What is it about hacks and eyes? They love to give their characters special colored eyes, when they can, or odd pupils. Barring that, they put in some nonsense about how they’re alive or bright or something similar. I’ll give Ally a half point as Ky isn’t gray or green eyed but still, remarking on them is dull.
I had to think long and hard on it but I think I may have come up with an answer. It’s lack of confidence in their character. They seem to think that people who are “special” need some sort of marker or visual cue. Like a villain can’t commit atrocities without red eyes or the heroes can’t show up to rescue people without bright blue ones. I abhor visual cues but I understand they serve a purpose. At least stick to things people can see without having to get within kissing distance.
We flash forward two days time to Cassia and a bunch of other teens standing around in the “Arboretum”. It’s early and misty and there are people around that she doesn’t know, ergo they must be from other schools. What, couldn’t they be some people you don’t know very well, Cassia? No, that would mean she spends her weekends watching movies with them and hanging out. They’re all there to go hiking which hasn’t been done in years.
“No one has done this before,” says Lon, an annoying boy that I know from Second School. “It hasn’t been offered in years.”
“My grandfather knew how,” I say.
Lon won’t shut up. “Knew? As in past tense? Is he dead?”
No, you little prick. He’s suffering from Alzheimer’s which there still isn’t a cure for. I think Ally is trying to make me like Cassia by putting her next to someone even more irritating. Sorry, it’s not working. Try making Cassia less dull.
Before Cassia can say anything to Lon, an “Officer” wearing “Army green” comes in. He reminds Cassia of grandpa in that he starts by yelling at these damn kids for trying to being about the downfall of society with their “Check” playing shenanigans and loud music. That’s when she realizes that her grandpa isn’t going to pop out suddenly and tell her that everything is going to be alright. Officer point s to one of the smaller foothills and tells them to get to the top.
Cassia smirks, saying that they’re normally off limits except for Arboretum employees like her mom. She also bemoans the lack of instruction from Officer and how he’s not giving them any tips or training. Allow me to rectify that for you, put one foot in front of the other until you get where you’re going and drink water as needed. Also, slip on something and break your ankle if you can, Cassia. That’s how the pros do it. Cassia says if there was a place she’d open that forbidden paper, this would be it.
My sorting mind wishes I could identify the birdcalls around me and name the plants and flowers I see. My mother likely knows most of them, but I won’t ever have that kind of specialized knowledge unless working in the Arboretum becomes my vocation.
Wait, her sorting mind? Is that anything like Anastasia’s inner goddess? Or does Cassia have a sorting hat living in her head? And did her mom not teach her any of the basic calls? Cassia marches along, assuring us that she’s making progress even if she’s in last place. She plods along until she finds a spot where she thinks she’s alone before pulling out the paper.
The very first line stops me in my tracks and brings tears to my eyes and I don’t know why except that this one line speaks to me as nothing else ever has.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
This is Ally, trying to let us know that she’s sophisticated because she quotes a Welsh poet. Oh, and of course it stirs things up in Cassia that she never knew existed. Unfortunately for everyone else on the nature walk, it’s explosive diarrhea. Or she tells us how she hungered and ate it up and then reads a second poem written on the back. It’s called “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred Tennyson which Ally doesn’t quote at us. Somehow this tells her she has to run and she realizes why they didn’t keep it, because it’s a poem that tells you to fight.
Again, I’m mighty curious as to where Cassia came by her razor sharp perception. It sure as hell wasn’t her parents or even her grandparents. Maybe a real protagonist dropped a little bit of their wits as they were passing through and Cassia ate it. Which means she’s not a real protagonist but it’s like being the one eyed idiot in the land of the blind morons.
Cassia manages to get to the top where Ky is the Officer appears. His “datapod” predicted that she’d be second to arrive. He disappears, giving Cassia a chance to chat up her second, as yet unaware, suitor. She comments on how he beat them all there and Ky says it’s predicted because he grew up in the outer provinces. This causes Cassia to wonder wildly what reason he would have to hike so much and what he was running from and blah blah blah.
I’m getting sick of these stupid hacks furthering the plot by having their characters ask questions so I’m coining a new term for it. Speculative narration. It’s pointless and annoying, especially when they answer their own questions within the book. Then, because Cassia is a rude snot, she’s asks Ky a question.
Before I can stop myself, I ask Ky something that I should not ask: “What happened to your mother?”
Cassia knows she shouldn’t ask but doesn’t care. And this guys ends up falling for you? What a loser. He instinctually knows she’s not talking about his adopted mom. He says that’s not a question she should be asking and then asks her who she lost. Cassia asks what does he mean, and Ky says he can tell, she says her grandpa, he asks if it was expected, she says it was his eightieth but that what he said shocked her.
Then Ky says that’s right, people in the city die at eighty. Cassia is shocked by the idea that people elsewhere might not live so long. This leads to a bit more speculative narration before he leans in and says he saw her in the woods. Cassia says she knows and is going to destroy it and he asks if she can manage it without getting caught. She thinks she can but Ky doesn’t believe it so he offers to help her do it.
Suddenly Cassia switches subject because she realizes they skipped some lines. She asks Ky how he beat her to the top and he says he’s just faster. It wasn’t because he took a taxi or anything. Cassia suggests that if he saw her then someone else might have as well then he says he ran and so does she.
Cassia says that she knows she shouldn’t have kept them but the words are so beautiful. I can understand that. If my inner voice was as flat and lifeless as Cassia’s, I’d find the instructions on oatmeal packets a magical portal to wonderland. Hell, these people would have their minds blown if they ever stumbled upon IKEA assembly instructions. If “the Society” has any enemies, all they need to do is drop leaflets on the citizens until they all stroke out on the sublime beauty of shampoo ingredients.
Ky asks if Cassia can remember the words without the paper and she thinks so but not forever. Ky asks if Cassia wants to keep them forever and she repeats that they’re “so beautiful”. Then the rest of the nameless class and Officer join them and they head back down for lunch and back to “Second School”. All the while, Cassia is doing more speculative narration and then wondering why she never asked Ky if he’d keep her secret. That’s simple, Cassia. He’s attractive and that quality alone means that he’s trustworthy.