What’s Missing in US Gun Control Debates

These are the statistics:
1982-2011 – America has a public mass shooting at a rate of every 200 days
After 2011 – America has a public mass shooting at the rate of every 64 days

With the student-led March for Our Lives demonstration in 2018, public support ‘common sense’ gun control policies appears to be increasing. In fact, Abele reports that 90% of Americans “support universal background checks” for gun purchases. Capitalising on this, many prominent 2020 presidential candidates have taken it up as a policy issue.

But these discussions miss one crucial element of the problem: public mass shootings have become far more common recently (Mother Jones and Harvard School of Public Health), and there’s ample reason for that.

The one factor that cannot be ignored is best exemplified by Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 students in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He was pictured wearing a Donald Trump campaign hat – saying ‘Make America Great Again’ – and allegedly had ties to white supremacist groups. 

A tweet, which is one of many, in which President Trump appears to demonise Mexican immigrants

Vitriolic political rhetoric is not a new problem – but it is one that has been exacerbated by the widespread use of social media. In addition to this, politicians’ use or approval of it themselves, whether serious or in jest, has the effect of normalising such opinions. 

This effect in turn can motivate the mentally ill, or otherwise unstable, to extreme lengths. In a world moving toward globalisation, we cannot tolerate another massacre – no matter who the victims are.

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Since I read this as an audiobook, the lovely picture used above is from Jenna M. Be sure to also check out her review of the book too!

Reading this was a unique experience for me: it was my first time listening to an audiobook! I found myself working at the same time, mind caught between the book and something else, not really enjoying either. But a book like this deserves better. It took me by surprise, delivered a few well-aimed and deliberate plot twists, and left me reeling.

“I have long operated under the idea that civility is subservience. But it hasn’t gotten me very far, that type of kindness. The world respects people who think they should be running it.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid

What worked for me

Glitz and grit of Old Hollywood: I believe that a fundamental human want is to know what celebrities get up to – whether they’re people, just like us, or whether our awe of them is justified. This book in no small way illustrates both the luxury of wealth, and its limitations. The characters attend the Oscars, go to lavish restaurants, and wear stunningly-described clothes. But none of it protects them from abuse, heartbreak or death. In fact, you get a sense of the pressure that a reputation like that of Evelyn Hugo (aka fictional Marilyn Monroe) would entail: a life under the spotlights means one with no perceivable flaws.

The real love interest: as would be expected, this story’s through line comes in romance. This is a story full of love, and yet you still unabashedly root for this one in particular to work out. It is another aspect not romanticised – the relationship has flaws that could signal its end, but wouldn’t necessarily onein real life. It keeps you on your toes, unabashedly hopeful and yet unsure if they ever will get their happy ending. Evelyn’s story has such an air of melancholy that you really do wonder if she’ll be left with a broken heart – and if you’ll end up with one on her behalf.

“Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you. Other times reality simply waits, patiently, for you to run out of the energy it takes to deny it.” 

Taylor Jenkins Reid

And… what didn’t

Repetitiveness: in a book with no fewer than seven love interests, and a main character consistently willing to marry for personal gain, the plot often became repetitive. The author asks you to suspend your disbelief and think ‘this time will be different’ a few many times; I found myself snoozing through the portions of the book where I can already tell what the ending would be. The writing was simply not captivating enough to pull you through those gaping filler stories.

Character development de Monique: I shouldn’t have been surprised that Evelyn Hugo was undoubtedly the main character of the story. Somehow, I was though – perhaps because it’s quickly revealed that she is not its narrator. The plot line revolving around narrator Monique, with Evelyn as an inspiration to be bold and act fiercely, serves as another uninspiring backdrop. This is to be expected, of course: comparing the highlights of a more than sixty years of life to a few weeks, one is bounded to not compare. I only wish the writer had realised the same.

Final review: 3.5/5 stars

Review: The Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo

As an avid fan of Leigh Bardugo’s subversive ‘Six of Crows’ duology, I was thrilled to delve deeper into her ‘Grishaverse’. It was a no-brainer new favourite, yet I still stopped reading before finishing the first chapter. I was shocked to see I could already guess its plot: girl meets boy; boy introduces girl to a magical new world; girl falls in love; and girl powers up to defeat the big bad. It was only when I finally picked it up again that I realised how much of that is inverted here.

