Number The Stars Chapter 3

 

Where is Mrs. Hirsch?

It is now October. There’s no fuel to heat homes, so people in Annemarie’s apartment building use wood stoves. Electricity is also being rationed, which is annoying because Ellen’s father is a teacher and can’t see to grade his students’ papers by candlelight.

As Annemarie and Kirsti are about to leave for school that morning, Mrs. Johansen goes to button Kirsti’s jacket, but discovers that one of the buttons is broken. She tells Annemarie to stop by the button shop after school and get one that matches.

Unfortunately, when the girls stop by the shop, there is a padlock on the door and a sign in German. No one can read German, so they immediately start speculating.

I wonder if Mrs. Hirsch is sick,” Annemarie said as they walked away.

I saw them Saturday,” Ellen said. She was with her husband and son. They all looked just fine. Or at least, the parents looked just fine. Their son always looks like a horror.”

Ellen saw the Hirsch family “on Saturday.” The Hirsch family is Jewish, just like Ellen. They probably go to the same synagogue.

There’s some light teasing about Samuel Hirsch, an awkward boy who wears glasses and rides a bike with wooden tires.

Kirsti announces that she think the Hirsch family has gone to the seashore. Annemarie sarcastically replies that they probably took pink frosted cupcakes. Her sarcasm flies right over Kirsti’s head, and they both think about how dumb she is.

I’m going to point out that perhaps Kirsti isn’t so much stupid as she is self deluded. Kirsti is 5. 5 is old enough to know that that symbol is associated with the soldiers who invaded their country. 5 is old enough to understand that Something is Wrong. But 5 also isn’t really old enough to know what to do with that information, and so “maybe they all went on vacation to the seashore” is something that she tells herself because she wants to think it’s true. Because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Or because 5 is too young to know there is a horrific alternative.

I might be projecting a little bit but most 5 year olds are actually a lot more observant than they are given credit for.

Mrs. Johansen is upset to hear about all the button shop being closed, and immediately goes to visit the Rosens.

That night Annemarie’s mother wakes her up, because Peter’s here. Peter gives her 2 seashells, one for her, and one to give to Kirsti.

Peter’s presents for her parents are much better: 2 bottles of beer! I can only imagine what Peter went through to get them, since beer has been in short supply as of late.

Peter informs Annemarie that Germans are closing shops owned by Jews, as a way to torment them. That’s the exact phrase he uses, “to torment them.” Which is…. a bit simplistic, but nevermind.

Annemarie is confused. How the heck could Mrs. Hirsch be a threat? She’s a nice old lady. Her son is a bit of a dope, but he’s relatively harmless as well and oh hey, how will the Hirsch family survive if they can’t make any money?

Yes, Annemarie, that’s kind of the point.

Annemarie’s mother reassures her that the Hirsch family has friends who will take care of them until their shop is allowed to reopen. “It’s what friends do,” she tells Annemarie.

I’m not sure about Denmark, I’ll have to do some reading, but in a lot of countries the Nazis invaded, a lot of people straight up refused to be friends with Jews anymore.

It reassures Annemarie to think that people will take the Hirsch family fish and potatoes. Perhaps Peter can even bring them some beer.

Then suddenly she sat upright, her eyes wide. “Mamma, papa, the Rosens are Jewish!”

We’ve had small hints of this, of course, but when I read this for the first time, this was a big reveal.

I talked to Sophy Rosen this afternoon, after you told me about the shop,” Mrs. Johansen said. “But she doesn’t think it will affect them.”

Annemarie relaxes. Mr. Rosen is a teacher, she remembers, and they can’t close down an entire school. Can they?

Peter reassures her that the Rosens will be alright, and I can’t honestly tell if he believes what he’s saying or if he’s just going along with this to try and reassure Annemarie. Or himself, for that matter.

As for Sophy Rosen… I can’t say I blame her for thinking this way. It is very easy for me, sitting here in my comfortable 21st century apartment with a WW2 timeline sketched out on my notepad, to wonder at how naive she could possibly be. No, they can’t close an entire school, but they could fire Mr. Rosen and hire someone else.

Perhaps, though, Sophy does know this, but she wants to convince herself that it won’t happen to me.

As do we all. Whenever we hear about something, isn’t that what we think? Young Woman Dies Because She Couldn’t Get An Abortion, the newspaper headline reads.

It won’t happen to me.

Man Dies in Car Accident Driving 90mph Down the Freeway

It won’t happen to me.

Perhaps it won’t. But perhaps it will. No one wants to think about this.

Perhaps this is how someone like Hitler could rise to power. I’m not Jewish. None of these things will happen to me. I’m safe.

I’m not an illegal immigrant. I’m not a minority, a transgender, or a gay person. Sure I’m a woman, but I’m a woman who never does anything wrong, What do I care if Trump becomes president? Sure stuff will happen to them, to those people, but none of that stuff will happen to me.

Let me reassure you, you will not remain unaffected by anything Trump would do as president.

Papa,” says Annemarie, “Do you remember how you told us that all of Denmark was the king’s body guard?”

I’ve never forgotten.”

Well, I think that now, all of Denmark must be bodyguard for the Jews as well.”

Peter leaves, and Annemarie goes back to bed. She thinks about all her family has just talked about. Being bodyguard for Denmark’s Jews, specifically the Rosens.

Would she die to protect them? Truly? Annemarie was honest enough to admit to herself, in the dark, that she wasn’t sure.*

Annemarie is scared for a few minutes, then forces herself to relax.

It was all imaginary, anyway, not real. Only in fairy tales were people called upon to be brave, to die for one another. Not in real life…… Oh sure, the resistance fighters sometimes lost their lives, but ordinary people like the Johansens and the Rosens? Annemarie…. was glad that she was an ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage.

Because it won’t happen to me.

 

 

*More honesty than I had at her age.

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The Richest Caveman Chapter 2

Add to the drinking game:

5. Take a drink whenever Doug messes (or thinks he is messing with) the occult.

 

Chapter 2

In Which Doug Goes to Military School

Content note: Child physical abuse, suicide, the occult.

Every time I got in enough trouble at school, mom would bail me out… in 9 years I attended 14 schools.

Reading this sentence, You get the feeling Doug never really had to face the consequences of his actions when he was younger. It sounds like his mother was enabling his behavior.

Doug Batchelor was born in 1957. I get that he would’ve been in elementary school in the 1960s, but seriously, at no point did anyone in his life consider that he possibly needed professional help? At the very least give him someone to talk to about all the anger in his system?

I am not saying that Doug has a mental illness. I am not a professional and even if I was, you can’t diagnose someone by the book they write. However, I still think a professional therapist would have been very helpful for Young Doug. At minimum, it would have given him an adult he could talk to about the trouble he was getting into and why.

In any case, a friend of Doug’s mother takes Doug and his brother, Falcon, to visit a military school in Upstate New York. Doug enjoys the tour so much he decides he needs to attend. He tells us we has been in a military school before, at age 5.

They let 5 year olds in military academies?

I may have been out of control…but I knew what I saw was the result of discipline, obedience, and structure. Something inside of me cried out for this kind of order in my life.

Why, because it worked so well when you were 5?

That night, as they sit around the TV smoking pot and eating ice cream, Doug begs his mom to let him to go military school. His mother is reluctant. Doug seems to think that this is because of his history of getting into trouble, but I think his mom sees Doug as a free spirit, who wouldn’t do well in such a highly controlled environment. Doug suggests she call his dad and discuss it with him. Sounds like a solid plan to me. But Doug’s mom has a better idea! She’s going to consult–

A Ouija board.

