A Partial review of a Book I didn’t finish reading- Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong –Part one–

This is a review of a book I didn’t finish reading. So it’s not a full picture.

First, let me say, any spoilers will only be through chapter 4, because that’s how far I got before I decided to stop. Not because it’s bad, but because I had some issues.  And I am considering the “Prologue” chapter to be chapter 1 for this purpose, too, because all the chapters have single-word names, with no numbers.

And this is certainly not the worst book I’ve (partially) read. But I don’t want to spend my time on something I was starting to get disturbed by. Just not hating it isn’t a good enough reason. (Then I can spend the time I would’ve spent reading it in blogging about it instead.)

I wanted to like it, because I do like this sort of thing. And even though I didn’t see the show on Syfy, I know it was made into one, and that means a lot of other people DO like it. And maybe saying I don’t like it isn’t quite 100% true. I was more disturbed by it than strictly not liking it.

She has a lot of later books with great reviews. I guess this was her debut.

Maybe some other time, if I can work through the issues that come up with this book for me, I’ll finish it. It’s not her, it’s me. Except it is her, too.

The issues are things that I found triggering, and handled poorly. I do not mean any violent action- I expect that- but in things that are just mentioned kind of casually in conversation, as well as the way part of her backstory is described. The first trigger basically is about offensive ways of talking about mental illness. The second, is related to past sexual victimization as a shortcut explanation to how she became a strong female character.

If you think I’m being overblown to warn it might trigger someone, then this blog might not be for you. I want people to have a choice to know what they are getting into.

I know other books have insensitive talk about mental illness, and lots of “strong female characters” have a background of being sexually assaulted. I just wasn’t into having both of these things at once right now.

There are also a few parts where things seem contradictory.

Chapter 1 “Prologue”

It starts off OK. The main character, Elena Michaels, is a woman who also happens to be a werewolf. And that’s not a spoiler at all. You know that almost immediately. The “Prologue” chapter basically starts with her changing into wolf form and running around. The change isn’t easy. It’s “agony”. That’s fine. I don’t care if the change is easy or difficult, really, but it’s probably realistic that it isn’t easy.

But then, soon, what I see as a contradiction comes about… first she says, “When I look around, the world has mutated to an array of colors unknown to the human eye” but only a paragraph later, “The only part of me that remains are my eyes, sparkling with a cold intelligence and a simmering ferocity that could never be mistaken for anything but human.”

She has a run-in with a couple coyotes, and says that dogs always either attack or run away when they see her, again, because she is a wolf, but she has these human eyes. Also, she still smells human. I get that there would be some way in which she’s not a typical wolf. But it seems vague or something. I don’t know exactly …

So, ok, maybe she means her eyes take on a wolf’s sensory abilities, but still are human in expression. And I’d expect werewolves to have better night vision than humans. But it’s just not stated very clearly, if you ask me. And, no, this isn’t a deal-breaker. If this were the worst thing, I could still enjoy it.

She lives in Toronto, but has run off close to the shore of Lake Ontario, because she doesn’t like the dirt and confining feeling of the city. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as an aside- I’ve got to say, I know it’s been a while since I was in Toronto, but if she thinks that place is dirty, she’d really hate most U.S. cities. I know I used to hear about how movies supposedly set in New York City were often filmed in Toronto, because it was not only cheaper, but a whole lot cleaner. And it sure was clean when I was there in the 90’s.

She laments her loneliness. She lives with a man, Philip, she has a pretty good relationship with, but I guess it runs deeper than that: “I am cursed to live between worlds. On the one side there is normalcy. On the other there is a place where I can be what I am…” She talks about prowling at 4 am, “A normal woman wouldn’t be here. It’s yet another reminder that I’m not normal. Not normal.” Then she looks at her surroundings, describing a few things and saying “Not normal” between each. Another four times.

I have a feeling she believes she is not normal. Did you get that feeling too?

Now, she also saw a homeless woman out at that hour. So, I guess homeless women are automatically not normal, too. Because “A normal woman wouldn’t be here.” Eh. maybe she didn’t realize what she implied. Maybe you, gentle reader, don’t even think she implied it and I am off base.

But the implications, in my opinion, get worse than this in the pages to come.

Chapter 2- “Human”

She’s at a door with a Mother’s Day present, “which would have been quite normal if it was a present for my mother.” But her mom is dead, and she spent her childhood in foster care. The present is for Philip’s mom. “again, this would have been very normal if Philip had been there with me.” But he had to work, and she totally wonders if it’s ok to go to his mom’s house on Mother’s day without him.This woman is extremely obsessed with being “normal”.

Well, he’s working, and you’re his girlfriend, right? Serious enough of a girlfriend that you two live together. I give you permission to show up at his mom’s house without him, OK? ESPECIALLY to deliver a Mother’s Day present. That’s an important day.

She says human rules confound her.  Even though she was raised human.

“The problem came with human interactions. My childhood had been pretty screwed-up.”

Well, I was raised human, too. And a lot of human rules confound me, too. But it has nothing to do with my childhood being screwed-up, because it wasn’t. Of course there were problems, (who didn’t have problems?) but it was nowhere near “screwed-up”. She is implying that in order to be confused by social interaction with other humans, you had to have a bad childhood!

Oh, I know, she was also living among werewolves for 9 years after she was bitten as an adolescent. But mentioning the childhood first there, it sounds like that’s the main reason, not what may have happened later.

In this chapter, she doesn’t elaborate on how bad that childhood was yet.

Here she talks about how even though she lived among werewolves, she went to University, held jobs, and such. But the Pack protected her. (Yes it’s a capital P.) She says she never learned how to make friends or take lovers.

This brings us to the next thing that has me going WTF?

“Last year, when I broke with the others and came back to Toronto alone, I thought fitting in would be the least of my concerns.” What? All you talk about is how you aren’t normal!

“How tough could it be? I’d just take the basics I learned from childhood, mix in the adult conversational skills I’d learned with the others, toss in a dash of caution and voila, I’d be making friends.” But I thought she just said she didn’t learn this stuff in her childhood, because it was so screwed-up. And didn’t learn it later because the pack protected her.

I feel like I have to be missing something.

And I’m not going to say some crap about “How could she be unable to make friends when she’s blonde and gorgeous?” I know I didn’t mention that, but of course she is. Heroines in these stories have to be gorgeous, usually.

Anyway, next she talks about how she met Philip and we see how nice his family is. And Philip never does show, but his sister drives her home.

And I’m very tired, so I’ll discuss the other two chapters I read in a second part.

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