“Fine,” he said with a weary shrug. “Make me your villain.” 

Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone

What worked for me

The villain: I’d argue that the protagonist gang of ‘Six of Crows’ is the closest in-universe comparison of this villain – emphasising the empathetic writing. An antagonist who’s both unlikable and ruthless, and strangely understandable in his loneliness, he is the key to keeping the series fascinating. There’s an interesting parallel too – a character foil – with another enterprising main character. This suggests how noble qualities such as ambition and a desire to protect can just as easily become flaws, depending on how far you would go to achieve your ideals. Perhaps a good person is simply one whose limits haven’t yet been tested.

Magic system: of everything I’ve read, the ‘Grishaverse’ has to have one of my favourite representations of magic. Grisha magic begins as a hard magic system, with definite categories of powers. Throughout the series, these ideas are subtly eroded to suggest that certain limitations to power may be self-defined, and therefore overcome. A certain character straddles the line between two orders of Grisha, and her powers are one of the most interesting of the bunch. In addition to this, magic is shown to have a profound and well-thought-out impact on religion, politics and culture. Bardugo’s world-building in this sense is unparalleled.

“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.” 

Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

What almost worked

Debate on morality: With multiple characters with limitless, explosive power, ethics could’ve been the necessary puzzle piece to keep the books interesting even in its non-essential scenes. Though it is briefly debated, mostly characters seemed to see it as fairly black-and-white. An example of the ball being dropped in this is a monster type mentioned. They used to be people, and are implied to even still have some humanity; this could’ve led to a moral dilemma on whether killing them is acceptable. Yet, this is neatly glossed over and results in a plot thread with no conclusion.

“You are stronger, wiser, infinite in experience.” I leaned forward and whispered, my lips brushing the shell of his ear. “But I am an apt pupil.” 

Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising

And… what didn’t

Undeveloped characters and romance: it’s been a long time since I couldn’t fully root for the main romance in a book like this. I found the main love interest intensely bland – especially when two other fascinating potentials are introduced. It’s told, rather than shown, that he’s cocky, and apart from his love, that truly seems his only defining quality. This may just be a symptom of a larger problem – unlike in Bardugo’s other books, the less important characters have no discernible spark of personality.

Lack of consequences: in a grave situation, and one later described as extremely bloody, almost every main character survives purely through the magic of plot armour. This is the risk of having multiple series following your book – most characters have to survive to continue it. The magic system comes close to being flat-out broken by being used for resurrection, raising a million plot holes. In all of this, it ends up with every character with two or less witty lines dead (in a failed attempt at emotional impact) with no fanfare, and every character with an emotional arc alive.

Final review: 4/5 stars

Time’s Up in 2019: where to go from here?

There’s no doubt you’ve heard of it: the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have become national and international news in two short years. While #MeToo encouraged victims to speak up about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault to demonstrate prevalence, the Time’s Up movement took action against what had been shown to be an epidemic of sex-based crime.

One key thing to note here, is that while both movements have affected many, both were predominantly American enterprises. In fact, Time’s Up was started by Hollywood celebrities, which begs the question – what is Bollywood, and the rest of India, doing about the same problem?

It’s undeniable that Indian, and in general, Asian, culture has a conservative approach to women’s sexuality, and this can and has bled into their mentality regarding sexual assault. The fear of the social stigma that may come with allegations has lead to devastating consequences for women. 

A 2006 National Crime Records Bureau report estimated that unreported rape crimes made up 71% of all rape crimes in India, as opposed to the international UN estimate of 11%. This is in addition to the fact that marital rape is not yet considered illegal in India.

Personally, that’s quite unacceptable. High unreported rape would indicate a prevalence of those who would persecute a known survivor of these crimes, rather than help. As for marital rape – Time’s Up is engraining in us that no means no, no matter your relation, your clothing, or the circumstances. 

These dire facts point to only one fact: revolution is coming for this country. As more and more women, including some in Bollywood, continue to speak honestly about their experiences, we should expect to see this matter be taken seriously, worldwide, in our lifetimes.

Modern Magic: a short story

Do be sure to take the poll at the end of this story!

