Handbook for Mortals: Book 2 of the series Excerpt

Chapter 2

When Aunt Aldyth incinerated the entirety of the wedding venue giving several guests third-degree burns, questions naturally arose. What was responsible for the sudden gathering of clouds and weirdly synchronized lightning? Who was the oddly dressed man holding hands with Charles’ wife and surprise daughter, and what were they chanting? What happened to the Plain White T’s? Did Carrot Top and  Wayne Newton plan on showing up in matching t-shirts with my face emblazoned on them, or was it a coincidence?

The investigation began right away. Some fans speculated that Carrot Top and Wayne Newton were both trying to woo me, and because the two were such good friends they naturally had similar strategies of how to go about it. Others argued that it was meant as a show of solidarity regarding my recent accident involving an illusion gone wrong. Some people thought that the shirts weren’t actually identical, saying that while one of the shirts did depict me, the other actually featured my mother’s face, and therefore no fashion faux pas had been committed.

I hadn’t had a chance to ask them about it yet, but I knew I probably should at some point.

Oh, and we solved the freaky magic weather thing by wiping the mortals’ memories and fixing the trees with magic.

The next day, I had to take my mother and Charles to the airport so they could leave for their honeymoon. They would be staying at some fancy resort in the South Pacific, on some tiny island no one has ever heard of. If it were up to me, I would have sent them on a vacation to the Moana-themed Disney resort in Hawaii because I just really love that movie. When Mac and I get married, maybe we’ll honeymoon there! But Mac hates Disney movies, and sun. And singing. And a lot of things, really. But before you think something like “Wow, this Mac person sure sounds like a sad sack,” or “this could be a sign of major incompatibility between you two,” I would like to point out that people can change. Especially when they’re in a relationship with a super powerful witch.

“Zade!” yelled my mother as a car honked its horn at me.

“What?” I said. In the rearview mirror, I could see a car screeching to a halt. It would have hit me if it had been going any faster.

“That light was red!” my mom said, shocked.

“I know. That driver could have killed us all.” I could still see the car in the rear-view mirror, and suddenly it burst into flames.

“No, Zade, you ran the light.”

Had I? It was true that I’d been a little distracted, but wouldn’t you be too if you’d just been told you were the Chosen One prophesied a millennium ago? And had a boyfriend who didn’t like a lot of the same stuff as you? But I would have noticed if the light was red. I’d never run a red light before, even when I wasn’t paying very close attention. .

“I don’t think I did,” I said.

“Zade, your mother is right,” said Charles, who was sitting in the back seat. He’d been quiet for most of the drive. “The light was red. Don’t look so sad, I’m not trying to malign your driving abilities—oh no” he said as I took a sharp left turn into the airport. “It’s just, well, we could have called a limousine service.”

Sometimes even I forget how out-of-touch Charles is with the average person that he can afford to just throw around money on a limousine, even when he has a daughter who’s happy to drive him. Besides, I wanted to drive him. Most people may take doing normal stuff like driving your parents to the airport for their honeymoon for granted, but, well, that’s just something I’ve never had the chance to do.

“But we’re a family now. Maybe if you hadn’t abandoned Mom, we would already have plenty of normal family experiences. But I have twenty-five years of lost time to make up for, and we’re starting now,” I said as I swerved the car up against the white curb, and then hit the breaks hard. Charles gave a little groan of agreement, and then we all sat there in silence for a moment. I could feel my parents’ happiness at being reunited, and at having a daughter who was so supportive and helpful. But then they both got out of the car. I did too.

“Bye, Mom,” I said, after we’d unloaded their luggage from the trunk. I hugged her for a few seconds, and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. Then I turned to Charles, and threw my arms around him.

This, right here, was what I’d always wanted. He held me delicately in his strong arms, and nothing had ever felt so natural. This was the “normal” I’d been looking for when I’d moved out to Vegas. Until now, I had been like a traveler lost in the desert, parched and dying of thirst. Charles was an oasis in the middle of the Mojave, and I drank up every drop of his love like a life-sustaining elixir.

“Not too tight, Zade. I’m feeling a bit queasy.”

I pressed my face into his shoulder. The light fleece sweater he wore was so soft that I almost couldn’t feel it at all, even as I rubbed my cheek against it. I inhaled deeply.  He smelled aftershave and a rich, woody cologne.

“Zade, we need to check our luggage and the line is getting long,” my mom said.

Charles reluctantly pushed me off on him so he could look directly into my eyes.

“I love you,” I told him. “I love you so, so much.”

“I know.” It wasn’t like Charles to make pop-culture references, and I didn’t even think he’d seen Star Wars. But, I realized, he must have watched them all after learning they were some of my favorites!

I was so touched that I went to pull him into another quick hug, but he’d already turned towards my mom and the two of them were already rushing into the check-in area.

“And I love you, mom,” I called to her. “Have a good flight!”