I’m not kidding.

DRINK!

This, right here, is why I thought for the longest time that these were serious tools of the occult. I have since been told that they are games for teenagers and that no grown up uses them.*

Although she (Doug’s mom) had no religious beliefs, she leaned toward the occult. Many of her friends were into astrology, palm readings, and seances.

Because everyone in Hollywood is totes in bed with the debbil, ya’all!

Doug, his mom, and his brother ask the Oujia board a few warm up questions. I’d like to know what those warm up questions were. It would be a way for Doug to insert details of his background without being too clunky. What year is it? How old is Doug right now? What business is Doug’s father in?

In any case, the Ouija board tells the little family that Doug should absolutely go to military school.

It didn’t seem very supernatural to me, because I had given [the indicator] a little nudge.

Well, yeah….

I have to give Doug some credit here for admitting that.

Doug’s mom then asks if Falcon should go to military school with Doug. The indicator moves toward “No,” then goes up to the alphabet and spells out “guns.”

No, Falcon should not go to Military school because of the guns.

Doug can’t figure out a way to explain what just happened. It’s almost like the thought never entered his mind that someone else might be moving the indicator. His mother, for instance, or possibly his brother.

I would not have expected Young Doug to know about the ideomotor effect. I would expect Older Doug, looking back on this experience, to have read about it. I think it’s a bit misleading of him not to include it.

In any case, It’s not clear what the problem is here. Can Falcon not have guns because he is a person with violent tendencies? Is Falcon’s Cystic Fibrosis so terrible that he has suicidal thoughts? Is Falcon the type of careless person who would forget to turn on the safety?

A quick google search gives mixed results about people with CF being able to join the military, anyway. I guess it would depend on the severity of the condition.

Doug’s mother calls Doug’s father, who agrees to finance Doug’s military education.

Doug talks about life at the military academy, briefly describing the hazing rituals of the newbies, the incredibly insane rules about how you organized your belongings and cleaned your room, and the ungodly hour at which the day began.

Doug then talks about how the school used corporal punishment –and it wasn’t administered by a corporal. We’re going to pretend he never wrote that groaner of a joke and move on.

I well remember the first time a teacher told me to bend over my desk. He drew back his army belt, complete with metal grommets, and walloped my posterior with all his strength. My desk and I went flying into two other desks. I let out a yelp, and the room exploded with laughter. I was only 11 years old, but the teacher kept saying, “you’re a man now, you’re a man!”

At the beginning of chapter one, Doug was 13. Now he’s suddenly 11 (drink!).

Doug goes on to explain that the teachers didn’t always use belts. Sometimes they jerked you around by your hair or whacked you on the head. He says the officers pampered no one, not even the wealthy kids.

So if anyone ever wanted to know if Doug has a history of physical abuse, the answer is “most certainly.”

Doug goes straight from this line of thought to talking about his troubles with religious service attendance. It’s not clear if this is just another example of bad writing, or if he’s trying to distract himself from what he just wrote.

Doug was one of those kids with a Jewish parent and a Christian parent. He needs to attend both services in order to keep both parents happy.

Hang on, Doug just stated his mother had no religious beliefs. He did say in chapter one that she was proud of her Jewish heritage, but being proud to be Jewish does not necessarily translate to “getting upset that my kid won’t attend synagogue every week.”

Doug says he tried attending a catholic church once, but he didn’t like that the priest smoked cigars during the service.This was the 1960s, but even so, was this a normal thing for the time period? It seems very disrespectful to me, and I’ve never heard of someone doing so as they were preaching. Drink, because I kind of doubt Doug’s memories are clear on this one.

Doug talks about how he didn’t like God as a child because of the whole hell is a current, ongoing, forever and eternal punishment doctrine. He is pleased, as an adult, to discover that this doctrine is not biblical. Whether or not it is biblical is not something I will cover in this post. The only thing that matters to me right now is that Doug does not still believe that. Doug sees God as loving because he doesn’t torture them forever, he tortures them for a while and then kills them permanently afterward.

That summer, Doug goes to summer camp, which he describes thusly:

I was bitten by a spider and almost lost my leg from the infection, and then tried to steal a sailboat and run away to a deserted island. Otherwise, it was a normal summer.

(Drink!)

Why did the camp not send him packing after he tried to steal a sailboat? If he almost lost his leg to an infection, why was he not helicoptered to the nearest hospital? Why did he not spend the rest of the summer in said hospital?  How was he able to continue summer camp after not just one but TWO of these events?

(DRINK!)

Doug’s second year at the military academy was very enjoyable. He somehow managed to acquire some authority, and talks about how good it was for his free spirit. He now had an excuse to be late and go wherever he wanted. He tells us he did his job well, one sentence after telling us he saw his job as an excuse to be late and go wherever he wanted.

His grades skyrocketed, he won lots of awards in many sports, was asked to teach others how to polish their shoes and belt buckles to regulation standards.

Doug is now a golden child of the school.

Unfortunately, this school is lacking one thing to make Doug’s life perfect: Girls. Even the 8 and 9 year olds talk about girls.

8 and 9 year old boys were talking about girls? I find this kind of hard to believe. I could believe 8 and 9 year old girls would talk about boys (or other girls) but most 8 and 9 year old boys are obsessed with making their farts as loud as possible. Perhaps they were just imitating the older boys, but even so, I find this only slightly believable.

Otherwise this rings very true for me. I’m not sure atm if Doug is supposed to be 11, 14, or 15. If it’s one of the latter two, Doug is at an age where his hormones are beginning to kick in. This is normal and happens to almost everybody.

So it makes sense when Doug finally decides that girls are more important than anything else int he world, and resolves to transfer to a school where he can get some vagina.

 

 

*Except 3 young adults who went to the hospital [the priest refused to do an exorcism] a few years back after playing with one. As they responded to medical treatment, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume they weren’t possessed. The ridiculous tangents I get into when writing these things.

** I keep getting told that these things are for kids because my freshly atheist self wanted to get ahold of and play with one, but nobody will play with me. They will, however, play with the tarot cards. They have also informed me that the word “tarot” does not rhyme with “parrot.”

The Richest Caveman Chapter 1

The drinking game:

1. Every time I agree with something Doug says

2. Every time Doug tells an outrageous story that sounds incredibly unrealistic

3. When the timeline jumps around in ways that don’t make sense

 

There will likely be more to come, so keep checking the drinking game section.

I’m not entirely sure it was he who wrote this. The cover reads that the story is “as told to Marilyn Tooker.” The copyright date is 1991. I’m not sure why Doug didn’t write this himself. Perhaps he had yet to start writing his own books? Maybe he’s better at non fiction than story writing?

In any case, here’s chapter one.

Chapter One

“I sat on the edge of my bed…and buried my face in my hands. Tears ran down my cheeks and seeped through my fingers.”

Doug Batchelor’s opening line really grabs us. I think Doug (Marilyn?) has the potential to be a good writer. There’s some talent here, but it needs more nurturing and a decent editor.  The opening lines are good because they make us want to know more. Who is crying? Why is he crying? Why is he referring to his apartment as “my mother’s New York apartment” instead of “our New York apartment? Yes, his mom’s the one paying the bills, but most children refer to it as “our house” not “my parents’ house.”

Doug is crying because he is in trouble at school again, and that he “just can’t seem to control his temper.”

I have no idea if this “can’t seem to control his temper” comment is a slight exaggeration, or indicative of an actual condition that, nowadays, one can get help for. But of course, when he was a kid, such things may not have been readily diagnosed.