I know what you must be thinking – super-powered abilities really aren’t run of the mill. So why am I using mine to fix such a… mundane issue? Well, what you must understand is that at this point in my life, I was sure I’d perfected the art of the waking. Roll out of bed, brush your teeth, wash your face. Bundle up warm for the frighteningly cold day, and the rest is an graceful dance in the pursuit of getting out the door at around the speed of light. 

Then rush out the building, not taking the time to savour the redolent bakery. I should’ve known I would still be late – it’s just that it’s far too easy to become so reliant on your abilities, that you forget how life was before them. I made it only about halfway to campus before realising I was set on an inevitable crash course for lateness and one of my professor’s world-renowned lectures. A quick pause and a glance at my inner city surroundings showed the perfect solution.

A second later, I’d ducked into a nearby narrow alley – truly the kind of place where a movie character would get ambushed and assaulted. After a brief check around me to confirm that wasn’t not the case, I yanked my gloves off and splayed my fingers. My fingers warmed as they moved in a circular motion, and I was once again treated to the sight of the people walking backwards on the streets. Cars seemed to reverse in a perfectly orderly fashion, and any passengers must’ve been talking backwards. I pulled out my phone with my other hand and watched the time tick back 8 minutes, 9, 10… I dropped my hands abruptly and pulled back on my gloves.

Being a superhero is rather fun – if you use your powers right; why strain yourself fighting crime when you could ensure you had a little extra time to finish your homework? After all, the snooze button has nothing on the ability to grant yourself some well-deserved rest, out of time’s linear path. I meandered far more cheerfully to school with those thoughts swirling, confident in the knowledge that I would arrive with time to spare. I shoved my jittery hands into my pockets – surely, every power must come at a price – and people-watch as I strolled along.

How peculiar, I thought, that those people were at my mercy, with no knowledge of it. The woman across the street with her grocery list a foot long had probably already bought her items, and was altogether none the wiser. It would have been, enough to give most people a god complex! Lucky my ego wasn’t any bigger – My thought was impolitely interrupted when a petite girl rounded a corner, directly into me.

“Yo, watch where you’re going!” She neatly ignored me, and continued on her path – backwards? She back-pedalled across the sidewalk, seemingly oblivious to her surroundings. I reached out to grab her shoulder, and not a second too late: her unconventional path was ready to take her directly onto the busy road. “What the hell are you doing?” She pulled out her earphones huffily, and looked at me with keen eyes.

My heart skipped a nervous beat; it felt far too coincidental for me to have met a crazy girl walking backwards just moments after I had used my power. Whatever she found in her scan of my face was clearly unsatisfactory, as she demurred, “Nothing, you wouldn’t understand. Thanks, I guess.” She nodded her chin nonchalantly at the road that I saved her from. 

Her easy dismissal lit a flicker of indignation in my chest. “Try me, Miss Condescending.”

Fumbling to untangle her earphones from her jet-black mane of hair (and looking decidedly comical), she turned and glared. “Really? You wanna hear it from the crazy girl? Some idiot is messing with this timeline, and they just reset this day. Not by much, I assume, only by a couple-” I clamped a hand over her mouth quickly, and her wide eyes were the only notice I got before she starts yelling to “Get this crazy boy off!”

A woman stopped and stared disapprovingly, apparently judging it a petty lover’s quarrel. With my thoughts slowly leaving ‘fight-or-flight’, I dropped my hand, only to catch the piercing look the crazy girl speared me with. I was entirely unsurprised and only a little resistant when she started dragging me somewhere. When I noticed she was taking me to the same shady alley, a sneaking ironic feeling of déjà vu crawled up my spine. Definitely not a coincidence.

“I can walk by myself,” I grumbled, shucking her vice-like grip. Nonetheless, she waited for me to go ahead, and I had the jarring realisation that I was about to be interrogated.

True to form, she didn’t beat around the bush, forcing me into the alley away from prying eyes, only to whisper-scream, “It’s you, isn’t it? The time-traveller? What the hell are you thinking?”