After they were gone, I got back into my car. and had the GPS map a course to Mac’s apartment. Our relationship had been official for a month now, even though we’d been casually dating for the past six. I should probably get him a monthiversery gift, now that I thought about it.

As I merged onto the freeway, I pulled out my cell phone and texted Sofia.

Hey girlie 😊 I know we haven’t talked since my welcome home party. How’s your role in Cirque Du Soliel going? If the benefits are better over there, maybe I’ll join up too! J/k 😝 Anyway, I was just texting to ask if you remembered what cologne Charles wears? And we should totally hang out sometime! Love ya! Byeeeeeeeee ❤ ❤

Save the Pearls: Chapter 21 (Or, Is Eden actually a psychopath?)

Previously on Save the Pearls: Eden was released from her Prison Hut by Lorenzo, after insulting his culture’s cuisine. She was then escorted to her dad’s new lab, where he and Bramford were discussing the permanence of Bramford’s transition. Since Bramford cannot reverse his cat-hood, he wishes to lose his humanity altogether and become a fully cat/snake/birdguy.

The chapter opens as Eden is hears an extremely loud screech, and she worries that the FFP have chased them down. Bramford starts to . . . go Super Saiyan?

She watched in amazement as Bramford’s body began to pulse. His eyes flared and the predator in him sprang to life.


Bramford leaps out of the building, and catmans off into the jungle. Eden “goes weak in the knees” at this display of raw power and jaguariness. (BEAST count: 23).

Eden’s dad limps over, and informs us that the screeching is just a howler monkey (and of course he has to work the howler monkey’s scientific name into this, because that’s what biologists do?) and tells us that they’re the loudest land animal in the world. Eden, being Eden, simply complains that it’s giving her a headache. Dr. Dad says he thinks that Bramford’s catching it for dinner.

Again, a big cat’s growl pierced the air, followed by a painful squeal. Eden quivered as she pictured Bramford, lusty for the kill, ripping into the howler.

OK, so I know I’ve been lowkey kink shaming Victoria Foyt for the majority of this readthrough, but, like, I hope I’ve made it clear that it’s the racial fetishization and the heavy eroticization of interpersonal violence in a novel aimed at teenagers that I really have a problem with.

But now I’m wondering: is Eden supposed to be legitimately psychopathic? I don’t mean that as a slur. Eden is literally being turned on by the thought of someone violently killing an animal. I am officially kink shaming. Who the fuck writes stuff like this and attaches their actual name to it?  (oh also BEAST count: 24)

But anyway, Eden’s dad is proud of his creation, and says “that’s my boy.” I hope he isn’t getting turned on by this too, but I no longer am going to give Foyt the benefit of the doubt.

But then Dr. Dad notices that Eden isn’t wearing any Blackface, and scolds her. Eden tells him that it washed off in the river, and then her dad scolds her some more and tells her it’s a good thing Bramford was there to save her. In response to this, Eden thinks,

Yeah, lucky me.

And I honestly don’t know if I’m supposed to read that as sarcastic or not. Flip a coin. It doesn’t matter.

But now we transition into another little flashback from when Eden was little. She remembers seeing her mother and father dancing to a “forbidden” jazzy song praising an attractive white woman. Eden remembers her father complimenting on how pretty her mother’s blue eyes were. She also remembers that they weren’t wearing blackface, which they made her promise to keep a secret.

Then the flashback is over. Eden gets angry, and asks her father why he messed with nature:

“Mother was right. [. . .] It was wrong to twist Bramford into this savage creature.” Who’s so exciting and yet, so infuriating.

I’m guessing that last bit was added so that the audience is reassured that Eden isn’t actually judging Bramford too hard.

Eden and her dad argue about what her mother thought about Dr. Dad’s work, which of course ends with Eden in tears. She charges out of the Lab-hut, runs through the village, and throws herself into the town’s “watering hole.” While she wallows, she thinks about Bramford and how he seemed to truly “see” her, and how nice he was to cuddle with, etc. Then of course she has to list some animals and their scientific names, and I swear to fucking god this scene happens every chapter. Finally, she flips back to being giddy, as she splashes some water on her face.

At this point, Bramford has returned with dinner. Eden hides behind a tree as she watches him, and thinks he looks smugger and more confident than ever. She thinks derisively that he didn’t need any more arrogance, but also that she wants him more than ever.

As Eden approaches him, he pointedly does not look at her. This, apparently, warrants some abuse:

For Earth’s sake, why didn’t the beast look at her? Shaking, Eden raised a hand to slap him.

Why?!?!?! What the fuck is wrong with this girl? Does she need some more opiate-withdrawal-relieving acai berries or something?

Bramford turns towards Eden before she can slap him, though, and she drops her arm. Then he tells her that the monkey is not ready to be eaten.

Eden wrinkled her nose. “I won’t eat that,” she said, aiming to hurt him with her words. “I’m not an animal.”

Good. I hope she starves to death.

Bramford feels similarly, telling her that if she were an animal, she’d be less trouble. Which is true.

