Supervillians with a MESSAGE. Did you hear that MESSAGE yet? (or, Examining BLAZE)
We've all fallen for a supervillian. Because we're Facebook friends (that place is the devil, I swear) and I post these blogs to FB now, my HS supervillian might actually read this. Which is weird. Okay, so we've all fallen for the guy or girl who is not actually a good person. And I'm not talking in that sexy bad boy way. No, like genuinely NOT a good person (at that time. People can change.)
Last night I read BLAZE (OR LOVE IN THE TIME OF SUPERVILLIANS) by Laurie Boyle Crompton. I saw this on the shelf a few weeks ago and thought, "YES. NERD GIRLS." Blaze is a 17 year old nerd. She loves vintage Marvel comics, draws comics, and has comically awkward social skills (oh, Blaze, you're like me, except I was "the horse girl". High school was pre-Marvel days for me, though I read a lot of epic fantasy). Her friends are classic high school girls, hot and cold in their friendships and remarkably short sided. Blaze's best and most consistent friendship is the one she has with her younger brother. She spends her free time driving him and his soccer buds to their practices and games, partially because she has a crush on their super hot coach, Mark.
You see where this is going right?
I'll put a cut down later for spoilers, but essentially, here it comes, nothing that's not in the Goodreads summar: Mark is not a good guy. He takes advantage of Blaze's physical beauty and innocence (and her virginity, I'm going to use those phrases separately, and also I hate calling virginity "innocence"). Blaze's a little immature, even for a girl of her age. She feels younger than she actually is. So as a reader who is significantly older than Blaze, I was ready to reach into the page and rip out Mark's guts and serve them to the feral cats I feed*.
But this is a young adult novel, so things get worse before they get better. So when things go downhill after Mark "gets what he wants", Blaze wants to get even. Her revenge on Mark for dropping off the face of the earth is epic, but ugly, and results in his own retaliation. Blaze is labeled the school slut, Mark's labeled a manwhore, and they're both unhappy. Swirling in the midst of this is Blaze's thoroughly dysfunctional relationship with her well meaning but absent father who is pursuing his own dreams at the expense of his relationship with his children.
For the most part, I liked Blaze. I think that nerdy girls who go to Comic Con, dress up, love superheroes and comics, etc need to be represented more in literature. I think there are awesome things we can learn from comics and Blaze does learn them. Crompton's writing of Blaze was impeccable. Blaze's voice is consistent and spot on. The pacing made me jealous and weak at the knees. I loved the contrast of Mark with Quentin, the Comic Book Guy who likes Blaze's nerdiness and thinks she's gorgeous but isn't into her just because she has boobs and a vagina and he has needs. I think that Quentin was absolutely necessary to save this book from being really cruel to boys.
But there were other parts of Blaze that irritated me and pulled me out of the book. And this is probably the first time on this blog I've blogged about something negative. Usually if I don't like a book, I just don't blog about it (of the 22 books I've read this year, there's only been one that I really just couldn't imagine writing a blog post with anything positive to say, so generally, I love the books I read).
It's not that I didn't LIKE Blaze. It's that I felt the MESSAGE was *heavy handed*. Whenever Blaze needs to learn something, someone ELSE sweeps in to give her the Important Facts or Tools for This Chapter's Life Lesson. Comic Book Guy/Quentin makes her read Johnny Blaze, the comic book character for which she is named.
When she needs to learn how to survive being the School Slut, the other girl labeled a slut appears. She's been mentioned once or twice before, but we've never seen her, so she operates solely as a deux ex machina to deliver the message of "It Won't Get Better, Just Avoid Facebook and Go To College Far Away" which, honestly, doesn't actually seem like a constructive message.
When she is driving to see her father, she's rescued by random roadies who saw her crying while she was driving and want to make sure she gets to the right place safely.
When she finds her father and is at a loss, her brother and his friends arrive to save her with their presence.
I found the message to be really heavy, really obvious, a little preachy, and this whole "people sweep in to save Blaze" thing really obnoxious. I wanted Blaze to save herself. I wanted Blaze to come to her own conclusions. I wanted her to find a damn map and figure out how to get to the Comic Con by herself. I wanted her to do things by herself, for herself, and I never really got that satisfying ending. I guess what I'm saying is that if your message is going to get heavyhanded and preachy, then it should be done with SOLID self-empowerment. I never got that. Instead I felt like BLAZE's message was heavyhanded, preachy, with not so much self empowerment.
I put down the book last night feeling a little disappointed, to be honest. Sigh.