An idle part of me wondered if she was part of an undercover operation to root out secret superheroes, and what the benefits might have been of employing a young, cute, female agent for that. “Yes, yes, and I doubt I was thinking. Why should I? It’s my power, to use however I want.” Her mouth fell open, eyes clearly showing her scathing judgement. Instinctively, my arms crossed and I continued, “What’s it to you, anyway? What are you, a-” I lost his train of thought in accusing her of being a cop – or more accurately, I jumped off my train of thought and collided head-first with another. “Are you like me? A superhero?” 

Head ducked, she snorted softly, sending another indignant stab rushing through me. “I mean, superhero is one word for it, but…” She pulled off her gloves and I watched as her fingers flutter over the ground. Where once there was only frost shards, she brought up a plant stem, as if in hyper-speed.

It was my turn to be unimpressed. “Your power is growing weeds. In a city. You do realise you have the least useful superpower in the history of anyone, right?” Her gaze snapped up and I barely had time to register her movement before the shoot moved to wrap itself around my foot. “Hey! Stop that!” I stumbled backwards and put my hands up in as conciliatory a gesture as I can manage, considering she just tried to entrap me. 

“Oh, relax. It wouldn’t affect you.” Her statement was punctuated with a small smirk that seems to ask, ‘not so useless, huh?’ “Have you stopped any crime? Solved any felonies? What was your reason for using your ‘superpower’ this time?” Her words were dripping so heavily with sarcasm that the air-quotes are implied – her arms were obviously too busy, in actuality, with her passionate arm gestures. I moved back slightly to avoid a hit.

For a moment, I contemplated telling this know-it-all girl that I had prevented a mugging, saved a gunshot victim, stopped a suicide attempt before it even happened. But her eyes bored into me with unwavering principle, and I simply couldn’t speak the words. “I used it because I needed to get to college on time, sue me,” I mumbled instead.

I awaited her verdict, but she was already turning away. “So what’s so heroic about you?” Somehow, her dispassionate response struck harder than a yell. 

I moved to follow her out the alley, though my intentions past that felt suddenly unclear. She’d only just stepped out when a older girl grabbed her by the wrist. “I’ve been looking all over for you, mija!” The new girl held up her hand, showing a tracker app, and for some reason, that sent shivers down my spine. 

The girls looked similar enough that I was unsure on whether to question the new arrival’s presence, but she pulled her ostensible-sister along with long pointy nails digging into her skin. “Hey, wait up!” I ran up to the impatiently waiting girls, and here my planned actions ran out. “I-I’ve never met someone – someone like me before, and since I don’t know-” The elder sister only rolled her doe eyes and continued storming away. Miss Condescending, previously so animated, seemed to have lost her fire.

“Why do you always have to act like this?

My feet paused at the mouth of the alley, apprehensive about what might have been my first real decision of the morning – or perhaps, even longer. It was more instinctive that time to pull off my gloves and whip out my powers. I didn’t even need my phone this time: I continue until she’s back in the alley, looking self-righteous as she should be, and her seedling had shrunken again. Her eyes stayed wide-open the whole time, and I realised that I had forgotten to ask her of the crucial question of how she knew she had time-travelled.

When her movements were her own again (she flexed her fingers to check this), her breathing slowed and she straightened up. “That was risky.”

“What was?” I said, peering out onto the street. 

“You didn’t know if I would remember you what happened after the rewind. You didn’t know if I wanted to rewind.”

“Didn’t you?”

She took my out-stretched hand and we hurtled down the street in the opposite direction from where her sister had come, and would come again. “Yes.”

“Then it wasn’t a risk at all.”

Her delighted laugh was punctuated with little gasps as she tried to catch her breath. We stopped two blocks from there, leaning against a solid brick wall. She fiddled with her phone for a moment before gazing up at me. “The name’s Mia. You know, in case you were wondering.”

“Jamie.” I continued with as much bravado as I can muster, as if her response didn’t matter, “So, how do you feel about teaching me how to be an honest-to-god superhero?” 

She laughed, and started walking away. For a split second, I was certain she’ll keep walking, but she turned back with a grin. “First lesson, keep up…”

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I must say – the original cover is far better, especially since the film cast doesn’t always match the book’s given character appearances!

On my first read of ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, I didn’t understand the hype. It’s no understatement to say it’s considered a modern classic, one of those coming-of-age books that everyone is supposed to read – but I just couldn’t appreciate its appeal. Upon a reread, I think I finally see it.