She swept past him with a frustrated huff. Pins and needles stabbed her chest. She could barely see through her anger. She slipped on a pile of Brazil nuts and fell onto a log.

At this point, I’m not even sure if Foyt herself likes Eden. Bramford “smirks” at her misfortune, which I really cannot blame him for. Eden’s father also shows up, and gives her a judgey look as well.

While Eden is still lying on the ground (I think?) she notices that Maria and Lorenzo seem to be close:

Eden understood they were mates, although neither wore a white mark on their foreheads. Of course, with no pressure to mate, why bother marking one’s status?

  1. Does it occur to Eden that such a display of being taken will vary between cultures, and therefore she has no idea if the two are somehow signalling their hypothetical commitment?
  2. What does “pressure to mate” have to do with such displays? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “in a community where everyone knows everyone else and their relationship status, wouldn’t signalling information like that be redundant?”
  3. I really don’t know what deep observation about the flaws of today’s society Foyt thinks she’s making. Is she saying that there’s too much pressure on people to get married? I really don’t get it.

Eden also noticed a peculiar glow that the couple shared. Could it possibly be evidence of love? Perhaps, she thought with growing excitement, remnants of it still existed in this untainted corner of the world.

And can we just take a moment to remember how fucking infatuated Eden was with Jamal back in the earlier chapters? She called him her “Dark Prince.” She thought romantic thoughts about how he could see the “real Eden.” If Foyt wanted Eden to be such a love-skeptic, shouldn’t Eden only been focused on Jamal’s utility rather than having her get all giddy over him whenever she saw him? This whole “what are these strange feelings” theme is rendered completely null and void by the fact that we already know that Eden knows she’s capable of these feelings. It’s stupid.

And as Eden is still maybe on the ground from her nut accident, she also watches some little girls playing. Lorenzo tells her that they’re his daughters, and Eden is shocked that they have multiple children.

Then, another Huaorani dude, who is introduced as Lorenzo’s brother Charlie, arrives on the scene. . .and he’s carrying Eden’s lost backpack! She desperately hopes that the LIfe Band is still in there, and Charlie sits down next to her.

Then Eden sees a woman breastfeeding a child, and is repulsed:

Eden couldn’t stand the emotions any longer. The soft looks between the couples, the nakedness, and the girls’ relentless laughter–it was all too much. Dizzy, she lurched towards the girls.

The girls start screaming about Rebecca again, and as Maria scolds them, Charlie tries to distract them with the backpack. They run away to a hut, and Charlie sets the backpack down. Eden tries to grab it, but then I guess the girls are back? Because they grab it instead.

I hope they lead her to a cliff and she falls to her death.

But that doesn’t happen: the girls must have grabbed a wooden carving in the three seconds they were gone, because one of them gives a small carving to Charlie.

Dr. Dad explains that this is a Huaorani custom: a gift for a gift. Eden wonders who did the carving, and thinks out loud that there must be someone in that particular hut. Bramford tells her that she shouldn’t think about it, but of course this has the opposite effect.

Now Eden was sure someone or something hid there. If she discovered the truth, she might gain leverage over him. Her legs worked like pistons as she hurried towards it.

She keeps running, and calls out for Rebecca, thinking she must be in the hut. Bramford chases her, and as he grabs her, she passes out.

And that’s the end of this pointless chapter

Save the Pearls: Chapter 20 (Or, Never go full BEAST MODE)


Previously, on Save the Peals: Eden and Bramford arrived at a Huaorani village. When two young Huaorani girls saw Eden, they repeated the name “Rebecca” way too many times, prompting Eden to ask Bramford WTF they’re talking about. After escalating to accusations of violence, Bramford throws Eden into a dilapidated prison hut. Eden decides that she will remain calm and collected in an attempt to “tame him”.

Continue reading “Save the Pearls: Chapter 20 (Or, Never go full BEAST MODE)”

Handbook for Mortals: Takeaways from Idobe Interview with Lani Sarem

So Lani Sarem did an interview with Idobi Network, an Internet radio station last night. The only reason I listened to it was because I checked her twitter and it was happening in like five minutes, and I had nothing better to do than listen along. In my defense, it’s been a while since we’ve heard any developments on the HfM movie front, and I was thirsty for answers.

EDIT: To listen to the interview yourself, click HERE

1: Lani is going HARD on the #feminism thing

Right off the bat, the interviewer asked Lani about her history as a creative person, and, unsurprisingly, she brought up her history as an amateur screenwriter. As you probably know, Lani Sarem began writing her own screenplays (in which she would naturally cast herself as the lead) at the age of 11. However, instead of saying “why wait for someone to write a role for me” as she did in her ThreeGeeks interview, this time, she said something about how even at the age of 11 she knew there weren’t a lot of great roles for women, and therefore wanted to write her own:

My dream and desire as a child was to make movies and I began writing scripts at 11 because I knew that there weren’t a lot of great female roles. As an 11 year old, way before this was like a bog topic of discussion, so that’s why I started writing scripts (3:48)

Later, while talking about the production of the film that is supposedly actually happening (color me skeptical), the interviewer followed up on Lani’s assertion that there would be a female director by asking if there were any directors officially attached to the project.

