Previously on Handbook for Mortals: Everyone flirts with Zade, except a couple of bitter meanypants named Sofia and Mel, who are jealous that everyone flirts with Zade.
We open with a long explanation of the magic show’s rehearsal schedule, and none of it matters so if you want to learn more about the gritty realities of working on a Vegas show, you’ll have to buy the book.
We also learn about how understudies work:
Everyone also needs to have a backup in case they get hurt or need to go to a wedding or gets sick or something, so we rehearse not only our own parts but also each of us has to know several other roles so we can shift around and cover for almost anyone—or a combination of anyones.
The obvious implication of this is that Zade also needs an understudy, which makes sense and would provide some interesting conflict related to Zade’s powers. Maybe it will even drive the plot forward!
But you’ve probably already noticed that whenever I make predictions that sound optimistic, it’s inevitably a set-up for a banal non-sequitur. I apologize if it’s getting old, but it is an accurate representation of what it’s like to read this novel.
So, as you probably guessed, that potential problem is never touched upon, and instead we enter with a scene of BabyTech Riley and Zade hanging out during what is presumably a rehearsal. Zade says that she thinks of Riley as a little brother, and wishes he were her brother, but:
I had never wanted to be an only child, but it’s not like that’s something you get to decide.
(this never comes up again and is irrelevant). (Unless maybe he ends up being her secret half-brother in a future book)? (That will probably not happen).
So Zade asks Riley if she can ask him a question:
“Of course I’ll marry you!” Riley laughed, hugging me. I laughed along with him and returned the hug before shoving him away playfully.
For those of you keeping track, this is yet another instance where Riley behaves similarly to Denny from The Room.
Zade’s question is why Mac doesn’t date performers. Riley teases her about having a crush, and Zade says that she’s just curious.
“Ah, Well I am sure you know what happened to the cat?” Riley laughed before continuing. “That curiosity could get you in trouble,” he teased, and then paused for a moment like he was considering whether he should answer my question.
That’s right, the secret of why Mac won’t date performers is so dark that it’s dangerous to know. Either that, or Riley’s just being creepy for no reason.
Riley tells Zade that when Mac was new, he fell in love with a performer named Clara Faust. Mac and Clara had sex, and then Mac thought that meant they were in a relationship, but Clara was just being slutty. Riley also says:
“I’ve heard Clara’s a terrible person–she makes Sofie look like Mother Teresa.”
If you’re wondering if this is setting up Clara’s return, it’s not. She’s mentioned in passing few more times, but never makes an appearance in this book.
Zade notices that Riley hasn’t given a very detailed version of the story:
I wondered if Riley was giving me a paraphrased version because that’s all he knew, or because he only wanted me to know part of the story.
Such Intrigue! It also never comes up again!
Zade thinks that she can’t imagine Mac in love with someone like Sofia, and that Mac in love is probably intense. Zade says that she’s never been in love, even though she’s had crushes and stuff.
The scene ends. That night, Zade says that the shows go by quickly, and is surprised that she doesn’t interact with Mac at all. This is, Zade speculates, because he was working during the day on maintenance stuff.
At the end of the night, while Zade is clocking out, he and Tad appear. It is never answered where Mac was, but I guess it’s not important. They walk behind her as she leaves the building, and talk to each other. Then Jackson NotRathbone and his band pals Tom and Mike are with him. Jackson comes up to Zade and puts his arm around her,
Jackson asks Zade if she’s still going to come see his show tomorrow. Zade recalls that he’d asked her earlier that day, and we learn that he talked to her about the trio’s original band who do original songs.
That band’s name?
“Oh, yeah, Plain White T’s, right?” I hoped I had gotten the name of the band right.
JACKSON NOTRATHBONE IS THE LEAD SINGER OF THE PLAIN WHITE T’S??????
(In case you don’t want to click on the link, the “Plain White T’s” are the real, actual band that is famous for “Hey There Delilah.”)
This means that Lani Sarem made her character based on real-person Jackson Rathbone, frontman of the band “100 Monkeys,” be the lead singer of real-band “Plain White T’s”. Lani Sarem has worked with both bands in real life. This is just really weird, and I’m not sure if it’s even legal? This book is baffling. It’s worse than Twilight, and I think it’s also worse that 50 Shades of Grey. It’s almost a thing of beauty.
So Jackson, Tad, and Zade banter about whether she’ll turn up. Tad says he and Mac will also be there and Jackson flirts with her in front of Mac, etc. After this, bandmates Mike and Tom get into a bright-blue jeep. They say they need to go rehearse:
Jackson turned to me. “Night Zade. See you tomorrow.[. . .]I’ll buy you a drink.” His eyes sparked again, and I was beginning to think he could do that on cue.