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” 

Stephen Chbosky

What worked for me

Feeling infinite: in all the teenage-centric books I’ve ever read, this had one of the most interesting views on memories. Instead of describing a so-called ‘perfect day’ , the author repeatedly shows how we remember specific moments in all their brilliance. I’ve certainly felt the same: memories where I forgot adolescence is fleeting, where every part of me lived in the moment. In addition, this method helped keep the book brief, and thereby impactful the whole read through. The moment of feeling infinite is both the book’s best scene, and a cementing moment of the central friendship.

Inconclusiveness: move aside, happy ending – this novel takes a unique stance on how best to conclude a coming-of-age story. Since it heavily features romance, I was expecting the classic ‘boy gets with girl and they ride off into the sunset together’ ending. I was pleasantly surprised in that: it’s clear that the main character is not only continuing to learn, but “both happy and sad at the same time“, come the end of the novel. It feels like we only saw an excerpt of a story; he feels like a real person, whose life existed before the novel, and will continue long after.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” 

Stephen Chbosky

And… what didn’t

Abusive relationships: the above quote is used at a point in the book to explain why a character stayed in an abusive relationship. Beautiful as it is, this use of it is incredibly problematic. The main character, who this is explained to, is not a child. He’s fifteen years old at the time, and this is far too old to be limiting your understanding of intimate relationship abuse to something so glib and simplistic. If a book brings up such nuanced issues, they ought to be addressed with the suitable gravitas.

The idea of a wallflower: this one was such a glaring issue that it blinded me at first to the book’s virtues. Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve seen a plot line revolve around an introvert ‘discovering themselves’ by becoming more social. This is simply not how the world works. Chbosky’s emphasis on ‘participating’ is certainly noble, but it’s implied to be done exclusively through parties and dances, dates and hang-outs. Instead, a single friendship scene could’ve been cut in order to show a more real experience: this shy student discovering new hobbies and talents, and coming into himself individually, and as a friend.

Final review: 3.5/5 stars

The Real-Life Politics of Game of Thrones

Don’t worry if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years – this article is spoiler-free.

On Sunday, 19th of May, it felt like the world came to a relative standstill as we all came together and watched the last ever episode of ‘Game of Thrones’. The ramifications of this show are so widespread that it may even affect viewers’ attitudes on politics – according to a study by Professor Anthony Gierzynski. However you feel about the final season, it is undeniably a cultural phenomenon. I think I may know one of the reasons why.

In a political world that seems precarious at best (and terrifying at worst), it’s no wonder this bloodthirsty epic no wonder became so popular. We face so many of the same issues daily, albeit on a much less showy scale. One of the key elements of the show is the battle for, and amassing of, power. Not only does it feel almost never-ending – the pursuit of power colours the decisions of most characters, as well as how we view them.

The idea of the nobility of ruling, that ends always justify their means; these are as familiar to us as they are to citizens of Westeros. We watch time and time again as innocents suffer in order to further a ruler’s political ideal. Mostly portayed as tyrannical, but occasionally seen as necessary evil, these losses feel distant, like another aspect of the fantasy. But that’s not necessarily true.

Real life democracies are already beginning to show the limitations of a system built on the of putting personal gain over policy. When highly-publicised elections roll around – such as the USA’s 2018 midterm elections – it feels like anything would be said or done by those in power in order for them to stay in power.

Let us not forget the alleged crisis of the migrant caravan, brought up close to elections to fear-monger and sway uncertain voters. Though American politicians already seem to have forgotten it, its effects have been long-lasting. Not only did it steal precious time and resources from issues that really mattered, it also publicly gave voice to xenophobic ideals.

Just like in Westeros, we may have to come up with a solution to the quest for control – or perhaps, we already know one. Limiting elected officials to one term could allow our governments to focus on their real job: protecting their people.

Is Romeo and Juliet the Greatest Love Story of All Time?

