Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hopeless (Judgement of the Six #1) by Melissa Haag

Gabby has always had some strange abilities, the ability to sense people as lights in her mind as well as her disturbing attractiveness to men. She has never known what that means – until she met Sam and was introduced to the world of werewolves

While not a werewolf, she is one of the few humans who can be the mate of a werewolf. Not that she wants to – in fact she does her best to have nothing to do with the whole process and focus on her own life and ambitions

The werewolves have other plans

I think, storywise, this book is a very large prologue. At the very end of the book we have a storyline and plot introduced that had only been hinting at earlier in the story – and those hints could easily have been misinterpreted. So while this book is a very very personal story, very character driven and focused, I think the next book is going to be much more meta and much wider. It’s odd, because the first book has set up the second but then left me in doubt as to what the second book is going to be or how it will be written – intriguing but mysterious.

However, I also think the first book didn’t do a great job of setting up the second book because it is missing a considerable amount of world building. Not characterisation, we actually have some excellent character development and portrayal of the protagonist (less so anyone else) clearly defining her in a very complete fashion. But the world, the supernatural, what it means to be a werewolf, pack structure all of this is more hinted at than explored, to say nothing of Gabby’s abilities. I could have used some more exploration and maybe more chance for the secondary characters to stretch themselves a little more to set up the next book for me.

While these were problems, the writing worked well, despite its narrow focus. We got to see Gabby’s world without it being insular or boring, we got to see her daily life and it still remain interesting. Even without lots of action or twists, the writing was engaging and interesting and kept me reading and curious. It was well written and nicely crafted

And now for the problem. The big, awful, horrendous problem. The trope that is semi-challenged but ultimately reinforced and no-one is ever treated as they deserve.

Gabby meets Sam (the Child Groomer as I think of him) when she’s 14. He notices her special woo-woo and is interested and quickly insinuates herself into this lonely, isolated orphan’s life. And Gabby is isolated – she has a special woo-woo that makes her irresistible to men which means she dreads going out anywhere because of the skeevy attention she gets. She has no friends. She has no family. She has been in a series of foster homes and, though they’re good people, they’re also somewhat distant.

So, Sam Child Groomer insinuates himself into this lonely girl’s life, tells her she’s special, tells her about her powers, shows her werewolves and tells her he knows another like her. Gabby, naturally, seizes upon this. In due course, Gabby’s foster family have their own child and Sam the Child Groomer, takes 16 year old Gabby in. Ok, I’m a trifle skeeved that there’s no officials involved in this child trading but I’ll go with it.

And upon moving in with Sam the first thing he does is take her on an 8 hour drive to werewolf compound. When they arrive she gets a quick update on werewolfhood – werewolves have woo-woo bonds! Yet they see each other, smell each other and are INSTACOMPTIBLE SUPER MATES! (Shall we just call it “imprinting” and be dine with it?) They have Introductions where werewolf men (who out number werewolf women several times over for REASONS) are put in a room with a werewolf woman to see if they have the ZING MAGIC WOO-WOO CONNECTION

And bonus news, Gabby’s super special magic power means she’s a compatible werewolf mate as well! And they’ve waited until she’s 8 hours away from everywhere else and surrounded by werewolves to tell her this. But don’t worry, here’s Charlene (another human with special woo-woo) to assure Gabby that she won’t have REAL Introductions because the woo-woo sexual attraction is so strong that it just wouldn’t be safe for her! Instead they will just slowly bring many many werewolf men to meet her (but they’re totally not making her choose, honest) in long lines.

Honestly I nearly through my tablet across the room. This vulnerable child has been manipulated, dragged to an isolated location surrounded by what can be easily seen as a cult and then forced to take part in their sexual rituals from the age of 16 whether she wanted to or not.