The official answer is. . . No. This movie does not yet have anyone attached. They are, however, “in talks” with a few female directors, one of whom, according to Lani, has directed a female-led movie in a franchise before. No names were specifically mentioned.

But Lani is super psyched about her #feminist movie, say something along the lines of

“When have we had a brand-new project with a female character? Probably Hunger Games.

I don’t have the interview on-hand, so I don’t know if that’s an exact quote as of yet. I wrote it down as she said it. It was in the context of how Wonder Woman just came out, but Wonder Woman’s been around forever. What I love about this bit though is that it shows how narrow Lani’s cultural radar is. The first Hunger Games film came out in 2012. Since then we have had three female-led Star Wars, a female-led Pixar film, Hidden Figures, HBO’s Big Little LiesWestworld, and the last two seasons of Game of Thrones have been really fucking big on Stronk Empowered Wimmin. Lady Bird has been nominated for best picture, as has Three Billboards(. . .). There was Atomic Blonde, and then this year we’ve got Ava DuVernay doing A Wrinkle in Time (GET HYPE). Not all of these were feminist works. I didn’t even like all of them. And I’m not even saying that women have reached equal representation in film. My point is just that having a female lead isn’t exactly novel.

2: Fun Fact: The Plain White T’s were originally 100 Monkeys

And this is how we ended up with Jackson Rathbone as the lead vocalist in the Plain White T’s:

Originally (as I FUCKING CALLED), Jackson was not a significant character. In fact, Jackson was initially ACTUALLY JACKSON RATHBONE.

You see, originally, Jackson Rathbone and his band 100 Monkeys were imagined to have a cameo role in Lani’s screenplay. Then, I guess when Lani went on to manage the Plain White T’s, she changed the cameo band to that. I guess Jackson had a minor role, though, so Jackson Rathbone was kept in. BUT THEN the Love Triangle was introduced (again, as I FUCKING CALLED) and that must be when Jackson Rathbone became Jackson Milsap. She didn’t even bother changing his first name:

If I’m gonna write a script, why shouldn’t I—originally I’d written it kinda a small cameo idea, and then really like the idea of—originally it was less of a love triangle and then just kinda really liked the idea of—once you start writing, characters kind of have a life of their own, so as I kept writing and writing they kind of became their own sorta characters. And then actually when the band became no longer 100 Monkeys I had changed that character’s name from Jackson and then just really changed it a couple times and then realized that his name was Jackson, that this character was supposed to be Jackson, so I changed it back. So at that point it wasn’t really related to Jackson Rathbone at all anymore. (9:03)


When the interviewer asked if the Plain White T’s would have a cameo in the film, Lani replied that she thinks so, barring “scheduling conflicts.” (7:57)

3: We got to hear a defense of the cover art plagiarism

Finally, someone asked her about the conspicuous similarity of HfM’s cover art to Gill Del-Mace’s The Knifethrower. 

Lani’s rationalization:

“We didn’t do anything illegal”

According to Lani, she had the idea of a girl sitting in front of a “death wheel” and thought that Del-Mace’s piece looked better than other reference images she could give to her artist (or something?). She talked about how there are only so many ways for someone to sit on a stool (or something) and about a heuristic for figuring out if you’re veering too close to plagiarism (make a list of similarities and differences, if there are more differences than similarities you’re good? Something like that), and how she’s talked to lawyers and they’ve all given her the OK. Then she said something about it being an intentional homage. She also said something about how comic book artists rip each other off all the time, so yeah.

She also said that she doesn’t think anyone would have cared if the book hadn’t gotten such negative attention.

4: More of the same misrepresentation of her critics

So we’ve all heard Lani’s many retorts to her detractors. Basically, she doesn’t think that any of her critics have ever read her book. Or they’re specifically looking for reasons not to like it. Or they’re getting bent out-of-shape about a few typos here and there. And there are people who hate Twilight and 50 Shades, but those are still massively successful franchises.

Oh, but

“I get fan mail from girls about how they love Zade and want to be her!”


She also talked about the Facebook writer’s group drama, making it seem like people were looking down on her for having written HfM as a screenplay first, rather than, you know, publishing a book with zero redeeming qualities as a stepping stone to movie stardom:

I noticed sometimes that even in writer’s groups—I’m a part of one writer’s group on Facebook and there’s like 75000 members—and you know we all talk about our projects sometimes and I was talking about my project, and somebody got really angry and was like “SHE’S JUST A SCRIPT WRITER! She doesn’t belong in here” and the admin was like “this is for any kind of writers. We don’t care what you write. (11:50)

5: Babby’s first demarcation problem

As you may remember, there has been controversy over exactly what genre HfM falls under. Is it Young Adult? Is it New Adult? What is “Young Adult,” anyway? Is it “New Adult” if the most salacious it gets is a knee-popping kiss and the language puts it at a weak PG? Lani and the interviewer seem thoroughly perplexed. It’s kind of cute. It’s like watching people become postmodern Cultural Marxists in real time. Maybe one day we’ll get Lani Sarem’s woke views on how gender is a social construct.