This photograph by Michael Daniel is of the Public Theater showing of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. It is one of multiple film and theatre adaptations of the popular novel.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: a romantic fantasy that has stood the test of time and has been deemed a worthy read by the toughest critics; however, the conclusion of this epic saga brings the gruesome deaths of two adolescents and four others, thus begging the question – is it even a love story at all? While the author’s writing was exemplary and ahead of its time, certain key facts diminish how romantic and fantastical the adventure can be considered…

Firstly, what images does your mind conjure up when you think of a thirteen year-old girl? Innocence, probably, tinged with the colour pink. Passionate love – probably not. In this day and age, marriage between a thirteen year-old and sixteen year-old is considered scandalous and taboo, if not downright abhorrent. “There is nothing romantic or loving about this play, just lust, hormones, and teenage rebellion” is one reader’s firm opinion. Furthermore, many believe that the author was actually mocking the impetousness of teenage decisions rather than illustrating the beauty of “love’s light wings”. The only fact contradictory to this is that at the time of publication, both Romeo and Juliet would have been considered to be at a marriageable age. This toys with the notion that superficial characteristics can upstage the vast, magnificent idea of love, as the play shows nothing if not that true love should trump it all; these teenagers that let nothing stand between them and believe that love is worth death are the archetype of this ideal. After all, age is but a number.

Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor and Park, another ‘modern teenage romance’, provides her own opinion in the aforementioned book, by asking why it is that Romeo and Juliet has weathered the storm of time, to which the eponymous Park replies, “Because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?” William Shakespeare’s famous love story is evocative of an ardour that most associate with their passionate youth – while teenage love may be short-sighted, it is still a sentimental memory for most adults – a nostalgic feeling held close to the heart. Another popular author of a young adult book stated that “adults love in different ways, not the only way.” This is something that Romeo and Juliet teaches its audience time and time again. After all, how many millions of teenagers believe that their beloved “is the sun”?

Rosaline and Romeo’s love: one we get nary a glimpse at apart from at the very beginning of the play, in which Romeo talks about Rosaline, saying “she’s fair I love”. This is just lines before he meets Juliet and promptly forgets about the girl, whose praises he had been singing. This entire encounter far from romanticises Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, instead casting a suspect comparison with the similarly ill-fated love of Romeo and Rosaline and encouraging the audience to question: was Romeo ever in love with Juliet, or was it just ‘puppy love’, a meaningless infatuation? The depth of his emotions towards Juliet is immediately put into question, especially when he is willing to throw the word ‘love’ around so casually. Showing a fickle love interest is detrimental to the telling of this grand story; if Romeo was to lose his heart so thoroughly to Rosalind, only to forget her moments later, who is to say he wouldn’t have done the same to Juliet given the chance?

Closely associated with the idea of Romeo’s ridiculous recklessness, is the possibility that the entire play was intended as satirical comedy. Satire is characterised by the ironic parodying and subversion of the quintessential tropes of a popular genre – in this case romance – and many elements of Shakespeare’s ‘great love story’ seem to do this. Eleanor, Eleanor and Park’s other protagonist, isn’t as convinced of the play’s charms: “Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they want. And now, they think they want each other”. Supported by the fact that Shakespeare’s humour often scorns his own characters (see: Mercutio’s cruel pun on his own death), it is entirely possible, and very probable to many, that this entire drama solely serves to highlight and mock the luckless decisions our captivating teenagers made due to the misguided bravery, or idiocy, that often accompanies passion. 

Teenage rebellion is a key source of ignorance and stubbornness in the world, but is it conceivable that Juliet’s hasty head-over-heels love was simply another of its effects? A metaphorical statement is declared to the audience by Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. The purpose of this quote is to remind the audience that Juliet’s passion was not due to the pain that this particular boy caused her family, nor to the inane impulsivity of young nonconformity, thus setting the stage to introduce love as the mythical force behind their infatuation. It does not matter to Juliet that her Romeo is a Montague: their attraction is all that she allows to influence her decisions. 

It is undeniable that there has been a recent rise in stories mistakenly suggesting that the price of love is pain (whether this is emotional, such as in The Fault in our Stars, or physical, such as in Fifty Shades of Grey), but this idea has been around for centuries. The play Romeo and Juliet poses the issue of whether romance can be diminished by the toll it takes on its recipients – is their love diminished by the price they paid? More significantly, it must be considered that their motivation for loving each other may in fact have been a fundamental psychological need to torture themselves in relationships that would inevitably end tragically. 

