Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Losing Lila (Lila #2) by Sarah Alderson

When last we left Lila, she was on the run from the unit with Alex, after it was revealed that Lila is a Psy.  At this point, she is desperate to get her brother and mother away from the unit at all costs.  They hatch a plan, break back onto the military base and free everyone. Yeah for the heroes.

As you'll notice, the synopsis for Losing Lila is rather short and that is because very little happened. Okay we had angst, angst freaking happened continually. Alex has finally admitted that he loves Lila and promised never ever to leave her (sigh everyone).  Even better, he's loved her since she was five! Okay, to be fair, Alex is only a few years older than Lila, but I really could have done without that line altogether.  Alex is determined to protect Lila and tells her the times growing up when he watched over her as a child, so therefore; it's natural that he should protect her from herself and her horny inappropriate desires. Yes, he is trying to protect her innocence.  Alex says that it is because Lila is still four months shy of her eighteenth birthday and so every time things steam up, he pulls away. When Lila points out that it is legal in Mexico, where they happen to be at that moment, it's not enough to persuade him.  Alex is worried what Jack, his best friend and Lila's over protective brother would think of a sexual relationship. No really, Lila's body does not belong to her, but her male relatives. What year is this happening in again? I absolutely found this frustrating. I'm fine with Alex deciding that he didn't feel comfortable having their relationship progress in this fashion but denying sex to avoid upsetting Lila's brother and to protect her virtue? Yeah, I'm surprised he didn't start to sparkle like Edward.

Then there is Lila herself.  We are told that she is 17, in fact almost 18.  This makes her young but at times she behaves more like a 14 year old and her coquettish behaviour is annoying. Yes, a normal (not one of those Halloween nurses costumes) is totes sexy and no man can resist her in it.  Has Alderson been in a hospital lately?  Nurses wear scrubs. We keep hearing about the electricity between Lila and Alex and at first it's sort of cute but it quickly becomes annoying.  Lila is also easily distracted by Alex's chest, 'cause yeah Man Titeh! If that were not enough, Lila follows him around in the most clinging fashion that were I Alex, I'd have to tell her to back off.  You almost cannot blame Lila because the men in her life are all determined to infantalize her and so it makes sense that she lacks maturity.  There has to be some sort of compromise between the protagonist who constantly has her shit together and never makes a mistake and the needy, clinging kind, who really doesn't have the sense that God gave cabbage. 

Losing Lila does have a character of colour in Suki and a GLBT character in Key.  Of course, Key doesn't have a real love interest i.e. someone who could possibly reciprocate his feelings.  His time is spent lusting over Alex and alternatively Jack.  How could he help but love Alex, when the man has a 12 pack ('cause that is really possible and we all know the love interest has to be of photoshopped perfection) It's Key's job to keep an eye on Alex and Lila but did he really have to spy on them to the point that he saw Alex naked?  It makes him read like a predatory gay man and yes, that's a trope.  

Suki is obsessed with shoes and shopping. Her ability is to read people's minds and she spends more time doing this in an obtrusive manner than actually helping the team achieve it's goal of bringing down the unit.  The only time in Losing Lila when her talent is necessary, is when the team is stealing the drugs and money from a Mexican drug lord stereotypically named Carlos. Speaking of Mexico, did you know that there are only tourist areas for Americans to relax in and dark seedy areas where criminals live. Yes, another trope and of course it's about a country populated by POC.  Reading Losing Lila, it's possible to believe that there are no middle class Mexicans, living law abiding lives with happy families.  They are all either serving Americans in some way, or vicious criminals.

Alderson also seems to have a touch of fat phobia.  Mrs. Johnson is so fat that she causes the taxi to lean to one to side like a see-saw. "The woman was like a mini planet with its own gravitational pull." Then Alderson goes on to say, "This woman was a full stop.  Round, complete..."  Throughout Mrs. Johnson's brief appearance in Losing Lila, there is a continual reference to how fat she is and her character is little more than a caricature - someone whose body provides comic relief. Consider that everyone else is skinny and described in almost glowing terms but Mrs. Johnson, the only fat character in the series is a joke.

I was further not a fan of the born this way theme that ran throughout  Losing Lila.  It was clearly appropriation of the GLBT struggle for equality.  You have the characters hiding who they are and protesting that this is natural to them and that they didn't need to be fixed, juxtaposed to the constant conversation that what they are is not natural and that they need to be fixed.  The real marginalized characters don't face any actual oppression based in their identity and everything is about the Psys not being normal instead.  Would it really have been so hard to include some real oppression based on the experiences of the marginalized characters?

Even if I could let go of the tropes in this book, the plot itself was absolutely ridiculous.  The characters come up with two half baked plans and of course they both work and nothing even remotely goes wrong.  I get that they have extra special super powers, Lila can after all cause quite a bit of destruction, but the ease at which they are able to infiltrate and destroy a military base, whose sole purpose is to capture and maintain people like them is ridiculous.  Let's not forget that the military personnel are supposedly elite and highly trained but of course they are no problem for the intrepid Lila and the rest of the Psys.  To some degree, you have to suspend reality to read in this genre but it should still be somewhat logical and Losing Lila most certainly is not.  The ending left it open for a third novel in this series but how Alderson went about it was so patently ridiculous, it was laughable. No, don't kill the bad guy when you have him cornered and then simply lose track of him just because.  The best that I can recommend when it comes to Losing Lila is to borrow it from the library and hope that your library card will eventually forgive you.