Basically, Lani argues that the NYT classified it as Young Adult, but in her heart of hearts, she agrees. She talked about how, like, age of the character is super arbitrary. And like, if age of the protagonists defines the target audience, then isn’t Pixar’s Up for senior citizens? (Fun fact:  According to someone who went to her “How I Navigated the NYT Bestseller List panel at Agile Writer’s Conference,” she touched on this there as well. )

I’m not going to argue the point that genre is a horribly imprecise, ill-defined taxonomy. I’m fairly sure that anyone who has done much reading has thought about genre and how arbitrary it is, so it’s kind of funny to hear someone wrestling with it for the first time.

That was everything vaguely interesting from this interview. There was a lot of victim-complex-ing on display, and the only way anyone could ever hate her book is because they were prejudiced from the start, etc. She did a lot of rationalization about how people bought the books at cons because the just love Thomas Ian Nichols so much (I’d literally never heard of him before this drama started). But we’ve heard all that before.


Save the Pearls: Chapter 19 (Or, El Tigre es bienvenido a esta casa)

Previously on Save the Pearls: Eden rode on Bramford’s shoulders while he ran back to his Huaorani friends. Nothing happened except more awkward eroticism and hostility between our leads.

So Chapter 19 begins a few hours after where chapter 18 left off. Eden is super tired. But not too tired to recall the obscure scientific names of jungle-dwelling fauna, as she hears the call of the great tinamou, or Tinamus Major:

It was a nocturnal bird, which meant twenty-four hours had passed since she had left home.

Good god. First, I’d like to point out that Eden could have been able to tell that it was nearing sundown by the fact that the sun would be going down, thus altering the light and everything. Second, it’s been only 24 hours? Eden says that it feels more like a lifetime, and I have to agree. Maybe it’s because I took a couple month-long hiatuses (hiati?) but it does feel like it should have been more than that.

But fortunately for Eden, she and Bramford appear to be approaching a settlement, because he finds a small path. This leads to a small clearing, and Eden is able to witness her first sunset. She waxes poetic about how it’s beautiful, and it makes her feel “humbled by its perfection, though not in a submissive way”?

Because if something so beautiful existed in the world, the maybe some part of her also held such beauty

I’d talk about how that makes no sense, but Eden’s delirious so whatever. I’ll let her have this one.

But then, a “young Indian woman” appears! Eden is delighted, thinks that it’s a “lucky coincidence,” and hopes that she’ll get some water and food soon.

The woman greets them by saying “hola.” If you’ll remember, this Amazonian tribe speaks Spanish fluently.

Hola, Maria,” Bramford replied.”

So not only do they speak Spanish; they also have Spanish names! The most stereotypical Spanish names possible!

Maria wore the distinctive bowl-shaped haircut of the Huaorani. A strip of bark-like cloth hung around her wide hips. Her headdress of bright feathers and yellow Oncidium orchids seemed to contrast with her plain voice and mild demeanor.

I don’t know what the fuck the Huaorani wear, but I feel like if they’re speaking Spanish and giving their kids Spanish names, they’re probably not wearing traditional headresses and “bark-like” cloth.

“El Tigre es bienvenido a esta casa”

Which means “The Tiger is welcome in our house” if you don’t know literally any Spanish and don’t feel like googling. Again, if you recall, the Huaorani think that Bramford is the long-awaited Jaguar Man of Aztec legend (none of which makes any sense at all). Bramford thanks her, but then Maria looks uncomfortable when she sees Eden.

If you’ve been missing a plot, well, now we kind of get one! Eden thinks it’s because she’s not wearing her Blackface makeup. But as Maria leads her and Bramford through a gate and onto a “orderly compound”, Bramford begins to  head towards the largest hut.

So Bramford has been here before. Eden thinks he seems familiar with the compound, and is amazed that he hasn’t slapped his name on everything. Eden surveys the rest of the huts: one has no door that she can see, and another looks run-down and overgrown with weeds. She wonders if it’s a prison, and gets all anxious.

But then two little girls (“naked, but for the flowers in their hair”) run out to greet them. A parrot flies after them, and Eden is shocked that it might be a pet. They say hi to Bramford, who says hi back, and then Maria tells them that he’s El Tigre. This excites them.

But then the girls see Eden, and the plot thickens:

“Rebecca,” the older one said, the color draining from her face.


Oh, and Eden is still on Bramford’s shoulders at this point. She feels him get tense.

The little girls say “Rebecca” again, and Eden wonders what it could mean.

Did they mean her? Was it the native name for some white-skinned animal? Whatever the reason, Eden understood that she terrified them. Not beastly Bramford. Just the ugly Pearl.