And she doesn’t. Not once does Gabby want to go to an Introduction. She resists it over and over again and expresses her dislike of it. She makes it clear she doesn’t want to form a bond, she makes it clear she doesn’t want a werewolf partner, she makes it clear she already

So she has to negotiate for a certain number of introductions (with the very false assurance that she wouldn’t have to agree to anything – a complete and utter lie, one of Sam’s several lies he uses to force Gabby into his scheme) because she’s now living with Sam and has to live by his rules. This is her “agency” she gets to limit how many times she’s paraded infront of the men waiting for one to claim her, regardless of her own wishes.

So this goes on until Gabby approaches her 18th birthday and finally will be free of these demands. She’s going away for college (though Sam hates the idea and they quickly have another werewolf move near her to keep an eye on their possession), she’s no longer under his Guardianship and can resist being subject to the werewolf meat rack while men claim their woman.

So Sam takes her to one last Introduction – and it’s the formal Introduction Charlene and Sam assured her she’d never face; because they’re conniving liars determined to hand Gabby to a man no matter what. And this time to be sure they’ve really got her, they invite every male werewolf for miles and miles and miles. A huge damn line of 40 men waiting for her. And with Sam silencing her because people will hear if she objects.

This was already enough to sicken me and loathe Sam can Charlene as abusive molesters exploiting Gabby – I was supposed to be sympathetic about either of them? Because they both and all the elders should have been imprisoned.

But then she sees Clay and ZING BOND happens. And in an awesome moment Gabby decides that she doesn’t care what werewolf woo-woo says, she is going to college, she is going to live her own life, she is not going to have a relationship at 18 because woo-woo says so.

I cheered

Then Clay destroyed her car so she can’t leave. She tried to get another car but Sam – her GUARDIAN – just tells her Clay will destroy more cars and the werewolves accept this?!

Gabby’s not having that – she walks to the next motel, all night if she has to. So Clay follows her, kidnaps her and brings her back. Sam, her Guardian, Werewolf Elder, does nothing about this. Charlene does nothing about this. The whole werewolf community is perfectly happy to see this girl kidnapped and forced with Clay.

Gabby goes to college – and Clay shows up as a wolf and becomes her pet. Her choices? Irrelevant – and even in doggy form he polices her! And is there supposed to be something romantic about a guy who resolutely refuses to say one damn word to you? I suppose if you’re making all the choices for someone why do you need to communicate?

Clay is a stalker. A bullying stalker with zero respect for Gabby. Edward Cullen would disapprove of this man. 

Sam is a child groomer, an abuser, a manipulator and a truly evil man.

Charlene is an enabler of stalking abuse

None of these face any consequences for their actions. None of them face condemnation that’s even remotely on par with their actions. Even with Gabby’s protestations they’re never presented  as close to being as wrong and abusive as they are

Gabby comes off as having severe Stockholm Syndrome. While Sam and Charlene lie to her and manipulate her time and again, she still worries about Charlene’s floors or that her objections to being paraded in front of the men will offend or hurt Sam. It makes her protestations weak. The one part of this book that could have made this whole abusive situation tolerable is Gabby calling it out as the vile thing it is – but she doesn’t. She objects, she clings to her agency, she demands her own choices, she manages to hold some level of negotiation and try to hold some of her terms – all of which are excellent. But compromise is presented as reasonable, she constantly worries about what Sam thinks and whether he’s going to be hurt and it’s all too toned down. Gabby is a strong, determined character who insists on not seeing Sam or Clay as what they are. The book gives Sam and Clay a pass

And, ultimately, she ends up with Clay, validating the whole abusive process. She then objects to the idea that because she hasn’t bonded Clay fast enough that they’re threatening to send more werewolves after her (remember that choice lie? Yes, a total lie). And now she puts her foot down? So it’s not about her choices – it’s about disrupting her REAL Twu Lub.

Gabby is a good character in many ways and there was potential in this book, but the sickening abuse of the werewolf culture, the vileness of so many of the characters it appears I’m not supposed to despise and the stalking behaviour of the main love interest utterly destroy this book. I didn’t like it – this book enraged and disgusted me too much to come close to liking it. It’s so bad that a character being impossibly, irresistibly attractive, imprinting love interests and a werewolf society that has 3 boys born for every girl are merely MINOR complaints next to the hot mess in the centre.