helping me put it together. Not that I couldn’t do it by myself, but I liked the idea of having someone to do things with. Things like this and other things. I was fiercely independent but that doesn’t mean I always want to do things alone.
Maybe Zade, like Mac, is in denial about what she wants. She wants friends, but as soon as she realizes she has the chance to develop supportive platonic relationships, she instantly re-directs her thoughts towards wishing she had a boyfriend. Just as Mac doesn’t allow himself to admit he’s into Zade because that would put him at risk for rejection, she can’t admit to herself that she wants friends, because doing so would put her at risk of becoming dependent on other for help (rather than remaining “fiercely independent”).
Again, the only problem is that we’ve been shown nothing about Zade having any issues with intimacy.
Zade’s solution to the problem?
I looked around one more time to make sure I wasn’t in sight of anyone. I rubbed my hands together and thought hard about the tent rising and assembling itself. I waved my hands in elliptical motions, replaying that image in my mind. In a few seconds, my tent had risen by itself and was sitting securely on its own.
Her magic is literal hand-waving. There’s some symbolism there, too, but I won’t go too far into it. Now that she’s done with her tent, she goes to join everyone else at the campfire:
When I reached the campfire I noticed Jackson and Zeb sitting next to each other talking. They were sitting close enough to the fire that the warm glow reflected off of Jackson’s face making him look almost angelic. For a split second, though, Zeb’s face somehow made him look just a tad. . .evil.
In case you’ve forgotten, Zeb is the red-haired assistant magician and close friend to Charles, and he appears to dislike Zade. Since I’ve speculated that Zeb actually is magic/knows about magic, Jackson’s apparent closeness to Zeb makes me speculate that perhaps he also knows about magic. Or maybe he’s been enchanted by Zeb to seduce Zade: both times he and Zade have interacted, he’s laid his obvious attraction to her on pretty thick, to the point that it’s suspicious.
[Spoilers: if any of this is the case, it’s not revealed in this book.]
When Jackson sees Zade, he scoots over to make room for her, and Zeb looks grumpy and gets up to leave.
Zade asks Jackson why Zeb doesn’t like her. Before answering, Jackson gets super close to Zade
“It’s not that he doesn’t like you. He’s just used to cast and crew kind of coming and going, so he waits to warm up to people. He’ll come around eventually. And, in my experience, when he does, he’s awesome. He’s brilliant and will become your favorite person. It just takes time with him.
This is my theory: Zeb is the leader of a rival magical faction. Jackson is a member of that faction.
To any aspiring author, I am going to use this novel as a case study about how even an incredibly shitty, inane, meandering book that was adapted from screenplay which was written for the author to star in could have been interesting with enough editing and reworking.
Anyway: Jackson changes the subject.
“Do you like camping? Are you an outdoorsy kind of girl? I mean. . .I kinda thought your tent was going to take you down in the fourth round.”
Is he implying he knew she used magic?
If he was, it goes straight over Zade’s head:
I thought about his question for a moment. I wouldn’t ever have labeled myself as such but I guess to a certain extent, yes, I was an “outdoorsy type” girl.
If you probably wouldn’t have labeled yourself “outdoorsy,” you probably aren’t. It’s OK to not be outdoorsy.
Zade says that it’s nice to be out camping, and Jackson wonders if she’s sick of the theater already. Zade says this isn’t what she meant, and says that she loves both being in the theater and being out camping.
Jackson asks her where she’s from, and she takes a moment to be nostalgic for Tennesee. And then, we get yet more evidence that Jackson is perhaps more than he seems:
Jackson seemed to be reading my mind, his comment and question were exactly in line with what I had been thinking. “That’s a ways away. You miss it?”
Jackson is a mind-reader CONFIRMED?
So Zade says that she kind of does, but says that she knows that if she didn’t get out soon, she’d never leave. Jackson says he understands, and Zade talks more about missing her mom.
She also thinks:
I did miss her. We hadn’t really talked since I had left. I knew she didn’t like that I was in Vegas–and I was sure she didn’t really want to hear any stories about the show that she wasn’t happy I was out here working for, so I didn’t have much to say.
Jesus christ that’s an awkward sentence.
Jackson says he understands, and they laugh. Then, Zade sees Mac:
He looked a little upset as he crossed on the other side of the fire and walked away. I couldn’t help but wonder why. He stayed close enough to where he could see us and therefore we could see him, which was also curious.
Maybe because he invited you and you’re ignoring him for another guy? God damn, Zade is thick.
Zade sees Tad come up to Mac, and the two exchange a few words that we don’t get to overhear. I choose to believe that they were talking about Tad’s home life. Then one of Jackson’s bandmates comes up to talk to Jackson, leaving Zade free to go talk to Mac.
Zade isn’t used to seeing Mac outside of his black uniform, so we get a lengthy description of what Mac’s wearing, which is jeans and a plaid flannel shirt over an undershirt:
In the south those types of undershirts are often called “wife beaters.” It’s a horrible name for anything really but especially a shirt.
Good point, Zade!
And then she keeps talking about Mac’s oufit. Her verdict:
. . .I liked his style a lot. He looked somewhat like a hipster, but a hipster that could actually hunt and do other manly things most hipsters don’t know how to do.