Doug’s thoughts turn to his mother. His mother was in show business, and at some point wrote songs for Elvis. I decided to Google this one. There’s a Wikipedia page that lists all of Elvis’ song writers, and there is a Ruth Bachelor on the list. I did some further googling, and even though the name is spelled wrong on the wiki, this does appear to be Doug’s mother.

Well, that’s kinda cool. I had no idea Doug B’s mother wrote songs for Elvis. I learn something new every day.

In case anyone was wondering, the songs she wrote are:

1. Cotton Candy Land

2. A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You

And then I gave up because holy mother of GOD this list is LONG! Did Elvis write ANY of his own songs! Jeez!

Anyway, Adventists have an interesting connection, then, to Elvis.

Doug talks about meeting other movie stars. He name drops a few of them, but I’m too young to get the references. Except for the 3 stooges, I have no idea who these people are.

As I got old enough to understand, I noticed that a frightening number of them [the actors] were homosexuals, and it seemed like many were on drugs, or alcohol, or both, yet they weren’t happy.

Many of the actors were either on drugs or alcohol, or many of the homosexual actors? It isn’t clear in the statement.

Of course the homosexual actors wouldn’t be happy. They were homosexual in a homophobic world. Most of them were probably trying to pretend to be straight just to keep their careers. How could anybody be happy living that kind of life?  If many of the homosexual actors were always drunk or high, I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

Why do they work so hard to achieve fame if it makes them miserable? I wondered.

Sigh.

It wasn’t the fame that made them miserable. It was being homosexual in an accepting world. As to the unhappy heterosexual actors, perhaps it was not the fame itself that made them miserable?

Hang on, isn’t Doug Bachelor famous? Is his fame making him miserable? If not, why does he insist other famous people are miserable?

Anyway, Doug’s mom used to have parties in their apartment all the time. Doug says that all they wanted to do at these parties was sit around and smoke pot. Um, yeah, Doug, that’s kinda what (some peoples’ definition of) a party is. I don’t actually care that Doug’s mom smoked pot. I have no issue with recreational marijuana usage, and think our drug laws need a serious overhaul. But this was written in the 1990s, and for an Adventist audience. For the target audience and in that time period, this was seriously wild stuff. This would have made his mom look, in their eyes, like a terrible mother. I’m not sure if Doug was trying for this effect or if it’s just a side effect.

Doug never comes out and says he thinks she was a terrible mother. I think, however, at least subconsciously, he is demonstrating things that would show that to his target audience.

I’m not going to say one way or another what I think about the subject, mostly because I haven’t decided what to think.

As Doug is sitting on his bed crying, his thoughts turn to how lonely he is. He relives the details of the fight he was in at school that day, the lectures and glares from his teachers, etc.

No, actually, he doesn’t. He tells us he “relives all the details,” without telling us any of it. All we ever get to learn was that he got in a fight at school, his teachers yelled at him, and he feels really low.

Why show when you could tell, right?

He immediately jumps from this to wondering who he is, where he comes from, etc.

I’d been told I was just another step in the process of evolution—an overly developed monkey. If that’s all there is to life, why not just get it over with?

Woe is me. I am evolved and have no creator, therefore I have no worth or purpose. I will now go and kill myself.

Said no atheist, ever.

Also, evolution does not see humans as “overdeveloped monkeys.” Humans did not evolve from monkeys, we share a common ancestor. Monkeys are our cousins, not grandfathers. /tangent.

Doug finds his mother’s sleeping pills and thinks about using them to kill himself. He is unsure which are the sleeping pills, so he freaks out, and thinks:

“What if they were some kind of pills for ladies? What if they just made me really sick?”

I’d like to point out that a small child could eat a whole pack of “pills for ladies” and wind up only mildly nauseous (or so says my doctor, at any rate) but he was right about the pills possibly just making him really sick. He aborts the suicide mission, thank goodness.

Doug states that he was 13 years old at this time. But don’t go getting any ideas about his age and what year it is, because the timeline in this book freakin’ jumps all over the place. In the next chapter, he will be 11. This book does not go in chronological order and it’s kind of confusing.

I’m also not sure why he sticks his age into the suicide attempt #1 scene. Is he trying to go for the shock factor of “I was so young?!” Because, uh, that’s more than twice as old as I was when I first thought about suicide, and I’m not the only one I know who can say that.

Doug jumps back to talking about his mother again. In case you hadn’t noticed, the book is not organized very well. I’m getting whiplash from all the jumping around.

Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so blind to the clues that mom cared. She tried to express her love to me in her own way. She would write a musical for our class, and put me in the starring role. She put a lot of work into it, even conducting the rehearsals herself. This meant more time away from work, and smaller paychecks

I can identify with this. I used to think my mom didn’t love me because she didn’t show love the way I wanted it shown. As an adult, I can’t believe how stupid I was not to see that of course she loved you you IDIOT!

She would write a musical for our class, and put me in the starring role

This isn’t love.* This is putting your child on a pedestal. I wonder if this was why Doug was getting into fights at school?

That Doug! Festus thought to himself angrily. His mother wrote the play, so of course he’s the star. I’ll never get to play Rolfe in The Sound of Music. That cute girl I sit next to is playing Lisel, and he gets to kiss her. I think I’ll go punch Doug’s brains in after school. That’ll teach him.

Another way Doug’s mother showed she cared:  Falcon had cystic fibrosis and couldn’t smoke pot, so his mother would make him cookies. Hashish was very hard to get ahold of, and instead of keeping it for herself, his mother would put it in Falcon’s cookies. I agree with Doug (drink!) that this is an act of selflessness.

I know Marijuana has a lot of medical uses, but is Cystic Fibrosis one of them? If so, did his mother know that? I’m not sure how old Falcon is in this scene, but I’m going to assume Doug is still 13. I do not think I would smoke pot with my 13 year old children. And of course, the target audience would find the idea horrific.

Some time after the big fight at school, Doug gets his grades back. They’re terrible, so he tries to jump off the roof of the apartment building.

I actually do sympathize here. I studied hard in school, very hard. And yet, the best I could do in most subjects was a C. And yeah, it did make me want to kill myself.

I would like to state, for the record, that I am glad Doug didn’t succeed in killing himself. I don’t like the guy, but I wouldn’t want him to kill himself. I may hate him and everything he stands for, but I don’t wish him any harm.

Anyway, back to our story, Doug obviously (he’s still alive) doesn’t throw himself off the roof. He figures that that’s a painful way to die, and realizes there is a small chance he might survive and wind up a quadriplegic.

The nice thing about suicide is that you can always postpone it.

Take a drink, because I agreed with Doug on something. I’ve been postponing my suicide for a little over 20 years now.

Doug then tells us about his father. He owned an airplane company and loved planes so much he named his kids: Falcon and Douglas, after airplanes. Doug thinks he got the better name, and take a drink because I agree with him.

He grew up a Baptist, but religion had been thrust upon him by well meaning family and friends, and he wanted no part of it. …. He lost his first wife and baby son in a plane crash…he lost all his faith and considered himself an agnostic.

I wonder if this is accurate or if Doug just doesn’t believe in Atheists, because we’re all just really agnostics. According to most SDAs, true Atheists don’t really exist, after all.

Instead of learning from his dad, Doug decides to become a celebrity in a world where religion is constantly thrust upon people. I have no doubt Doug does some of the thrusting himself.**

In any case, teenage Doug steps back from the roof, and decides that when he goes, he doesn’t want to go out with a whimper, but a bang. He only gets one life, so he’s going to milk the shit out of it while he still can.

