Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Watched by Sharde Richardson

Title: Watched
Author: Sharde Richardson
Publisher: Jolt Books
Release Date: May 30, 2011
Pages: 278 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

Mikayla doesn't want much: just to rock out to her favorite band, become the next Kwiki Stop video gaming champion, and keep her Q-tip habit under control. What she does want is the sight of the sudden and inexplicable dark auras around everyone to stop. Problem is, those auras are demons and Mikayla is the last trait holder with the power to ban them. Which is a total buzz kill.

To make matters worse, the town folk of Sulphur Springs don't look the same, and her classmates are a little dark in the eyes. There are murders, suicides, reckless skinny-dipping, gratuitous use of Q-tips, and newfound powers that Mikayla must learn to control.

Her past becomes present when a shape-shifter tells her what her true identity is, and how to keep the demons of hell form nipping at her Converse. Through him she'll discover who to trust, who to kiss, and how valuable her abilities are to the right beings. Because the evils of Hell aren't staying down without a fight...

Or without her soul.


Getting shot on what she thinks is her seventeenth birthday is the last thing Mikayla expects. She's just the average teenage girl--okay, maybe sticking Q-tips up her nose to make herself sneeze and not being able to remember anything from before she was thirteen isn't normal, but she is who she is. After she wakes up in the hospital for the second time in her life, she suddenly finds herself capable of seeing auras. According to Lucas, who says he is the Sentry meant to serve her, these auras are demons and Mikayla has to stop them. It's going to take a lot of skill and a lot of Q-tips.

Oh wow. And when I say that, I really mean oh wow. It's really such a shame Watched turned out like this. I expected the best and I got what is doubtlessly some of the worst I've ever read. It was even getting vaguely intriguing when I stopped reading as some of the worldbuilding kicked in, but I was so disgusted and upset by that point that I refused to keep going.

We will start with Mikayla's attitude toward the suicide of a fellow student, a quiet girl named Sidney Smaw. On Mikayla's birthday, the same day Mikayla is shot by what turns out to be a demon, Sidney hangs herself in her basement, and Mikayla sees a news report about a vigil for Sidney while laying in bad at the hospital. This is what the main character has to say:

"The anchor's voice rose over the soft wailing of the piano in the background. She didn't leave a note. She didn't say goodbye. She died on my birthday. I didn't know why yet, but I was pissed. The camera man panned over the faces again--some crying, others sniffling, most blank. Sidney Smaw, for whatever reason, killed herself. I wanted to scream at the TV. Wanted to toss F-bombs all over the place.

"But not for her.

"I wasn't the type of person who gave two flips about rules, but she broke the big one, you know. Sidney Smaw copped out. And they mourned her. All I could think about was my birthday, my skin burning instead of seventeen candles, the smell, the shooter--my shooter. How nothing mattered except to stop the world from turning, to stop time long enough to escape the bullets, to escape him. To forget. On that day--the day I begged to live--Sidney freaggin' Smaw handed her life over like lunch money.

"So why the hell were they crying for her? (Watched, p. 30)"
Has anyone heard of Phoebe Prince? After months of being bullied, reportedly because of her Irish accent and brief relationships she had with a senior football player and another male, she died by hanging herself in a stairwell leading up to the second story of her apartment on January 14, 2010. Her twelve-year-old sister discovered her body later that day. Phoebe was only fifteen. Six teens at her school were indicted on felony charges including assault with a deadly weapon, statutory rape, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly, stalking, and additional delinquency complaints against three defendants, all of them female minors related to what their bullying of Phoebe. In May 2011, all six were sentenced to probation and community service after pleading guilty to lesser charges.

Yes, something terrible happened to Mikayla. This does not give her the right to play the victim when she has no idea what might have been going on in Sidney's life and what led her to that decision. For all Mikayla knows, Sidney was bullied just as badly as poor Phoebe Prince. I have never, never, never seen a book handle such a delicate subject as teen suicide handled so poorly and with such insensitivity. Sure, Mikayla might just be angry, but anger tends to bring out our true feelings on a subject. How can I be sure that isn't the case here?

Later on, it comes to light that some demons get out of the Nether Legion when people commit suicide. The demon that shot Mikayla wouldn't have gotten out when it did if Sidney hadn't killed herself when she did, so the blame for Mikayla being attacked indirectly falls on Sidney. "If she weren't so weak... Her copout let them in--the demons, (Watched, p. 84)" says Mikayla. I need no words. This speaks for itself.

