Will is a generally happy guy. Oh, sure, he’s just been passed over for a plum promotion because of his obsession with disproving occult frauds, and he hasn’t had a steady relationship since his high school sweetheart Caitlyn broke it off with him a couple of years ago, but he’s got a job that he really loves, and great friends that he has known since high school. So when the invite comes to attend his reunion, it’s pretty much a no brainer. It’s a good chance to see the couple of friends that he doesn’t already see on a regular basis, like Mike, who he confirms will be in attendance as well. Only when he reaches the reunion, Mike is nowhere to be found, and further investigation reveals that Mike won’t be showing at all – he can’t, actually, as he has been dead for years. Since high school, actually. And that is not the only change that happens over the course of the reunion. Will finds his memories shifting, being replaced by new ones as the happy lives of himself and his friends are changed , seemingly in the past. In order to figure out what exactly is causing these changes, Will will have to confront incidents in his original past that have been buried for years, and finally acknowledge a secret that he had hoped would never see the light of day.
I will say right away that I loved the premise of this, but was almost instantly put off by three things – all of which happened before I’d reached the halfway point.
1. The cutesy spelling of nearly every single female name. Caitlyn, Ashleigh. Lara. Lolly. Lolly, for fuck’s sake. This wouldn’t have bothered me if all of the men’s names weren’t so wholesome and generic in comparison. Will. Danny. Brian. Mike. Not one bit of cutesy there. To me it just seemed like in the author’s mind female and attractive must equal cutesy name. The one name that was as strong as the male names (Ruth) belonged to a female that was described in unflattering terms. This make me twitch.
2. Every cutely named female was “omg so hot”.
3. Sometimes, when a group of people meets someone new, they don’t quite know how to include the new person into their conversation, especially at an event like a class reunion where the whole point is reminiscing about a past that this new person has no part in. This discomfort might make it easier for the “in” group to stick with the people they know. It’s unlovely, but it is true. In such cases, a bridge might be needed to help the group adjust. In this scenario, helping to create that bridge is a good thing. What isn’t a good thing, however, is when the male protagonist feels that he needs to teach the little wimminz how to be nice to each other, with a heavy dose of condescending “there, there, little lady, the man’ll fix it for you” thrown in for good measure. Actual quote when the O, So Awesome Will Gets Them Girlz Talking: ”My work here is done”. Oh, fuck you, Will.
So, admittedly, my opinions might be a little…colored by those things. I am fully willing to admit that my irritation with the first bit of the book did not leave me heading into the rest of it with fuzzy feelings. But I was also willing to entertain the idea that things might improve. Mostly I was suckered in because the plot had caught my interest and imagination. I was intrigued enough to keep going, despite misgivings. And then, I found out who was screwing with Will’s life, and why. And lo and behold, the full on RAEG hit. Why, you ask? *rolls up sleeves* After this, there will be many, many spoilers. And anger.
Okay. Revenge is a dish best served cold, yadda yadda. I get that, I even agree with it to a certain extent, because revenge gained hardly ever turns out to be as satisfying as you think. Fine. But when a book’s argument is that “the bitch (yes, bitch, because it is a female who is causing all the problems, donchya know) deserved what she got, and yeah, it was kind of screwed up, but not nearly as screwed up as what she’s doing to me”, it – and the author – have lost all ground with me. So Will and his little friend Brian decided to punish Brian’s little sister for daring to be mean to them, and as a result she winds up in traction, later with a permanent limp. This understandably makes her furious, and she takes her revenge. In my personal opinion, neither of them are right in their actions, but I’m more inclined to sympathize with sis, because not only are these stupid little boys basically punishing her for being a fucking sibling, the book actually paints it as entirely her fault for being such a heinous bitch to the boys. Actual quote no. two: “…something inside Dori (another cutesy name, fuck me) Schnell had always been rotten”. Me: Oh, so that makes it perfectly okay that you screwed with her, huh? How about she WAS A FREAKING TEENAGER WHO MIGHT HAVE GROWN OUT OF HER ATTITUDE HAD YOU TWO SHITS NOT GOTTEN YOUR COLLECTIVE PANTIES IN A BUNCH AND DECIDED TO PUNISH HER! Oh, but you didn’t really do anything too bad, right? Because like all women everywhere, she totes brought it on herself, right?
Of course, there was also the “we didn’t mean for anything bad to happen, not really, so we’re excused, while you’re still a cunt” defense.
*breathes* Okay, look. I could take that hate combined with dark magic or whatever twisted the girl and fucked up her head, making her perform some really nasty “revenge” on those boys and the people closest to them. I can understand that it was not the boys’ original intention to have her get hit by a truck. I could even buy that in the heat of the moment, with the embarrassment that a younger girl managed to make them look like pathetic little dweebs still raw and stinging, that the two made a dumb choice. One that they regretted, even without all the revenge plots. But what I cannot stomach – what I will not abide – is the book’s attempts to make it sound like the girl brought it all on herself from the get go. This disgusting attempt to exonerate the boys for their pure assholish behavior makes me want to throw up, and because of this, I most emphatically did not enjoy the “happy ending”, where every male involved, including the fucking would-be rapist, gets off scott-free while the girl winds up destroyed. Oh, the book goes off about consequences, and in the end our second boy winds up ill and dying, but our Main Man never pays a price at all. In fact, at the end he has the job he wanted in the beginning, a great connection with a new love interest, and nearly all of his friends alive and happy. Way to tell a tale of totally unearned and undeserved prosperity, Golden. What’s worse is that I loved his Myth Hunters trilogy, and now I am afraid to read it again for fear of finding this rampant misogyny buried in the pages.
In short, fuck this book.