I really hope Jackson is revealed to be a plant/have ulterior motives someday. It’s not the case in this installment, but it does seem like Lani’s trying to set up stuff for future books, and Jackson has routinely been too good to be true.
Jackson kisses Zade on the cheek and drives off. She, Mac, and Tad arrive at where Zade has parked her “bike”. Tad points out that Jackson’s just asked her out, and also compliments her on her motorcycle:
“Nice crotch rocket. I think you get more awesome every time I see you. You might be the coolest chick I know, next to my wife.”
Tad leaves Mac and Zade, and heads home. Mac asks Zade what her plans are, and she says she doesn’t have any. Mac asks her if she wants to ride motorcycles with him, and she agrees.
TLDR: They ride around Las Vegas for half and hour. It starts to rain. They pull over. They flirt.
They start kissing for a bit, and Mac is a good kisser. It’s all very romantic, I guess.
Zade asks Mac about his rule of not dating performers, but he’s all, “lol, whatever.”
They kiss some more.
They continue to kiss, and the scene ends.
THE NEXT DAY:
Zade goes to the Fashion Show Mall because she needs to look hot for her double-date:
Mac and Jackson would both be there and as much as my ride in the rain had confused me, I knew at the least I needed to show up looking as desirable as possible.
I get wanting to look good, but she already knows that both of these guys are really into her. They’re the ones who need to compete for her, no? Isn’t that, like, basic economics?
A week earlier I had had no prospects as far as dates went and suddenly I sort of had two.
I don’t think that Lani wants us to take Zade at her word that she hadn’t had any dating prospects. If Lani was trying to be subtle about how much everyone wanted to get with Zade, she was not very successful.
Zade takes some time to think about how hard it is to choose, but then decides that’s too hard, and thinks about clothing some more. She talks to a pretty, cheerful sales associate named Maggie, who gives her feedback on her outfits. This process takes a while. Finally, Maggie grabs another couple of dresses, and Zade goes for a form-fitting dark blue one. As you might expect, this little montage takes forever to play out, and we get a complete analysis of all the ways her dress could be worn.
As Zade checks out, Maggie asks her about what the dress is for, and we get a recap of Zade’s love triangle situation. It also going on forever.
“Be sure to come back and let me know what happens!” she called from behind the register.
I chuckled. “Okay, I will.” I wasn’t sure how much she was really into my life drama but I probably would come back into the store[. . .]and so if she remembered me maybe then I would tell her what happened.
Maggies intense interest in Zade’s love life is part 15 of The World Revolves around Zade, before I forget.
Zade continues shopping, and buys some more clothing:
A couple pairs of nice Levi’s denim jeans and the matching denim jacket.
Denim on denim? noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
But then, the best, possibly most bizarre thing in this book happens:
As I was made my way up through the main section of the mall, I saw two vaguely familiar-looking figures walking towards me.[. . .] When they were nearly in front of me, I laughed aloud: of course they were familiar. Carrot Top and Wayne Newton grinned when they saw me, and I couldn’t help but let a smile spread across my own face as I stopped to greet them.
ZADE IS PALS WITH CARROT TOP AND WAYNE NEWTON. We get no explanation of how she met them, or when; all we get is them greeting each other like old friends. I guess it’s because The World Revolves Around Zade (#16).
“Hey guys,” I said, still chuckling. “I have to say you two are the last people I would think I’d see walking through a mall together.
For those of you who don’t know, Carrot Top is a comedian with lots of red hair, and Wayne Newton is a singer who was popular in the 70’s. Both are b-list celebrities who have shows in Las Vegas. If you google Lani Sarem’s instagram, she has photos taken with Carrot Top, so I guess she thought he’d be down for a cameo in her film that’s totally getting made.
So why are those two walking through the mall?
“We just had to do a charity event here today,” Wayne said, shrugging. “We just finished.”
A charity event at. . .the mall? In the middle of the day? With Carrot Top and Wayne Newton? I’m going to assume that Lani’s being meta and the “charity event” is them agreeing to show up in this novel.
“You guys coming to the premiere in a few weeks?” I asked [. . .]
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Wayne said, and I detected genuineness in his voice. “Besides, you know Scott will show up anywhere with a red carpet.”
The premiere? We’ve been told nothing about a premiere, but apparently it’s common knowledge among the residents of Las Vegas.
Also, Zade wonders who Scott is. Carrot Top answers:
“My mom didn’t name me ‘Carrot Top,’ you know”
Zade’s mind is blown by this, but she manages to pull herself together enough to compliment him on winning Comedian of the Decade.
“Thanks,” he said.”Come by the Luxor and see me anytime.”
“I will,” I said gratefully. “Well, it was great seeing you both! Later.” I gave each of them a quick hug before walking away.
The Luxor is a hotel in Las Vegas. I only know this because I went to Vegas a few months ago. Fun fact: you can, in fact, see Carrot Top perform there.
