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The Ninja Reader

High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.

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Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self
Laura Martocci
Storm - Brigid Kemmerer I don't know what to write here. I know I usually start my reviews that way and then churn out essays the length of my arm, but honestly, this book is a paradox: Because I really, really liked it. And yet I didn't.It's not the idea. It's not the execution. The concept - of four brothers with an affinity to the elements struggling to survive in a world that is hostile to them, is fantastic. The writing is great - the dialogue zings and I often found myself really cheering the characters on. They're neither badly drawn or not fleshed out enough - I really rooted for Becca, and Hunter, and Chris.I do think, however, that much like Red Glove, this book suffers from stretching itself thin. Let me try to explain: within the first handful of chapters, we're presented with a lot of conflicts. We have Becca struggling with the aftermath of a horrible experience and the fallout when her ex spreads lies about her. We have Chris struggling with his powers, and dealing with his loneliness born out of the fact that he's the youngest sibling. We have Michael trying to raise three unruly siblings, while also deflecting the community's attempts to chase them out. We have Becca's relationship with her absent father who suddenly makes a re-appearance. We have Quinn's conflict with her own mom. And THEN we have the surface plot, which is that someone is trying to kill the Merrick brothers.I wouldn't mind those things, but, like I said, this book tries to tackle so many things and it's only 353 pages long. It simply does not have the room to expand on all of them, and give the charaters satisfactory growth while keeping the hunting plot in the front of everyone's minds. You might say it's because this is the first book of a quartet, but from what I can tell, each book focuses on a different brother - I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that Chris and Becca have a satisfactory character arc.Which they don't. Or Chris doesn't, at the least. While the Merrick brothers didn't impress me overall, Becca's characterization wasd almost painfully realistic. See, after her boyfriend got her drunk at a party, he and his friends almost gang-raped her. The only thing that stopped them was that she threw up, and they decided to ditch her. Drew then goes on to spread rumours that she actually had sex with them, in the hopes of destroying Becca's reputation, because he was afraid of losing a scholarship. Becca struggles with those things, because she thought she started it, and thought it was her fault. The issues she deals with are things a lot of women are faced with, and her ultimate resolution is a satisfactory one.However, I am less impressed with the Merrick brothers. Early on in the book, Gabriel, one of Chris' older brothers, and who has a reputation as a player himself, tells Chris to stay away from Becca, because she has "played around the block", which is to imply that she's somehow evil. Michael, upon learning that Chris got into trouble after defending Becca from being sexually harrassed, tells him that she's not worth it. Guys? This here? Don't do it!Because you know what, even if Becca had slept around, that wouldn't detract anything from her character. Who she slept with is none of your goddamn business, and treating her like trash for something you think she did makes you no better than those assholes feeling her up and giving her dirty little notes.And no, I also don't think the way that particular subplot is solved is very satisfying. Because you know what Gabriel does when Becca, in a moment of pure feminine badassery, punches him and tells him exactly what happened? He goes up to Drew and beats him up. Chris? He gets indignated that the teacher thinks he was harrassing Becca, when another jerk in their class was torturing her all September.In the immortal words of Anna Mardoll, "Do not appropriate a victim's experience for yourself!" It's not cute. It's not hot. It doesn't make them the bigger person. Gabriel doesn't lash out on Drew because he suddenly understands and respcts Becca, not after 200 or so pages of calling her an evil slut. He lashes out because it's the only thing that makes sense to him. He, and his brothers, don't ultimately learn something from that.Chris, for his part, is better than his brothers in that he gives Becca a chance, but even he tends to act irrational and jealous. And, honestly, the ending? I thought it was a cop-out. Because the person Becca spent the most time with, the person she had the best chemistry with, is not Chris, but Hunter. I know the book is meant to be about Chris. And I know he's meant to be with Becca. But their relationship, in my opinion, wasn't set up well. Hunter was kind and supportive. He helped Becca out, taught her how to fight, made her feel better about herself and DIDN'T JUDGE HER ON A SECOND-HAND RUMOUR! In fact, Hunter gets more character growth in here than any of the Merrick brothers. In comparison, the last scene with Becca and Chris just felt like it came out of nowhere.I don't think this is a bad book. It's not offensive, it's not badly written. I devoured it in one night, before an exam, when I should have known better and slept. It's compulsively readable, and interesting.But it needs work.