Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Floating Around on Her High Cloud
I didn't like The Lovely Bones. I didn't read it in high school when all the girls I knew couldn't stop raving about it. I didn't read it after the movie came out, and I didn't see the movie. But Peter Jackson directed the movie, and I thought maybe I wasn't giving the book enough credit. So, when this came up as a required reading, I went into the story with an open mind, and when I finished it, I watched the movie with only a slightly less open mind. After the reading and viewing, I still didn't the story. Two things really disrupted my reading of this book. The first was the POV, which is easier to explain than the other. After giving some thought to the POV and discussing the issue with friends on Facebook, I concluded there are two problems with head hopping or reasons why writers are steered away from it: logic and clarity. Logic is the reason in the story the narration jumps from character to character. It tends to be the reason writers use when arguing against head hopping, but it’s actually less important than clarity. Let’s face it, if a story flowed smoothly and was understandable, readers would have little problem with head hopping. Virginia Woolf’s The Waves serves as an example of this. Many readers would argue the story makes sense without a logical explanation of spinning around the heads of the characters. Writer’s can get away with head hopping as long as clarity is not an issue. The real problem with head hopping is readers do not stay grounded. They don’t grow attached with a single character and are constantly floating around trying to understand how they’re supposed to be relating to the story. Logic comes second to clarity, and although The Lovely Bones explains the head hoping through the presence of a ghost, it lacks the clarity of a cohesive story. Basically, the reason the narrator's POV is a ghost feels like a gimmick to add logic to the head hopping, and the explanation does nothing for readers as they try to keep track of who is thinking and doing what at what point in time. My second issue with the book was a bit more tricky to pinpoint. Bear with me as I try--the voice of this book comes off as an arrogant teen. On top of that, the voice takes on a too-wise intelligence, which causes the narrator to sound worse and more irritating than the epitomical conceited teen from Dawson's Creek or some other unrealistic teen melodrama. Susie was not a vampire, but I associated her with to two vampires in popular fiction: Claudia from Interview with the Vampire and Eli from Let the Right One In. The difference between these two girls is wisdom. Claudia gains wisdom and matures due to it--she becomes an adult stuck in a child’s body. Eli does not gain wisdom and does not mature into an adult. Both characters are interesting and demonstrate the paths immortals can take. Susie’s voice attempts a third unbelievable route. She dies and almost immediately gains a superior intellect. She still partakes in childish games, like chasing dogs, but when she looks down on humanity, her balanced emotions are too mature. For instance, watching one’s mom have an affair and leave his or her family or watching one’s sister make love would incite a great deal of emotion in most people. A character such as Susie, preciously naive, should not become whimsical yet so astute, kind of like the Dalai Lama, just through death. She did not work as a character and fell apart as a narrator. I also want to touch on the climax. Susie came back to earth just long enough to make love. This supposedly balanced her death by giving her the kind side of the physical act of love. The movie changed this scene to a kiss, and I'm glad they did. Beneath the teen romance, the book sent a terrible message regarding the types of sexual assault. Susie possessed a girl and made love using her body. The owner of the body did not consent to this act. A person intoxicated with alcohol or other drugs is not in a frame of mind to consent, and likewise, Ruth was not conscious to consent to this act with her body, so the book’s attempt to idolize this act was inappropriate. Regardless of how the book handles the topic, this form of rape is still rape. Again, the movie version used a kiss, which still worked and was much more acceptable. The Lovely Bones was not clever, the POV did not work, and a terrible message was buried under the text. The only kudos I can give the book relates to the reactions of the family. Their reactions came off as realistic because unpredictability rings true in tragic situations. If the narrator had been a living family member, I wonder if I would have enjoyed this novel more.