Take a drink, because I agree with this attitude.

 

*I’m not saying Doug’s mother didn’t love him, I’m saying this is a terrible example.

**I didn’t realize what that sounded like when I wrote it, but I’m not going to edit it because that I’m 12.

Number The Stars: Chapter 2

Who Is The Man Who Rides Past?

This chapter is basically exposition and background information. It’s a lot of telling, but it’s doing so in a way that is interesting.

Annemarie and Kirsti are in bed, and Kirsti begs for a story. Danish children,we are told, grow up with fairy tales. Hans Christian Anderson himself was Danish. (Annemarie particularly likes the story of The Little Mermaid, which probably tells you a lot about her character right there, as the original tale did not end anything remotely like the Disney version.)

But Kirsti wants one about “A king and queen and a beautiful daughter.” So Annemarie starts a story about a king and queen who have a daughter and live in a palace and wear fancy dresses and eat pink frosted cupcakes. No, we don’t get to hear the story and no, I wouldn’t blog about it if she did, because it sounds wicked boring. Eventually, Kirsti falls asleep, and Annemarie can think.

She starts by thinking about how King Christian X isn’t like the Kings in fairy tales who stand on balconies and shout orders. In fact, Annemarie has seen him often, as he used to ride through the streets of Copenhagen and greet his people. Once he even waved to Annemarie and her older sister, Lise. Lise told Annemarie that she was special, because she had been greeted by a king.

Lise is Annemarie’s older sister. Er, was, actually. She’s dead. Annemarie immediately jumps from thinking about her older sister being dead to thinking about a story her Papa had told her once shortly after Denmark surrendered. A German soldier had asked a teen boy “Who is the man that rides past?” Upon being told that that was the king of Denmark, the soldier was incredulous, and asked where the bodyguard was.

Papa said that the boy looked the soldier straight in the eye and said, “all of Denmark is his bodyguard.”

Annemarie asks if this is true, and her papa confirms. He would absolutely take a bullet for the king, just like any other Danish* citizen. 7 year old Annemarie promises that she would too, if she had to.

7 year old Annemarie asks her papa why the king couldn’t protect Denmark. Her father explains that the Nazis are a very big army, and Denmark is a tiny country. Norway fought the Nazis for a long time, but eventually they were conquered. Papa explains to Annemarie that the King of Denmark knew that if he and his people fought back, many would die, and they’d probably lose.

Sweden, however, managed to not get conquered. Annemarie has seen Sweden, though she’s never been there. Her uncle Henrik lives near the sea, and she can stand in his backyard by the ocean and look across to a strip of land that is Sweden. Uncle Henrik lives North of Copenhagen, near a part of the North Sea that is called Kattegat.

3 years later, Sweden is still free. King Christian X was injured in a fall from his horse and almost died, but he didn’t. Annemarie’s sister, Lise, did die, in an accident. Mr. And Mrs. Johansen don’t talk about Lise, or look at her things.

I don’t think it fully sank in when I was a child how awful that is. They lost a child. That is unnatural and shouldn’t happen.

Not being able to talk about it would be very, very difficult for the whole family.

Peter still visits, but he is no longer full of laughter and jokes. He talks to mamma and papa about things Annemarie doesn’t understand, and he never stays long. Papa looks tired and defeated all the time.

The whole world has changed, Annemarie realizes. Only fairy tales remain the same.

And they all lived happily ever after,” Annemarie finished, completing the tale for her sister.

*I know, I know, but I can not hear the word Danish without thinking of the pastry, and now I’m hungry.

Number The Stars Chapter 1

This is a departure from the books I usually take on. However, I need a palate cleanser after those last two, especially if I’m going to tackle Project Sunlight.

I read this book for the first time in 2nd grade. This was handed out to all 20 members of our class in one of those torture sessions where we all had to take turns reading parts of it out loud.*

I may or may not have “forgotten” to hand the book back in when I was done with it.

It was the first time I’d heard about the Holocaust, and the only time I would study it in school.

Number the Stars is a book about 10 year old Annemarie Johansen, growing up in Denmark during world war 2. Her best friend, Ellen, is Jewish. The entirety of the book is spent keeping Ellen and her family safe.

The main protagonist is not Jewish, and we discussed in my University Children’s Literature class why that might be. One theory is that, as this is basically intro to the holocaust 101 for ten year olds, it might have been better for main character to be a bit removed from what was going on within the Jewish community. Another is that, perhaps, child readers might prefer to identify more with Annemarie than with Ellen. Readers could imagine themselves in the position of hero trying to save their best friend instead of imagining themselves as the one being hunted, which would be a whole lot scarier.

What if that were me, the child might think. Would I be brave enough to stand up and help my friend?

What if I were Ellen instead? Would I want my friend to stick by and help me?

I’d be interested in hearing other opinions on this, as this is kind of different from every other children’s book about the holocaust I’ve ever read.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

Chapter 1

Why Are You Running?

Race you to the corner, Ellen!” AnneMarie calls out excitedly. Ellen is reluctant at first, but finally agrees. I like the opening paragraphs, because right away you get a sense of the two main protagonist’s personalities and descriptions. “Stocky” Ellen doesn’t want to race. “Lanky” Annemarie, who has longer legs, begs Ellen to race anyway, because she wants to practice for the athletic meet at her school. Ellen finally agrees.  As they run, Annemarie’s “silvery blonde hair” flies out behind her, while Ellen’s “Dark pigtails bounced against her shoulders.”

Annemarie’s little sister, Kirsti, pouts at being left behind.

AnneMarie is tall, blonde, athletic, and “lanky.” Ellen is shorter than Annemarie, stocky, not athletic, and has “dark hair.” Ellen wants to “just walk, like civilized people,” Annemarie isn’t nearly so reserved.

Just as Annemarie reaches the corner (before Ellen), a German soldier orders her to halt. Two German soldiers, actually.

Two helmets, two sets of eyes glaring at her, and four shiny boots planted firmly on the sidewalk, blocking her path to home.

Oh and 2 rifles.

One of the soldiers asks Annemarie why she was running, and she explains that they were racing, because her school has meets every Friday. She thinks she is babbling too much, and decides she should just answer their questions without volunteering too much information. She also notes that their Danish is very poor, despite them having been in Denmark for 3 years.

This tells us approximately how far into the war we are, giving us a year. The Germans have been in Denmark for 3 years, and Google tells me they invaded in 1940. We’re told at the end of the book that WW2 ends 2 years from now(spoiler alert), so it all fits that this story takes place in the year 1943. In the next chapter, we learn that it is September. September 1943. My maternal grandma was 4 years old.

The soldier nicknamed “Giraffe” asks Annemarie what’s in her book bag, and is she a good student. Books and yes, she answers. Giraffe then asks about Ellen.

Ellen, by the way, hasn’t moved since the soldiers began talking to them.

Annemarie…. saw that Ellen’s face, usually rosy cheeked, was pale, her dark eyes were wide.

Spoiler alert: Ellen is Jewish. She would have had a lot more awareness than Annemarie about what Jews have been facing lately, even if she doesn’t have all the details, and it makes a lot of sense for her to be twice as terrified.

It’s also a good bit of foreshadowing I didn’t pick up on my first 5,000 readings of this book. Ellen is more scared of the soldiers than Annemarie. Why? I guess I just thought Annemarie was the braver of the two, but as a grown up, I’m realizing that Annemarie’s “bravery” here is actually “blissful ignorance.”

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Annemarie reassures the soldiers that Ellen is much better in school than she is.