This is a tragic tale in which the two “star-cross’d lovers” are destined to be apart, kept away by family, social constructs and, eventually, death, and that is why some people love it whilst many others detest it. As the world’s style of literature and entertainment evolves, modern love stories (or as they are now called, ‘romantic comedies’) are most commonly found at the other end of Shakespeare’s writing spectrum: comedies. A typical Shakespearean comedic ending, just like a contemporary love story, would have a happy ending in which the blessed couple would marry – as we have clearly seen is not the case with Romeo and Juliet. Simply put, the fact that our two suitors did not get their happily ever after sets modern audiences ablaze rather than eliciting dreamy sighs. This is a love affair that bucks traditional stereotypes of love necessarily leading to a happy ending, a volatile entanglement with high stakes that only make the tale all the more intense. Most importantly, the fact that the play ends at the height of their passion ensures the audience never has to witness their falling ‘out of love’ – their story will never tarnish.

Though readers’s impressions are important, it’s also crucial to consider the real-life implications of considering a gory tragedy the greatest love story in history. One such implication is adolescent suicides in the name of love; Victoria Kish-Donovan and Raymond Oswell, two young British lovers, 19 and 24 respectively when they first met, are just two examples of delusional souls who (seemingly unable to be together, and believing it to be a fitting end to true love) made arguably reckless decisions and ended their own lives, leaving behind grieving parents, siblings and children. Despite the fact that their story is not quite as famous, the fact that it is non-fictitious just makes it all the more tragic and taints the undeniable adoration of the many masses for the play. 

Whether or not you consider the ending fitting, or the characters unbelievably spectacular, it is at its heart a shocking and astounding love story that withstood the test of time due to the fact that it astounds with every new page. It accurately shows just how young minds, including the darkest and most undisclosed parts, think, and gives an unforgettable rendition of how teenagers can not only fall in love, but change their worlds as they do it. Repetition of astronomical references (particularly the wishes for a night never-ending) cast them in a sympathetic light: the control they seek over their universe and their story is, alas, just beyond their grasp.

Review: The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black

Note: this post was written prior to the publication of The Queen
of Nothing, and reviews only previously released content.

Diving into this series felt like the most natural thing in the world – Young Adult fiction has its fair share of faerie novels. That being said, one of my favourite parts of it was that it feels like an acknowledgement of how most of us know much of this mythology already. For the unprepared, it may be a system shock if you haven’t previously heard of brughs, changelings or selkies.

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”

Holly Black, The Cruel Prince

What worked for me

The political side: expecting a love story with some beating around the bush, I was extremely surprised to find that major portions are dedicated to power – both the obtaining and maintaining of it. The books speak to its heady nature, so it’s no surprise that a major recurring theme is betrayal, and exploring characters would go to in order to rule. As someone who loves a good political drama, this was undeniably riveting.

The relationships: though side plots for the longest while, the two major relationships were incredibly interesting. With the elitist behaviour of faeries, it should be expected that power dynamics are common in relationships with mortals: this manifests in love that feels, to its core, both toxic and understandably hard to end. The series truly depicts couples who are fundamentally flawed, yet so addictive. One in particular is sure to have you alternately screaming at the page and jumping for joy.

“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”

Holly Black, The Wicked King

And… what didn’t

The pacing: though this issue wasn’t prominent in the Wicked King, the Cruel Prince read like two wildly different books, to the extent that a division within the book is labelled ‘Book Two’. Not only is the plot line much less gripping until this point, this first part takes up the vast majority of the book. The beginning feels unnecessarily drawn out, leading to a conclusion that you could blink and miss. Some of the key moments in the book come from explanations of previously unanswered questions; in her rush to end the book, the author seems to have foregone setting up a mystery, and instead given the seemingly

Underdeveloped characters: I want to take this moment to remind any budding YA authors out there that ‘feisty’ is not a nuanced character for a female character, nor is ‘snarky’ for a male. While the fleshed-out backstories give us some insight into character’s personalities, this series lacks the dialogue (think Six of Crows) and thought processes (à la Heroes of Olympus) that allow us to fully understand them. I’d go as far as to say you can predict that this will be an issue when you notice that the characters spend much of their time alone, rushed from one action scene to the next, with almost no time to play off each other.

Final review: 4/5 stars