I’ve mentioned one of the primary things in this book that I hate is what I call, speculative narration. It’s not restricted to this book, of course, it comes up a lot in crap books marketed to the “young adult” crowd because publishers think they’re stupid. PCK and Otis are terrible about it but this is somehow worse. Not because it’s worse writing, Chris and Otis still hold the titles in their respective weight classes, but because Ally is playing around in a genre I happen to like.
The thing they don’t get is that writing/reading is a collaborative process. Yes, the author is responsible for the story, dialogue and general plot. It is the audience, however, that supplies the characters. The audience provides a stage and cast while the author provides the script. That’s a good portion of why there’s no such thing as a perfect adaptation. Because every reader has their own picture in their head of what the characters look like. And while most people will agree with the generalities, it’s the specifics that make them personal.
My point here, is that there’s another facet of the collaboration between author and audience and that’s questions. In this case it should be the reader silently asking questions about the characters and wondering how Xander will react when he finds out about Ky. We should be wondering what kind of history Ky has that he seems so different. When the story takes pains to ask those for us, it diminishes our role in reading. We’re no longer as necessary because the author is handling it all by themselves. It takes us out of the process and takes away time Ally should be spending on atmosphere and characterization.
We rejoin Cassia back in her boring life, plodding along as per usual.
At work that evening, we have an interesting sort for a change. Even Norah becomes animated as she describes it to me at her desk. “We’re looking at different physical traits for a Matching pool,” she says. “Eye color. Hair color. Height and weight.”
Really? They match people based on eye color? And hair color? I can sort of understand weight and maybe height but hair and eye color? The fact that’s even a criteria is disturbing in so many ways. What else do they discriminate by? Pop tart preference? ‘Huh, this guy likes the s’mores kind? That’s another one for the singles pile.’
And since when was Norah inanimate? Is she like Goliath and only breaks free from her stone skin prison when the sun sets? Is Norah actually an android, a common fixture in science fiction? Being as we’ve only seen her once before, it’s impossible to say. Maybe if Ally spent less time having Cassia wonder about things and focused on enriching her world.
Norah says she also heard that they’re going to administer Cassia’s personality test. They just want to make sure she doesn’t have one before giving her the green light to reproduce. She’s not supposed to tell Cassia when though so she just says “sometime soon”. That must be code for just before they shoot her in the face. She thinks how good this is before sitting down and forgets about Ky and the rest of the plot, such as it is.
It is actually rather startling when you sort eye colors, how limited the possibilities truly are: such a small, finite number of options. Blue, brown, green, gray, hazel—these are all of the options for eye color, even with many ethnicities represented in the population. Long ago there were genetic mutations, like albinos, but those don’t exist anymore. Hair color is similarly limited: black, brown, blond, red.
Wait, how do they stop mutations? Mutations happen all the time though most are so small. I assume she means they got rid of negative traits. And how is it that they’ve had enough time to breed out albinism but they’re still burning books constantly? Are they just that bad at finding books or do they save them up and burn them once a decade to save on their gas bill?
Cassia keeps going through saying that there are an infinite number of combinations of the hair/eye color. I’ve never been good at math but, given those parameters, that’s only twenty five combinations. That’s a bit less than infinite. Then Cassia says that no matter how they looked, they wouldn’t have the honesty and secrecy Ky has in his eyes. Because, again, eyes are the most important thing to hacks. Then Cassia gets a message saying there’s been an error at line 3568. She says she hardly ever makes errors so it will be noticed. She fixes it and then says she won’t let it happen when the “Officials” are watching. Then we transition back to Cassia’s house where she’s talking with her dad.
“Someone said a girl your age came to the work site today,” my father says. He came to meet me at the air-train stop, something he does now and then with Bram or me so that we can have a little one-on-one time before we get home. “Was it you?”
Cassia admits it was but she was too embarrassed to go say hello. Dad tells her to stop by sometime and say hello and you can almost feel him reaching out to his distant and stupid daughter, hoping to connect with her before she leaves the house to go live with Xander. The poor bastard doesn’t know that his job is just to be generally negligent and then supportive of Cassia when she wants it.
Surprisingly, Cassia then tell her dad that grandpa gave her a paper. Dad freaks out and tells her to shut up while people walk by. He asks what she did with it and Cassia tells him about the visit. Dad say that was probably for the best, considering that he’s already under investigation for embezzling. Cassia says she thinks she sees a “flash of disappointment” cross his face though.
As Dad has just show her displeasure, Cassia has to turn the tables back on him. She asks how could he have lost the sample. Dad says that he destroyed it because grandpa asked for it. Which seems like a dick move. Grandpa knew his family would get in trouble for it and there are easier ways to get imself disqualified. All he had to do was threaten someone or start talking crap about the government. I’d bet they’d strike his name off in a heartbeat.
Grandpa’s final act of rebellion was to beg his son to destroy his sample. I can see why Cassia respected him so. Cassia, being a snot, runs inside crying even though she tells us she can understand. That’s great, Cassia, now could you tell your dad so he doesn’t think you ran in to call the thought police? Something about him not having access to your narration like we do.
Naturally, this all leads to her thinking about Ky. She thinks that they need to obey the rules and keep their head down. Also, it doesn’t matter that Ky has been places or that he was crying during the show, she’s matched with Xander now. She says she’ll try to be strong and do what’s right and give him up. Because we all know how that always turns out.