Because *everything* is about race with Eden. I get that she’s been an oppressed underclass all her life, but jesus fuck, she can’t go a pages without saying something self-loathing.

The girls say “Rebecca!” over and over, which agitates Bramford. He starts shaking, and then roars. He drops Eden into a vegetable garden. Maria tells off the kids is “a dialect Eden didn’t recognize” which I guess means the Huaorani language *is* a thing that exists in this book? Whatever. The girls keep saying Rebecca, and the parrot squacks, and Bramford keeps roaring.

Eden asks Bramford who Rebecca is. Bramford crouches menacingly, and glares.

The name had struck a neve in him. If she said it again, he might make her pay. He might grab her with those big, rough hands and pin her down.

Wow. It sure sounds like that’s something she’d like to avoid.

But Eden “can’t help herself.”

“For Earth’s sake, Bramford. What did you do to this Rebecca to make the children so afraid?”

Could she possibly ask who Rebecca is in a more inflammatory way? Does Victoria Foyt seriously think that Eden is remotely sympathetic? Who writes this?

“Just as she feared”, Bramford jumps on her, and while you might think this would make her happy, she is not! Instead, she screams in terror. Bramford throws her over his shoulder, and then runs towards the “prison hut”. Eden screams that he can’t do this to her, and Bramford says oh yes he can.  Eden starts hitting Bramford, and says more provocative things:

“Is this where you lock up your victims? You’re an animal, Bramford.”

And, I mean, Bramford hasn’t exactly been the most gentle tour guide, but christ, Eden does not understand de-escalation at all.

Bramford tells her that she’s done enough, and pushes her into the hut. First, though, he throws “a handful of nuts and berries on the floor.” So I guess he was stealthily harvesting them as they ran, or something. I don’t know.

Oh and as an aside, the “prison hut” is supposed to be worn down and overgrown. Wouldn’t you want your holding cell to be well-maintained? God dammit.

But its condition must be good enough, because Bramford locks her into the hut, leaving her to cry for help. Meanwhile, the little girls are still calling out “Rebecca!” over and over.

Just like at the lab, Bramford had confined her to her quarters.

In case you’ve forgotten what Eden’s talking about here, she’s referencing that time she got put on probation at work and was officially not allowed out. If you recall, it was later revealed that Bramford had suspended her for her own good, as she was supposed to be safe at her apartment while FFP drama was going down at the lab. In-book, this took place literally a little bit more than a day ago, so Eden’s memory is actually the worst.

Anyway, Eden keeps thinking about how Bramford’s the beast and how he should be the one locked up, and then she starts to cry for the first time ever. We’re told that even when her mom died she didn’t cry, because she had her Oxy. But then she thinks about how her mom knew about how evil Big Pharma is, and recalls how on her deathbed, her mother refused the Oxy-drip.

We learn that her dying mother’s tears had “embarassed” Eden (isn’t she a peach!). Eden remembers how her father “hadn’t hid his displeasure,” and spent all his time in the lab. I’d like to point out that it’s a completely valid reading to assume that her father was displeased because his wife was dying, and spent his time at the lab trying to discover a cure, but this never occurs to Eden. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to believe her interpretation or not.

We’re still in flashback mode, as Eden remembers her mother smiling despite the pain, and explain how she had hope for the afterlife. Eden’s response was this:

Years earlier, Eden had undergone the mandatory death experience and knew to expect only a calm black void..

Mandatory death experience. If you don’t believe in any sort of afterlife, I’d like to point out that “death experience” is a contradiction, because being dead would be the end of experience, rather than “a calm black void.”

But Eden’s mom is feeling hopeful and expresses it via, you guessed it, an Emily Dickinson poem!

‘Hope is the ting with feathers/ That perches in the soul, /And sings the tune without the words, / And never stops at all.’

Eden doesn’t get it:

Nonsense, Eden now thought, brushing away her tears. For example, to which species of bird did Aunt Emily refer?

*makes CinemaSins ding noise*

OK, so I honestly can’t tell if Eden’s just being stupid on purpose, or if she legitimately doesn’t understand poetry. I’m inclined to assume the former, since she seems to really like most of Emily Dickinson’s poetry to the point where she’s memorized it and uses it to understand her world. So is this supposed to just be a situational rejection of “Aunt Emily?” I’m really confused.

But then Eden starts thinking about Bramford and how sexy he is. She wants him to touch her again, and wants to hear his “sensual purring”.

Could a little bird called hope possibly sing for her?

It’s such a shitty, saccharine line, but if it means that Eden will be less intolerable, I’ll fucking take it. So let’s take bets: will Eden become less antagonistic about towards the people around her? Will she try to be more positive, and make an effort to get along with Bramford better? It sure seems like she wants to make a change somehow.

Also, she realizes that Bramford has magnanimously left her some food, which I assume is the “handful of nuts and berries” he threw on the floor at her a few pages ago.

It suggested that his mind was still more powerful than his raw emotions.