Zade says she’s “shopped out,” so she decides to go home and get ready for her date(s). When she gets out of the mall, she realize she’s forgotten where she parked her car, so she takes a moment to try and remember. It’s not very productive, though:
My mind can drift quickly and all of a sudden I had forgotten about my car and had started worrying again about Jackson and Mac. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t see a very odd-looking girl walking directly up to me until she had stopped in front of me, blocking my light.
That sounds like maybe it’s a neurological issue. I’m a very distractable person, and I don’t think I’ve ever stopped what I was doing and zoned out that hard. Maybe it’s implying there’s some mind-control magic going on? I kind of doubt it.
So, this girl is fun. She’s another anime character:
“I know what you are,” she said in a low but confident tone.
I frowned at her, confused. “Excuse me?”
“I know what you are Do you?”
We get a brief description of the girl: she has sharp cheekbones and “striking features” and “radiates strangeness.” Zade asks her what she means.
The girl laughed, a nasty-sounding cackle. “No,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Not what you do. I know what you are.”
I’m not sure if “sarcasm” is how I’d describe that, but OK.
Zade is still confused, and starts backing away from the evil witch girl. But the witch girl keeps talking:
“You know why guys fawn over you and some girls can’t stand you?[. . .] Even mortals can sense your power.”
Why does Zade’s power make other girls hate her? Why does it make only men fawn over her? Is this supposed to explain why the world revolves around Zade?
Also, is Zade immortal? If she is, it’s never explained what this is exactly supposed to mean.
The weird witch girl asks Zade if she even knows how powerful she is. Zade finally asks her what’s going on.
“That’s not for you to know, yet. You will know when it’s time. Until then, though, I’d love to test your power.”
So maybe this isn’t anime, but a video game cutscene. Because the Strange Girl goes to the other side of the parking lot. When Zade asks her what she means, she says:
“This.” She raised her hands to her head and closed her eyes. She was silent for a moment, and then thrust her hands toward me.
[and the battle music begins. Be sure to have plenty of health and magika potions on-hand, because this is the
first only real fight of the game].
Zade goes flying, crashing into the side of the mall,
Strange Girl is clearly having fun:
“Come on, girl! Show me what you can do!” she yelled–something like a mix of anger and glee in her voice.
“Stop it!” I winced. It hurt even to get the words out.
After Mel, I think Strange Girl is my favorite character. She’s such a cliche but she’s just so much fun. I hope Lani can find someone to play this completely straight. Especially when juxtaposed with the Carrot Top/Wayne Newton scene, I think that this will push the movie from bad-but-eh to so-bad-it’s-good.
So Zade is magically pinned to the wall, but she finally gets up the strength to fight back. She brings her hands together, and pushes them towards Strange Girl. This makes a ton of colored sparks appear, and Strange Girl slams into another wall. Both fall to the ground, and stand up. Strange girl laughs.
Strange girl is apparently pleased by Zade’s attack, and says that they will meet again (they don’t).
She turned her back toward me. A bright orange Lamborghini, gleaming in the dying sunlight, pulled up to the side of the garage where she was standing. The girl stepped in through the passenger side door. The windows were tinted so I couldn’t see the driver, and they sped off before I could get a better look at the plate.
Were there any witnesses? It’s late in the afternoon, and no one else is leaving the mall? Didn’t a charity event just finish up? I’m pretty sure that it’s meant to be hand-waved with “magic.”
Right as the orange lambo pulls away, though, who should arrive on the scene but Lil, the chatty costume designer from Chapter 3?
Lil gives Zade a hug, and says that Zade looks shaken. Zade asks if Lil saw anything unusual as she approached, but Lil says she did not, and asks why.
I waved a hand as if batting a fly. “No. Never mind. Sorry, I’m just . . . out of it—malls do that to me. I gotta run. I gotta . . . get to . . . uh . . . need to get to . . . Sally Beauty Supply . . . and get some colors for my hair before they close! See you later!”
I’m sure that using a trip to Sally Beauty Supply as an excuse to run is meant to be comedic, and credit where credit’s due, it’s kind of actually funny to me.
Zade hurries off.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl in the not-so-subtle Lambo.
(implying there is such a thing as a subtle Lamborghini).
Who was she? How did she know my name? Why did she attack me?
And, most importantly, how did she know about my magick?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that all of those questions probably have the just about the same answer.
And that’s how the chapter ends.
Next time on Handbook for Mortals:
Zade goes on her date with Mac and Jackson, and wonders if they actually like her, or if it’s just her power they’re attracted to. Zade also begins to investigate the girl in the Lambo, and becomes suspicious of Creepy Zeb and Charles. loljk, Zade goes on a date and can’t decide who she likes more.