Kirsti finally reaches her sister, and the soldier starts asking about her. One of the soldiers reaches down to touch Kirsti’s “short tangled curls,” but Kristi yells at him to stop.

This makes the soldiers laugh. One of them says Kirsti reminds him of his own little girl. He tells the girls to go on home, and no more running in the street.

We get a brief glimpse, here, that the soldiers are human too. But not too much more because that would confuse the shit out of small children, who tend to think in terms of black and white, good and evil.

Annemarie and Ellen are wary of the 2 soldiers guarding the entrance to their apartment building as they pass them, But Kirsti rushes past, chattering.

For Kirsti, the soldiers were simply part of the landscape, something that had always been there, on every corner, as unimportant as lampposts, throughout here remembered life.

Kirsti is described as “a stubborn 5 year old.” The war has been going on for so long that for her, it’s just part of the world around her. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and there are German soldiers on every corner.

Neither Annemarie nor Ellen plan on telling their mothers what happened, but Little Blabbermouth Kirsti ruins it. She reaches the apartment first, and begins telling her mom, Mrs. Johansen, what happened. Incidentally, Mrs. Rosen is visiting Mrs. Johansen.

Mrs. Johansen and Mrs. Rosen are drinking “coffee.” Of course it’s not real coffee, but they call it that anyway. Mrs. Johansen asks her older daughter what really happened.

Mrs. Rosen is frightened, and asks where Ellen is. Wow. This sailed right over my head as a child. A Jewish woman just found out that her 10 year old daughter had a run in with the Nazi soldiers, and didn’t come in with her best friend. I fully grok why “Mrs. Rosen had a frightened look” when she asked, “Where is Ellen?!”

When I was a child and read this book, I thought that the Nazis didn’t start persecuting the Jews until like, about the 3rd chapter or so. And they may not have done it openly until then, but the Rosens, at least, would have been all to well aware of the fact that these things were happening in other countries.

Ten year old me never thought Ellen was in danger at the start of the book.

Annemarie reassures Mrs. Rosen that Ellen, not knowing her mom was visiting the Johansens, is downstairs in the Rosen’s apartment. Annemarie tells the women what really happened, under exaggerating to balance out Kirsti’s exaggeration.

Kirsti says she slapped the soldier’s hand and shouted at him, but Annemarie quickly reassures her mother that this didn’t happen. And she’s half right. Kirsti didn’t slap him.

Mrs. Johansen speaks in a low voice to Mrs. Rosen. She tells her the soldiers must be uneasy because of the bombings in Hillerod(sp) and Norrebro(sp). Mrs. Johansen read about it in De Frie Danske– The Free Danes, an illegal newspaper. Peter Nielson brings it to them, and the paper is burned after Mr. And Mrs. Johansen read it. But Annemarie hears them talking, of course. Because 10 year olds are a lot more aware of things than most people give them credit for.

Annemarie also knows what the resistance is, and we get a very brief child appropriate cliffs notes version. Essentially it boils down to “they hurt the Nazis in any way they can.”

Mrs. Rosen leaves to go find Ellen, making Annemarie promise to walk to school a different way. Annemarie does, but asks why it matters, when there are soldiers on every corner. Mrs. Rosen gives Annemarie and Kristi a useful piece of advice:

They will remember your faces. It is important to be one of the crowd, always, be one of the many. Be sure they never have a reason to remember your face.

And with that, Mrs. Rosen makes her exit.

Kristi reassures her mother that the soldier will remember her face, because she reminds him of his daughter.

Mrs. Johansen wonders aloud why, if that’s true, he doesn’t go back to her, like a good father.

From the 21st century as a non Jewish person I can sit here and say that he might not have wanted to be there any more than the Danes wanted him there. I recall reading somewhere that not all Germans joined the Nazis voluntarily.

The good people of Denmark likely don’t have the luxury of such thoughts, And I can’t say I blame them.

Annemarie, trying to distract her mother, asks for some food. Her mom says she can have bread. Annemarie asks for butter, but of course there is none. Mrs. Johansen reminds Annemarie that she should know and be used to this by now. Kirsti says she remembers cupcakes, despite the fact that there hasn’t been any sugar or butter for frosting 3 out of her 5 years.

When will there be cupcakes again momma?” Asks Kirsti.

When the war ends,” Mrs. Johannsen replies. “When the soldiers leave.”

This is where the chapter ends.

This chapter was very well written. It gives us a good idea of what life is like in Copenhagen from a ten year old’s perspective. War, for Annemarie, means:

1. Soldiers on corners with rifles

2. No butter for bread or sugar for cupcakes

3. No coffee

4. Bombings

5. Secret newspapers

There’s more, but we don’t learn about them till later and I hesitate to give out too many spoilers.

I’m always looking for writing advice, and I really got some here. This whole chapter is an example of why showing is better than telling.

When you think about it, this chapter, really, could be summed up in a paragraph:

There were soldiers on the street corners nowadays, in the year 1943. Ten year old Annemarie remembered a time before they were there, but she knew 5 year old Kirsti didn’t. The soldiers were very scary and intimidating, and they still couldn’t speak Dutch. Annemarie and Ellen were both very scared of the soldiers, but Kirsti was too young to know she should be. Ellen seemed more scared than Annemarie for some reason.

Annemarie was tall, lanky athletic girl with blonde hair. Her friend, Ellen, was stocky and had dark hair and dark eyes. Ellen was more reserved than her friend.

 

Did you fall asleep? Did you even finish reading all that? Probably not, because those paragraphs I wrote are boring. (They’re also not very well organized, but set that aside.)

I think, in this first chapter, Lois was trying to get across to his (her?) audience how scary the German soldiers were, and a little bit of background about the main characters and their time period.

But instead of saying, “the soldiers were scary,” over and over, Lois writes about the 2 protagonists just having a little harmless fun, and the German soldiers reacting negatively to it. The way the German soldiers react to the girls’ race is indicative of just how German occupation of Denmark is. There aren’t just soldiers on every corner “like lamp posts,” they’re there and they intimidate little girls.

Even after Annemarie is stopped by the soldiers, she doesn’t think to herself, these people are scary. Instead she sees their shiny boots, their cold eyes, their helmets. Likewise, Lois doesn’t write, “Ellen was scared.” Instead, “Ellen had a white face, and her eyes were wide. She stood motionless.”

Lois doesn’t beat us over the head, or even tell us straightforwardly, that these people are scared. The German soldiers are something to be afraid of. They are terrorizing the entire country.

Lois, by telling us a story about Annemarie and Ellen having a run in with the soldiers, isn’t just demonstrating how scary the Nazi solderis are, it’s also demonstrating that the war is not just an abstract thing that only adults are having to deal with. Lois is telling his (her?) readership that you, ten year old child reading this, would be affected by the presence of soldiers on every corner. You too would be affected by the food shortages.  You too would’ve been affected, one way or another, by what the Nazis were doing to the Jews.

 

*Seriously teachers, why? Why do you do this? The fast readers just get frustrated and angry having to sit there and wait for the slow readers to stumble through, while the slow readers get to be thoroughly embarrassed that you have brought their inability to read out loud to the attention of the rest of the class.

There have GOT to be better ways to do this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roswell: The Outsider, by Melinda Metz Chapter 2

I’m going to try to get through the whole chapter today, but it is the holidays, so no guarantees.

The chapter opens with Liz being examined by completely incompetant paramedics. Liz and MAx look at each other, and when paramedics block their view, Liz acts as if it’s tragic. Also, we get this.