Umm, OK? I would say that it suggests that he’s, you know, still aware that she’s gonna need to eat, but come on. He didn’t exactly pack her a nice little balanced lunch. It seems like he gets pretty emotional, what with the pinning Eden to the ground and throwing her in the Time-Out-Shack.

But for some reason, this makes Eden think that she can use Logic and Reason ™ to “tame the primative creature”.

No matter how wild he became, she would remain cool and objective. She wouldn’t give in to the base emotions that threatened to swamp her logic.

As much as I would love for Eden to experience some character growth, I can say with certainty that the odds that she follows through on this are precisely zero.

And that’s the end of the chapter!


Save the Pearls: Chapter 18 (or, More of the same)

Previously, on Save the Pearls: After being swept away from camp by a river, Eden and Bramford snuggled, then insulted each other, and then Bramford put Eden on his shoulders so she could ride him back to the rest of their party.

So the chapter opens with Eden still perched on top of Bramford:

The mysterious maze of the jungle swallowed Eden into its dark, forbidding folds. Like craggy monsters, an army of trees reached for her.

Which is predictable, since, you know, she is sitting on the shoulders of a hulking 6+ foot tall Catman.

So Eden is all disoriented, but she thinks about how Bramford will protect her since he’s a “mighty predator”, and that makes her feel better. But then she worries out loud that the Huaorani will leave without them, or something. Bramford tells her to STFU because he’s trying to navigate, and she’s surprised he doesn’t know the way back exactly. When she expresses this, Bramford replies like this:

“Shhh!” He pinched her thigh.

I’m not sure if this is supposed to be the equivalent of the Dog Whisperer’s “Tsch!” or a kinky barely-restrained bit of corporal punishment. Eden yelps in pain, though, and Bramford yells at her to be quiet!

Eden stared at the large hand that gripped her legs and fumed. Some predator.

And this just adds to my confusion. Was the aggressive pinch supposed to be weaksauce or a show of manly dominance? Because it really sounds like Eden is unimpressed.

But Bramford’s pinching game increases after Eden gets some cobwebs stuck in her hair and screams:

Each time she made a noise, Bramford squeezed her again. In return, she groaned. From despair or pleasure, she couldn’t say.

This is seriously the worst road trip game ever.

I guess Eden stops whining though, because next we get a few paragraphs of imagery. Now that Eden’s eyes have adjusted to the dark of the jungle, she sees all sorts of things, including:

Masses of sensuous orchids wrapped their spindly roots around tree trunks. Their passionate colors and exotic smells amazed her.

So, um, yeah. The jungle itself is a virile symbol of fucking.

She also sees some monkeys, and wonders if they’re judging her for being white.

Nothing continues to happen: Eden thinks about how steamy the jungle is (compared to the dry heat of the underground tunnels), and gets all sweaty. As she gets thirsty, Bramford hands her the water gourd, which I think is supposed to show how intuitively connected they are.

At each mysterious croak from the dark recesses, Eden pressed her knees tight against Bramford’s neck. Her fears drove her to cling to him. To her delight, a soft, low murmur rumbled through him. It washed over her, calming her anxiety and yet, arousing her desire.

This is clearly supposed to be hot. If you think it’s hot, well, you do you. But let’s remember that Bramford is charging through the jungle at top-speed, and Eden is SQUEEZING HIS NECK WITH HER THIGHS. It just sounds distracting, and a little bit dangerous. It’s just not the time or place for erotic asphyxiaation.

So then Eden’s all like “why am I feeling this way?” and thinks Bramford is “as mysterious as this jungle.” And she angsts about how can she ever trust anyone again after Jamal’s betrayal?

Some parrots take off, and Eden worries that there’s something lurking nearby. Bramford sniffs the air, and tells her that there’s a storm coming. Eden asks how he knows, and Bramford tells her that the jungle has quieted down and that the temperature has dropped. Then he condescendingly asks Eden if she can feel it. Eden says that she’s not getting data anymore (as she no longer has her life-band).  Bramford’s response to this is really bizarre:

“Before you would have noticed the signs.” [ . . .] “About a million years ago, when you looked something like me.”

  1. First, I just love how Bramford seems to have forgotten that like two days ago, he was also a lowly human living in an underground dystopia city.
  2.  Does Bramford think humans evolved from panther/snake/eagle hybrids?
  3. And  Bramford doesn’t even need to go back a million years to find a time when humans would have been more attuned to nature. I feel like his Huaorani pals would probably be similarly aware of environmental changes, and they’re modern humans.

Eden asks Bramford what he means:

“Like you?”

Even uglier than now? And yet, Bramford wasn’t ugly, was he? He was raw and sexy. Maybe she wouldn’t have looked so bad.

Eden 1mil BC.jpg


Bramford affirms Eden’s inner monologue:

“I bet you would have been one hell of a she-cat.”

Does Victoria Foyt not realize that humans didn’t evolve from jungle cats?

