Daily Dispatch #121
I finished this book this morning—yes, I did do something other than play Destiny 2* this weekend, if barely—and it has inspired Some Thought. Not so much about the book itself, which is a pretty straightforward slasher narrative—but more about the response to it?

I mean. GoodReads is GoodReads, and I generally take the reviews there with at least three grains of salt.


Most of the complaints I saw about this book basically boiled down to the book not being A) what the reader was expecting, or B) not what the reader wanted it to be. And while both of those things can make for a less-than-stellar reading experience, neither means that the book is INHERENTLY FLAWED, either.

But, again. GoodReads is GoodReads is GoodReads.

Kirkus is—supposed to be—another thing entirely. But the second half of their review amounts to the same complaint, albeit with a zinger at the end that reads like the reviewer was... annoyed by the moments in which the main character was annoyed by various microaggressions?:

Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false. 

Point the first: While the gore is certainly gorey, the book isn't exactly a splatterfest. I didn't count pages or anything, but I'd say that the bloody stuff amounts to less than a tenth of the book. Which doesn't make it "a study in gore," at least by my calculations.

Point the second: People don't need "grand psychological" reasons to be creeps OR to commit horrific acts.

Point the third: That claim about "preachy inner monologues" really makes me wonder if the reviewer and I read different versions of this book. 

Here's the thing. Stephanie Perkins doesn't need me to defend her. 

I'm sure that her books sell like pumpkin-spice lattes in October.

But this book, while using a lot of the conventions of the slasher subgenre, adds something that said subgenre usually glosses over: humanity. The characters are real people, their relationships and interactions are complicated, and maybe most importantly, she allows us to get to know the victims before they die. 

They're not purely cannon fodder.

The villain isn't super-powered and faceless, and the villain's motivations aren't epic or tragic or glamorized. But this, I think, is the key: THE VILLAIN ISN'T THE MOST INTERESTING CHARACTER IN THE BOOK.

Which says something about who slasher movies are usually about.

It's a story about how human beings are capable of doing supremely terrible things to one another, and about how labeling killers as 'monsters' is actually a way of not facing that fact. 

It looks at how one action, one choice can change your life forever, and it touches on the damage that festering anger and resentment and even guilt can do. It looks at how tragedy is commodified, and at the thin line between fear and outrage.

All of this is to say: It's a slasher story, but it has a real-world setting and real people as characters.

Which makes for a different experience than a traditional slasher story.

But for me, it wasn't an unwelcome one.