Just in case that sounds a bit too rugged, Zade clarifies that Mac doesn’t have a beard:
A manly hipster without a beard though, thankfully. I was not a fan of beards, and I had come to like it most when Mac had just shaved–though in the light from the fire he appeared to have a five o’clock shadow, and that was also nice.
You know what? I’m really grateful that we got these awful descriptions because I was so close to thinking that Lani Sarem might have had a bit more going on in this book than I’d originally thought.
Mac and Zade flirt for a bit, and Zade hopes that Mac doesn’t hate her, until Riley comes up and tells them that they have to see something.
He pointed at Sofia and another performer, Mel, who were walking toward the tree Mac and I had been posted up on.
Uh-oh! Looks like there’s about to be some drama! Mac and Riley bolt, leaving Zade to face Sofia.
I was still caught up in that feeling of surprise when Sofia reached me and put her arm around me. Mel, who was probably Sofia’s closest friend, flanked me on the other side. I had no idea why they had cornered me, but Sofia’s grip on my shoulder told me she wasn’t going to let go of me easy. It was awkward right away, and for a few moments no one said anything, perhaps they were waiting for Mac and Riley to be out of earshot.
Sofia tells Zade that she’s wasting her time. She says that she’s seen Zade flirting with Mac, and Mel tells Zade that Mac has a rule of never dating performers.
While Mel spoke, her head shook from side to side. It made me wonder if she had anything inside of it, of it it just kind of bobbled around with empty space.
Fuckin’ savage. I’d be outraged at Zade’s bitchiness but I’ve just spent several thousand words insulting her, so I’ll let her have this one.
Zade tells them that she’s not trying to date Mac, or anyone, but Sofia calls BS:
“Look, we get it[. . .]We both tried to tame that rugged exterior at one point, and if we couldn’t reak him, then don’t think you’ll change him either.
So basically, the entire purpose of this confrontation is for Sofia to tell Zade that Zade is better than her and Mel, making this The World Revolves Around Zade Part 14. Zade gets pissed, and tells them that if she were into Mac, she’d have better luck that either of them. She’s pleased with herself, and thinks:
Zade: one; stupid girls: zero.
I feel like this is Lani Sarem telling the audience what they ought to be thinking.
Mel asks Zade if she thinks she’s hotter than her and Sofia. Zade answers with the maturity of maybe like an 18-year-old?
“Physically?[. . .]No, not a chance. You’re both far more beautiful than I am, if we’re talking about the outside. But have you ever bothered to see what you look like on the inside? There’s this song called ‘Ugly Girl’ that I swear is about both of you. I’ll play it for you sometime.”
Remember, this is coming from Zade, who bitched out Mac on her first day for no reason, constantly assesses the attractiveness of everyone around her, tunes out what other people are saying to look at herself, and re-wrote history to make Sofia look worse than she actually is that time she almost fell to her death.
She’s also really, really self-centered:
Sometimes I wished I could be the star in my own movie so at moments like that the song I was thinking of (in this case by the band 100 Monkeys) could start playing.
Oh, we know.
Also, just so you know, 100 Monkeys is the name of Jackson Rathbone’s band.
And all of a sudden, we shift into Third Person Italics so we can watch the aftermath of Zade’s devastating attack in real time:
Mel asks Sofia why she even cares that Mac doesn’t want to date her:
“Why do you care anyway, Sof? So he wouldn’t go out with you. He’s a tech. He’s the king of the techs, I guess, but I only tried to sleep with him ’cause I’ll sleep with anyone that’s cute.”
Mel’s an honest and self-aware person. Good for her.
Sofia knew that Mel had only gone along with the gang-up on Zade because she ask asked her to; Mel didn’t really care if Zade went after Mac or not.
And, Mel is a good and true friend friend!
Sofia tells her that she doesn’t want Mac and Zade to start dating because that will make her get even more attention.
Sofia was resentful of being upstaged in the theater she had claimed as her own. She was bitter and angry and it showed even in the falling darkness.
The World Revolves Around Zade part 15!
Mel may be honest and loyal, but she’s not very bright:
“So . . . Wait . . . Do you mean that this is ‘if I can’t have him no one can?’ You wouldn’t rather be with Mac than Charles, would you? You’d be crazy if that’s the case. Sure, he’s cute and all, but C.S. . . . Well . . . You want to give up the red carpet for stage blacks?”
That’s not even remotely related to what Sofia just said. Sofia said she didn’t want Zade to get more attention. She did not say that she cared if Mac dated anyone other than Zade, or that she wanted to break up with Charles to be with Mac.
But maybe Mel just wasn’t paying attention:
Mel had lost all interest in the whole thing and really wanted to go back to flirting with the newly single performer, Parker, who she had her eye on this week.
Mel is now my favorite character because she is literally the only person who thinks about things other than Zade. You go, Mel. Live your own life.
We learn that Jackson’s been listening in on their conversation:
Sofia and Mel hadn’t even noticed that he had been there listening to the whole thing, as they had been too intent on harassing Zade.
Of fucking course he had. He walks over to them so that they can be insulted one more time before the chapter ends:
“If it matters, I don’t agree with her. I think she’s much hotter on the outside, as well as the inside.” Jackson tipped his beer bottle at them and walked away.
Oh. This chapter was going so well, until Mac showed up. I have been thoroughly convinced that any interesting symbolism or subtext I’d found was completely unintentional.