So some lightening flashes overhead, and some thunder rumbles. Eden gets freaked out, which is understandable, when you consider that she’s lived underground for her entire life and has therefore never had to deal with weather.

But no, it’s not the weather itself that’s freaking Eden out:

The lack of weather alerts from her sensors unnerved her.

Did she get weather alerts while living underground? Why? Did the author think literally anything through before typing it out?

So Bramford laughs, and Eden again laments the loss of her Life-Band. Bramford tells her that if she just watches and listens, she won’t need a Life-Band, and that her “basic instincts” can tell her everything she needs to know.

Because reading environmental cues is instinctive, and not learned, or anything.  If you hadn’t noticed, there’s a very strong Noble Savage/anti-technology thing going on in this novel that only gets worse from here.

Eden thinks that Bramford’s  brand-new genome might be giving him a leg up on perceiving small changes in the environment (which, I don’t think she’s wrong there). And then for some reason, she thinks about how Emily Dickinson was a shut-in, which reminds her of a poem:

To make a prairie it takes a clover

and one bee,—

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.

But, Eden tells us, she doesn’t have a very good imagination because of all the Oxy she’s been doing her whole life.

Yeah, I don’t get what any of that has to do with noticing subtle environmental signs.

But Eden starts brainstorming (for some reason), and imagines herself and Bramford as a “half-natural-Pearl, half-beastly-Coal” centaur. This makes her laugh. Bramford asks her what’s funny, and she tells him that he would never understand. Because I guess rich, cultured Black people don’t know standard mythological creatures in this universe?

But so even though Eden tells Bramford that he wouldn’t understand, I guess he actually was supposed to beg her to enlighten him as to what was so funny:

He didn’t even pry. The selfish beast simply dropped the subject and ignored her.

How rude, I guess? You know that if he had asked her to explain what a centaur is, Eden would have complained about how pushy and obnoxious he is.

Eden fumes about how they’re nothing alike at all, but then it begins to rain. This cools her off, but also gives us this unfortunate line:

Soon, her perch grew wet. Bramford caught her waist as soon as she began to slip.

And I’m not even sure if that’s supposed to be innuendo.

So then Eden starts back on the “wow he’s so in-tune with me”  thing (despite having just thought about what a dick he was), and wonders if she can become as in-sync with him as he is with her. For some reason, this makes her want to “run her hands along his face,” and:

She clung to him, pressing her hips against the back of his neck.

So basically she’s just grinding on him right now, which is so, so unattractive to me. But Bramford likes it: he starts breathing harder and stumbles.

At this, Eden offers to walk, thinking he’s getting tired. So much for reading Bramford’s body language, I guess. But then Bramford gets offended, and snaps at her, and the two get back to their adorable dynamic where they insult and accuse one another of ulterior motives. This again escalates to physical roughness: Bramford grabs Eden by the waist, and she raises her hand to slap him. He catches her hand, and tells her that this is his world now and he can see everything.

But the chapter ends, as Eden thinks:

Really? Could he also see her absurd attraction to his beastly self?

I’m fairly sure he can, because she is not subtle about it at all.

And yes, this makes two chapters in a row that are basically just alternating between feeling utter loathing and firey passion without contributing anything to the plot.

Save the Pearls: Chapter 17 (or, just listen to “Hot and Cold” by Katy Perry and that’s basically this chapter)

Previously, on Save the Pearls: Eden ducked away from camp to look for a hidden Life-Band in her backpack, but then some adorable, mischievous monkeys stole the backpack! Eden chased after them and ended up falling off a cliff into a river, but Bramford was able to save the day by carrying her to safety. When the two made it ashore, they cuddled up together for a romantic nap.

Continue reading “Save the Pearls: Chapter 17 (or, just listen to “Hot and Cold” by Katy Perry and that’s basically this chapter)”

Save the Pearls: Chapter 16 (Or, Sexy Slapstick!)

Lol, remember when I said I’d be updating more regularly? I lied. Oh well.

Previously, on Save the Pearls: Eden arrived at a shitty little village where indigenous Amazonian tribespeople speak Spanish. She thought about how rap music heralded humanity’s downfall, and threw a tantrum about the gross food. Her dad was condescending, and Eden sneaked away to check if by some miracle a Life-Band was smuggled into her luggage.

Continue reading “Save the Pearls: Chapter 16 (Or, Sexy Slapstick!)”

Save the Pearls: Chapter 15 (Or, Rap Artists did Climate Change)

Apologies this recap’s delay. Shit in real life got busy.

Previously, on Save the Pearls: The Crew landed in the Amazon, and Bramford was greeted as a Aztec Jaguar Messiah by the Huaorani, who are native to the Amazon. Somehow Eden and her father didn’t spontaneously combust when they stepped into the equatorial sunlight. Now, they’re off to “La Zona Intangibale” which is bafflingly translated to mean “No-Man’s Land.”

Continue reading “Save the Pearls: Chapter 15 (Or, Rap Artists did Climate Change)”