 Her [Liz] brain felt like it was humming, vibrating at a really low frequency. It was hard to think.

So, Max’s healing mojo makes her feel like she’s on drugs. Got it.

Liz tells the paramedics that she broke a bottle of ketchup. There’s blood under the ketchup, and a lot of it. Sorry, but I’m not buying that the ketchup would hide the blood. It’s not like they’re the same color or texture, and they smell different. Fortunately, the paramedic is an idiot, and tells her that smelling Liz is causing her to get the urge to eat french fries. She shines a light into Liz’s eyes and checks her pulse.

We get a bit of character development about Liz’s dad, who is freaking out about Liz possibly being shot. Apparently he’s so scared to lose Liz because her sister, Rosa, overdosed. He is terrified to lose Liz because she’s the only child he has left.

I’m going to chalk this up to Liz being an unreliable narrator. I don’t think her dad is worried because Liz is the only one he has left, I think he’s worried because he loves Liz.

Anyway, after only looking into her eyes and checking her pulse, not, oh, I dunno, making sure Liz doesn’t have a bullet in her anywhere, or getting out the stethoscope and listening to the actual heartbeat, the paramedic declares that Liz is fine. So the Paramedics just leave.

Mr. Ortecho gives Liz a hug “so tight her ribs hurt.” Which makes sense, but how does he not then get covered in the blood/ketchup combo? At the very least, the ketchup would cling to him and come off of her, revealing the bullet hole in Liz’s uniform.

Liz asks her dad not to tell her mother, and her dad basically laughs at her because Liz’s mother would take one look at them and know something was up.

Um, Roswell is a small town, the type where everyone knows everything about anybody. And Liz thinks they have a prayer of keeping this from her mother? And Liz’s dad thinks Liz’s mom won’t already know about it by the time they walk in the house?

I’m not buying it.

Liz is desperate to talk to Max, but he and Michael wisely pulled a disappearing act. Liz gets worried her story won’t hold up because…oh jeez, are the paramedics BLIND? How did they not see this?

The splatters of blood on the tile floor looked bright red and shiny slick –not tomato red and clumpy.

Oh my god, seriously? These paramedics need to be fired. It doesn’t take a forensic scientist to figure out that a blood stain on the floor is blood and not ketchup. Especially when you’re a paramedic and used to dealing with blood.

Liz decides she’d better mop the floor.

Now, it doesn’t surprise me that the paramedics got there before the police. I think they usually do. However, it does surprise me that the police didn’t appear on the scene shortly after the paramedics. Even in a larger city this would be the case, but this is a small town. Small town police don’t usually have anything like this to deal with, and they would be rushing to the scene, probably with way too many actual responding officers. The fact that the police here are taking their sweet ass time getting here is just not believable.

It is even less believable that they wouldn’t be pissed and suspicious that Liz tried to mop a crime scene. In fact, how has the area not already been roped off with police tape? How are they still in the restaurant?

And what happened to the two men who were fighting? Did they run away when the bullet hit Liz? Did they continue to fight? It seems like they just vanished from the story.

Before Maria can get Liz to the bathroom, sheriff Valenti shows up. The book does a better job at setting up Valenti as a villain than the movie. Even I hate him. The Valenti in the movies you could kinda sympathize with.  Here is the paragraph we get about Valenti as chief of police.

He did a locker search practically every week [at the high school]. He stopped anyone under 18 who was driving even one mile over the speed limit. He showed up at practically every party, checking to see if there was any underage drinking going on.

So, in other words, he is an asshole. But aside from that, this paints Valenti as someone who is a police officer in a small town who has nothing better to do than stop 16 year olds going 26 in a 25. (Which, btw, would get laughed out of court.) So, how the hell does he take so long to get to a real crime scene? As chief of police, he would’ve been notified right away. Tell me that his stupid locker searches were more important.

Anyway, Valenti questions Liz and her dad. Liz repeats the ketchup story, which, since she hasn’t had time to completely mop up the blood stains, shouldn’t hold. Actually, the fact that she is even mopping would trip the BS detector all cops seem to have. Even Liz admits that it’s weird.

Valenti asks questions in a calm voice, but Liz still feels intimidated. Liz wonders why. This takes a whole paragraph.

If she had to pick one word to describe Sheriff Valenti, it would be deliberate. She got the feeling that his every word and gesture were calculated. And if he was so careful about what he did and said, he must scrutinize every detail about other people.

Well, that last one is kind of what people are taught in police school. It might not actually be something Valenti was born with. In any case, we are supposed to believe that someone described as such wouldn’t call out her bullshit ketchup story right then and there?

The two describe in detail what the 2 men looked like. I can’t believe Valenti is taking the descriptions from Liz and Maria at the same time. I would think he would question them separately, to make sure their stories of the incident and the descriptions of the men matched up. Boy, if even I can figure this out, Valenti must be a dumb cop. How’d he get elected sheriff, again?

Valenti then asks where the bullet hole is. It almost feels like he shouldn’t be asking, like this should be done by a team of forensic scientists. Well, maybe he would ask the question, but the area should still be swarming with cops looking for a bullet hole based on Liz’s report of the incident.

Valenti doesn’t see a bullet hole in the wall. Liz says that maybe she just imagined the gun went off because she was so stressed. Valenti says that can happen, however, her father heard the gunshot too, so it definitely went off.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Liz said. “Do you mind if I go clean up? This ketchup is really sticky.”

I have no idea if this would really be allowed or not, but Valenti lets her go. Maria takes Liz to the bathroom. We get very clunky writing about how Liz thinks better with her hair out of her face. Which isn’t a bad characterization in and of itself, but it’s done so clunkily (is that even a word? It is now) that it’s…. ergh.

Maria knows right off the bat that Liz was lying to the sheriff, and I like this part. In the TV series it takes like, 2 episodes for Liz to open up to Maria, and that didn’t make any narrative sense. So I like the fact that Maria finds out right away, because she’d have to be an idiot not to.

Liz explains, and Maria believes it, because it makes more sense than the dumb ketchup story.

The smell of ketchup mixed with dying blood wafted up from Liz’s uniform. She felt a wave of nausea…

Hang on, the paramedic was up close to her, and she didn’t smell the blood? All she smelled was ketchup? This is getting more unbelievable by the second.

There’s a hole in Liz’s uniform where the bullet went through. Liz gets weirded out by the fact a bullet was in her body. I don’t blame her. Then Maria notices that the Liz has a silvery handprint on her stomach that’s glowing.

The perspective switches to Isabelle, who is really upset. You can tell because she’s organizing her makeup drawer, which always calms her down. Apparently the three can feel whenever one of their number uses their powers, which is another way the books differ from the TV series.

And they never use their powers, not even for fun. It’s a rule. In the TV series they used their powers all the time, out in public. I like the strict secrecy better, because it’s more likely to lead to their survival, but this part just rubs me the wrong way.

Max and Michael never used their powers for kicks. And whenever Isabelle did –which was a lot, because using her powers was fun–they both always chewed her out.

I don’t blame Isabelle. I’d at least like to be able to use my powers in private where no one could see me or something. Basically, Max can put all 3 of them in danger by using a huge power in public, but Isabelle can’t even levitate a book from across a room with the door closed and the window curtains shut?

Isabelle is bordering towards hysterical, because someone used a lot of power, like healing or dream walking. She’s not just hysterical because of the power use, but because she feals their emotions, and right now, she feels their terror.

The author goes on to do a bit of world building. Isabelle can feel the others’ feelings, but not read their minds. However, she just tunes them out most of the time, especially when Max is lusting over Liz. (My words, not hers.)