On page 96, Mikayla finally takes the time to reflect on Sidney's suicide. "Maybe she wasn't such a copout after all. Maybe she had a little nudge in the wrong direction from a Somber [a demon specializing in suicide]." Too little too late. That was not enough to placate me because I got the distinct vibe that "they're being copouts" is what she really thought about people who killed themselves, and she would have kept on thinking that about Sidney's death if she didn't learn about demons. When the book is indirectly putting Sidney at fault for what happened to Mikayla, it nearly cancels out any reflections of "wow, that was horrible of me to think that."

Next is large problem number two: the slut shaming. Anyone that knows me and my taste in novels knows I hate it when girls are called sluts, shaming them for daring to be sexual or act in the way the person calling them that name doesn't like. Mikayla? Oh, she loves calling people sluts both indirectly and directly, and this is yet another reason I can't stand her or this novel.

There are two types of girls presented: the Tara Dandeaus, or the girls that have a lot of sex (said character is described as "one of those freaky/my dad was a preacher/I let guys motorboat/have secret F-150 sex kind of girls (Watched, p. 63)," and the Mikaylas, hot commodities because they are virgins are so hungry for because they're "unexplored territory." The boys are all sex-hungry for those lovely virgins they haven't yet explored. A new girl named Bianca comes to school and quickly settles in hanging out with the jocks, and Mikayla calls her a mattress. You know, because so many people are laying (on) her? Clever? Yeah right. Try revolting. Double standards, virgin/whore dichotomy--it's all here.

And the girl who dares to act sexually toward her fiance (called her "betrothed" in the novel, but it's the same thing)? She's a slut too--a slut puppy, as Mikayla calls her. Yeah. So whether or not you're in a relationship with someone, you're sluts for being sexual, ladies. (News flash: WRONG. So many levels of wrong there that I can't wade through it all.)

So the larger problems are out of the way. I had plenty of small problems too.

I was under the impression when I paid for the novel that I would be paying for the final copy of the novel, not an error-riddled first draft. I rarely count typos against a novel because no one's perfect; typos happen and occasionally, one or two will sneak through all the editing stages and make it into the final novel. This time, there were so many errors and they were in such basic areas as possessives that it ultimately distracted me from the novel and made for a worse experience, so I will count it this time. Books like this are why I am the Screaming Nitpicker.

Watched tried so hard to make Mikayla sound like a normal teenager, and some of the phrases she utters have come from teens I know (like noobs and someone's blood being made of win (Mikayla says this exact phrase on page 145)). The problem is that teens that talk like that annoy the living daylights out of me whether the person saying it is fictional or real and I'm not the only one that feels that way. In trying to make Mikayla realistic, she becomes as irritating as the itch within your cast that you can't scratch.

Oh, and this might bother some people, but not me. I'm only taking the time to mention it because I know it turns off many readers. Mikayla is a pottymouth--a really bad one, too. I don't worry about how much characters curse because I still curse more than most of them on a daily basis, but not everyone is like me in that respect. If cursing-heavy characters or novels irritate someone, this will not be their book.

So maybe you understand why I'm angry now and why this novel upset me so much. I might have phrased this a different way, but it was either do this and let all that nasty anger fester inside of me. I'm selfish, so I chose to take my anger out on the book instead of letting my anger run rampant through my system.

In case you're angry too and need to calm down or if you just need something to do, I suggest watching the Let's Play videos by Mangaminx. In case you have no idea what they are, Let's Play videos (LPs) are videos in which people play video games and make commentary while doing so. I don't watch many LPs--in fact, Mangaminx's are the only ones I watch--and she is often hilarious while scaring the pants off herself with horror games. I personally recommend watching her LPs of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Even when you're just watching it all unfold on video, the game is so atmospheric. You'll be so terrified soon enough that you'll forget about being angry, especially once you get to all the parts featuring Mr. Face.

This one is a big fat DNF. I'm not going to waste my time on a book that makes me angrier with each page. I've had enough of the conflicting arguments of "Why did you finish the book if you didn't like it?" and "Why should your review mean anything when you didn't finish the book?" so anyone who wants to use either one can kindly not comment. You will get no response and your comment will be deleted.

What am I reading next?: Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

1 comment:

  1. That sounds pretty awful. I had this on my to-read list but I'll definitely be avoiding it. Thanks for the warning!

    I can't even find the words to express how angry it makes me that an author would handle such sensitive subjects with such carelessness. Especially with all of the teen suicides getting more attention in the news lately, it is such an outrage that anyone would think teen readers (or even adult readers) should sympathize with someone who thinks this way.

    I would really like some answers and explanations from this author.


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