But trying to ignore their terror would be like trying to ignore a volcano.

Finally, Max and Michael come home, and Isabelle is ready to murder them. After going inside and being reassured that their parents aren’t home, Max tells Isabelle what happens, but not without Isabelle having to pry it out of him, which scares her because normally Max loves to take charge and boss Isabelle and Michael.

Finally, Michael puts it this way.

The saint used his powers to heal a gunshot wound –and he did it in front of witnesses.

Isabelle, rightly so, is furious. There’s a few paragraphs about how Isabelle is religious in her avoidance of Valenti (smart girl).

Isabelle then asks if anyone got a good look at Max, and Michael points out that it’s such a small town, witnesses will also be able to give names and addresses.

Isabelle rightfully assumes Valenti now knows about Max and Isabelle. Because if this investigation was happening in an even semi competent universe, he would know, not in 2 seconds, but at least in 2 days he’d know something was up.

Michael thinks they should flee, and frankly, I’m with him.

Then Max takes charge, and says Liz lied to the paramedics, so it’s totally cool, because the EMS and Police are totally incompetent in this universe. The Roswellverse.

Isabelle argues with Max, and she’s in the right.

Michael cuts off the argument by asking what he plans to tell Liz. When Max reveals he’s going to tell Liz the truth, the other 2 freak out. And I agree, if you want to reveal yourself to a girlfriend, wait till your adults and have an actual realistic chance of making it in the real world as a married couple.

Isabelle sees there’s no way to change Max’s mind, which is totally unfair, because Max is making a decision that impacts all of them. He shouldn’t get to do that without a vote, at least. She points out that Max barely knows Maria and Liz, and it’s not like they live in Disney land where everything is perfect.

Michael and Isabelle should take off in the jeep and leave Max behind to get himself killed over his girlfriend.

“You’re the one who made the rule, Max. You made us all swear we would never, tell anyone, remember?” Michael asked.

(Comma placement is hers, not mine, and it looks weird.)

So, basically, Michael gets to make the rules, but they don’t really apply to him. Right.

A car pulls up to the driveway. Who is it? Is it Sheriff Valenti, come to cart them off to a facility? Is it their parents home early from the office? We will find out in the next chapter.

Roswell: The Outsider, by Melinda Metz Chapter 1

The opening of the first book is fairly similar to the first scene of the episode 1 of the TV series. Liz Ortecho (not Parker. Odd, I wonder why they changed the name? Did they want her to be less overly Hispanic (or Latina?) in the TV series?) is working in The Crashdown Cafe, owned by her parents.

The text goes on to describe the food Liz gives them, and then informs us that the customers were obviously tourists. Well no shit! Roswell is (at least in the Roswell Universe of the movies) a small town. People in small towns to know each other, so anyone not a resident is usually a tourist.

Anyway, every tourist has at least one question about… the Roswell Incident (capitalization not mine).

The man in the Lost in Space T-shirt (hell yeah! I like this guy already) asks if Liz’s family is from Roswell, and upon hearing that they’ve been there for generations, he asks if any of her relatives told her stories about the UFO crash.

Liz pulls out a black and white photograph and shows them. “A friend of my grandmother’s took this picture of the crash site before the government cleaned it up.”

The 2 tourists are really gullible, and say it looks just like the alien from some sort of autopsy video they watched. They want a copy of it for their website. Liz snatches the photo away because if her “papa” catches her, he’ll be pissed.

I don’t actually blame Liz for doing this, because I work in food service, and it’s boring. You have to make the job interesting somehow, and if people are gullible enough to believe Liz’s photograph of “a baby doll that’s been left in the sun too long.”

Liz’s friend, Maria DeLuca,  chastises Liz, who says that the tourists will have a great story to tell at home, and she’ll get a good tip. Win win for everyone.

[quote] Maria sighed. “You and your great tips. I’ve never known such a money-hungry waitress.”[/quote]

This seriously almost had me throwing the book across the room, except that my poor kindle doesn’t deserve that. But if I had been reading the physical paper copy…

I mean, jeez, who knew that trying to get good tips as a waitress made you “money-hungry.” Nevermind the fact that it is freakin’ legal to pay waitresses less than half the current minimum wage and, oh yeah, most of them rely on tips to survive. Liz is in high school trying to save up for college. Of course she needs all the money she can get. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this particular chapter, Maria and Liz banter for a while about how Liz

[quote]… not going to spend your life in a town that has only two movie theaters, one bowling alley, one lame-o comedy club, even more lame-o dance club, and thirteen alien theme tourist traps.”[/quote]

I don’t blame her, I wouldn’t either. Apparently Liz has been saying this multiple times a day since the 5th grade. Another interesting deviation from the movie, Liz has “5 thousand relatives” watching her all the time. In the movie, I don’t really remember her having any relatives besides her parents, and they definitely left out her older sister, Rosa.

Apparently Liz’s large family is pressuring her a little bit to actually go to college, and not end up like her sister, Rosa. I’m not sure when we’ll get told what this means, as I’ve only read ahead 3 chapters. I’m guessing Rosa did something totally “shameful” like get pregnant out of wedlock and have to drop out of college to raise the baby. Something which women are frequently frowned upon for doing.

Also, Maria has a ten year old brother in these books, whereas in the movie she is an only child.

Liz counts her money. She’s made $30 more for her “hasta la vista fund.”

And here’s where the writing gets especially bad.

[quote] ….the door swung open. Max Evans, tall and blonde, with killer baby blues, and Michael Geurin, dark and intense, ambled over the corner booth in the back. Both were students at Liz and Maria’s high school.[/quote]

Killer baby blues? When I first read that, I actually couldn’t figure out what that meant. Baby blue pants, baby blue shirt… a baby who was choking to death? I know some authors like to use common vernacular, but when they do I feel like they are just dating their work, and making it potentially a bit more difficult for future readers like yours truly who’s first thought when she hears “killer baby blues” are killer baby whales.

Also, this is Max Evans in the movie.

Yup. Killer baby blues and blonde hair. I don’t know why the change… maybe they think he looks better this way? I gave up trying to figure it out.

Maria bitches for a bit about how the cute guys and tourists always sit in Liz’s section, and she has to deal with those two older guys who are having some sort of fight.

FORESHADOW CLUNK.

Liz offers to give Maria Max and Michael’s table, but Maria just insists that something is up for Liz to give it up. Um, maybe you’ve just been whining and she wants to help you? I liked Maria’s character in the movie, but she is coming across as a bit whiny here.

Anyway, what’s up is that Liz is tired of guys. Apparently she went out on a date with Kyle Valenti, the sheriff’s son, and he’s pissed she wont’ go out with him again.

[quote] he actually got down on his knees and followed me down the hall with his tongue hanging out, begging. [/quote]

I’m sure the tongue hanging out part was exaggeration… but if he is following her around begging her to go out with him then, yes, that is totally creepy. It’s like some guys think they own a girl after the first date, god.

I actually dislike Kyle in the book. In the series I kind of sympathized with him because he has this girlfriend, and she keeps giving him the brush off to go hang out with Max.

Maria brings up Alex, who she and Liz have only been friends with for a year, but feel as if they’ve known him forever. Um, if you all grew up in the same small town, you would have known each other forever. Unless Alex moved in recently, they might not have been friends with him forever, but they would have known him.

Liz decides Alex doesn’t count, because he’s so cool he counts as one of the girls. Liz declares that she is going to “stay home, rent chick flicks, and take bubble baths.” Aside from the chick flick part, that actually sounds really fun.

The book then goes on to reassure us that not all guys Liz has dated have been losers like Kyle. After all, Kyle actually thought Liz would enjoy watching him play his video games. And he didn’t even give her a turn!

Apparently Liz can’t stop dating, because there will be some very unhappy boys at Ulysses F Olsen High… like Max Evans. Liz is apparently friends with Max, which is different from the tv series wherein they’d never really spoken to each other before.

Anyway, this is a lot of time to sit there and talk when they should be working and if I were their employer I wouldn’t be too happy. A small conversation between tables that lasts for 2-4 sentences is one thing. A whole conversation like this? I’d write them up.

What follows is the WORST way to do descriptions in a book ever.

[quote] “Oh, please.” Maria shot back at her “how could he not be interested? You look like some kind of Spanish princess or something with your long black hair and your amazing cheekbones. And let’s not talk about your skin. Do you even know the word zit? Plus yor’e smart and–” [/quote]

Because seriously, people actually talk that way in real life.

We get a lot of talk about how Maria is loyal, and it’s like Ms. Metz never got the concept of “show, don’t tell.”

Anyway, Michael gets tired of waiting for the girls to come around and comes up to the counter, asking for a job application. Liz privately thinks the Crash Down is too normal a job for Michael, who should be working as a Navy Seal or something… in High School? Liz, nobody has a fun job in High School. Almost every high schooler I knew of who worked did so in menial jobs that were boring.

Except for me, I worked in a new and used bookstore. It was a good thing my boss and I were friends, otherwise I would’ve been fired in the first week for constantly hiding out in a corner somewhere and sticking my nose in a book. There’s a reason I studiously avoid jobs at bookstores as an adult.

In any case, Liz hands him an application, but says there are no openings at this time. Which doesn’t surprise me, in such a small town, I’d think they’d only need seasonal help.

Michael  answers that he thinks they’re going to be having some openings real soon, unless Liz’s dad likes waitresses who stand around gossiping instead of waiting tables. OH SNAP. BURN. BUUUUURRRRRRRRN. BURN.

Maria finally picks up some menus and goes to wait on the boys.

There’s a paragraph about the exact shade of Max’s eyes… They look at each other. They look away. Was Maria right about Max liking Liz?

Liz has known Max since the third grade, and been her lab partner since sophomore year of high school. They never hung out outside of class…. yet earlier Liz describes him as “her buddy.” uh huh. More daydreaming about going out with Max.

Apparently Max sees the world in a totally different way, because, when they cloned the first sheep, instead of thinking about who he would like to clone, he wondered if the soul could be cloned, and what that meant.

Um…. Ms. Metz? Sorry, but, that way of thinking was not unique at the time. Because I remember when that happened, and even then it was a huge question in the media, in magazine articles, heck, even at the elementary school I went to. Max thinking this way does not make him unique and special in the least. It just places him in with Majority group #2 instead of Majority group #1.

Liz then thinks that spending time with Max definitely wasn’t boring, but how would she know if she’s never spent time with him outside of class? Because in class you don’t really get that much chance to spend time with people. Therefore, you can’t say they’re never boring, because you only see them in school which takes up only what, 1/3rd of an average child’s day?

More of Liz going on and on about Max…

And then FINALLY the story gets interesting. The two guys over in the corner start arguing loudly over money. We don’t get the exact details of the argument, and I don’t think it’s necessary, since it’s not in any way relevant to the plot.

Anyway, Liz turns to get her dad when Maria screams “He’s got a gun!”

Liz panics, and her panic causes temporary paralysis.

One man fires the gun. Unfortunately, he’s a really bad shot, and Liz is hit in the stomach. Liz fades out as Maria tries to staunch the bloodflow.

Then we shift to Max’s perspective. He springs up from the booth. Michael tries to stop him. They have an argument about how this is all a really bad idea and could put them all in jeopardy vs Liz’s life is in danger. Even the book admits Michael is right.

Look. A shot to the stomach is bad, but it’s not, in and of itself, fatal. A victim of such a wound does have a chance for survival if medical attention is sought right away. And from the speed at which the EMS personnel get there, it doesn’t sound like that will be an issue. Max should cool his jets, because even if Liz dies, it will be a lot quicker for her than what the government types will do to them if they are found out.

But Max decides it’s perfectly ok to risk Michael and Isabelle’s life, and he goes and heals Liz by shifting around molecules. I don’t know how scientific that actually is, but it’s not particularly relevant to the plot, so I’m going to suspend the disbelief a little bit. Kind of like tachyon pulses in Star Trek. It’s not an explanation that makes sense,but the author is trying and oh look a butterfly so…. whatever. Pass on that.

Off to the side, we get a bit about Liz’s father calling 911 and giving the cafes address to the paramedics. Erm, what? Even back in the late 80s/early 90s, and I believe this was filmed in the late 1990s, unless you were calling from a cell phone, EMS had your address immediately whenever you called. They had caller ID way before the rest of the world, for obvious reasons. I actually remember our gym teacher calling once, and having to explain that no address was popping up because he was calling on a cell phone, and this was in the early zeros.

Add to that, Roswell is a small town. Now, that might mean they share an EMS department with neighboring towns, BUT, Roswell is also a huge tourist location. I feel like the EMS and Police and such would already know the addresses of the major tourist places in the area, for obvious reasons.

My dad actually was an EMT in a small touristy town once, and not only did they know where every restaurant was, they knew the major tourist locations. So I feel like Liz’s dad giving the address is just a waste of time. At MOST he would have to confirm the address, maybe, but I can’t imagine someone repeating it, but saying “yes you’re correct.”

In any case, this gets Liz’s dad out of the way while Max heals Liz.

Oh, and in the books, apparently Max can see auras, and he can see that Liz’s is fading out fast. Really? I thought gunshot wounds to the stomach took forever to bleed out. But eh, why ruin drama with facts, amiright?

In any case, Max just kind of shoves Maria out of the way, and Maria doesn’t protest… yeah, that makes narrative sense. Just push the woman aside like a rag doll, and she totally won’t argue. we;iorwefijofsijo

There’s a paragraph about how Max loves Liz. At least, I think it’s a paragraph. The formatting is kind of messed up in the kindle book, but I’m going to attribute that to the fact that this book was a gift. I’m guessing that Ms. Metz’s formatting is perfect in the paperback version.

Liz’s father tries to get through, but Max is… sure taking his sweet ass time about healing her, God. We seriously get 2 or 3 paragraphs or so between the time he shoves Maria out of the way and the time he heals her, which seems to take forever because he must focus on Liz, on details of her life and… huh? I thought all he had to do was rearrange some molecules? Liz’s whole life flashes before his eyes. Then he’s connected.Now he can heal her. Oh my. Anyway, he nudges the molecules of the bullet into harmless particles, which dissolve in Liz’s bloodstream.

Yeah, a lead bullet dissolved into your bloodstream, tell me how that’s not dangerous? Liz is going to die of lead poisoning. Then Max moves Liz’s skin cells to heal her.

Max disconnects just as the ambulance crew comes through the door.

Liz wakes up, apparently not affected by blood loss. Seriously, they tell us she lost a lot of blood, and that all Max did was remove the bullet and sew her up, but they don’t show any signs of Liz being anemic from blood loss. How do the paramedics not pick up on this?

Max takes the ketchup bottle and smashes it, then dumps the contents over Liz’s uniform, telling her to say she broke the bottle when she fell. The paramedics come as Max backs away. Liz gives the Paramedics the story.

Liz tells the paramedics she’s ok, and the chapter ends.