Harry Potter and the binge of nostalgia: Sorcerer’s Stone chapter 3

In this chapter, things descend and continue descending into absurdity, as Hogwarts tries to contact Harry to deliver his letter. The thing that struck me most while reading it is that Uncle Vernon, for all his professed knowledge of how “those people” think and act, is bafflingly ignorant of even the most basic concepts about magic. If I were a Muggle with no idea of the mechanics of magic or the culture of magical people, I feel like I would still probably be able to figure out that nothing I could do would actually stop a magical person (or school of people) who wanted to deliver a letter. Boarding up the mail slot, the cracks in the doors, fleeing the house for a hotel and then even farther for a shack in the ocean, all things Uncle Vernon tries. They’re magical people. They can use, you know, magic. Let’s see how many times I can use the word magic in one post.

I am very curious, though, about how exactly this works. What magical (sorry) system allows Dumbledore or McGonagall or whoever to know the exact location Harry is in, down to the room in the house/hotel? It seems like if it’s an ability that’s available to all witches and wizards, it could be incredibly dangerous and predatory. And if it isn’t, how are only the Hogwarts staff able to utilize it? I would love to read an encyclopedia of magical (sorry, sorry) mechanics, explaining how all these systems work. The way the house-elves deliver food, to name another one, or the specifics of Apparition. Failing that, I’d also take “Hogwarts: A History”, since no one else except Hermione seems to appreciate it.

Another thing I’m curious about: why do the Dursleys bother giving Harry any kind of birthday or Christmas presents? Why not just ignore him altogether on present-giving occasions? Do they do it just to rub in the fact that he has no one else to give him presents and they could be giving him ones equal to Dudley’s but aren’t? Especially once he’s at Hogwarts and they don’t even have to see him, sending him the fifty-pence piece just seems silly, but also giving him a hanger and a pair of old socks for his birthday.

Anyway. Maybe I’m too emotionally invested in this series, or, well. What I meant to say was, definitely I’m too emotionally invested in this series. But even so, Uncle Vernon’s madness is genuinely alarming to me. He’s always cartoonishly unpleasant, both in personality and in appearance, but there’s something else here. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Why does the very possibility that Harry might find out about his magic (okay, I give up, it’s a lost cause) upset him so deeply? It seems like more than just a fear and distaste for abnormality. Maybe he’s afraid that secretly, buried somewhere very, very deep, Petunia harbors some magic, and that by marrying and procreating with her, he’s enabling it to continue spreading, and that’s why his reactions to any hint of it are so extreme. Maybe he’s just an underdeveloped side character who doesn’t matter and I read too much fanfiction.

Harry is pretty sassy and gets an actual bedroom in this chapter, and soon he’ll be able to (mostly) leave the Dursleys behind, so all in all, things are on an upswing. And in the next chapter, Hagrid! Which means things are on an upswing for me, too. I’m ready to put these prologue-y chapters behind me and move on to the actual meat of the book.

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Harry Potter and the binge of nostalgia: Sorcerer’s Stone chapter 2

This chapter is profoundly sad. It’s also almost comically exaggerated, which kind of distracts from the heaviness of what’s actually happening, and I’m not sure if that was a choice since it’s a children’s book or just the way JKR wrote back then, but either way it’s a strange reading experience.

For ten years, ten of his most formative years, Harry was forced to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. Full of spiders and not much else. He was used as a punching bag by Dudley and all his gross friends. He was used as a verbal punching bag by Mr. Dursley. He was used as a servant by Mrs. Dursley. He was spoken about as if he wasn’t actually there, and never, as far as I remember, addressed with his actual name. He had nothing of his own, only hand-me-downs from Dudley. He was almost never allowed out of the house, except to go to school or shopping with Mrs. Dursley, he never got to go on trips, he never got to celebrate his birthday. He was locked in his cupboard for days on end for the slightest things.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine going from this, the only life you remember, to being famous, beloved, and magical? How terrifying and disorienting that must have been. How undeserving he must have felt.

Even in this chapter, before he knows anything about himself or his world, Harry is so excited to be able to go along to the zoo with the Dursleys. He hates them and they hate him, he must know that they aren’t going to actually let him enjoy himself, and he’s still grateful to go, to be given a cheap lemon popsicle and to be allowed to finish Dudley’s unwanted leftovers and to not have to stay with Mrs. Figg. If he’d only known who she really was. This seems like luxury to him, like as much as he can hope for.

The glimpses he’s given of the people who know who he is and appreciate him are also sad. Like, “When he had been younger, Harry had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away, but it had never happened; the Dursleys were his only family. Yet sometimes he thought (or maybe hoped) that strangers in the street seemed to know him.” Break my heart, Harry. They do know you. Just wait, so much good is coming your way. I mean, also a lot of bad, but … a place to belong and people who want you. And magic!

The seeds of some of the series’ core elements are planted in this chapter–Harry being able to communicate with snakes, the bits of memory he has of the night his parents died, even a little of his saving people complex. Or, well, saving things complex. Without even knowing he can do magic, he still manages to free the snake and send it on its way to its homeland. I don’t know what JKR’s writing process was like, how much of the series she had planned out before she started writing, but it’s really interesting to see how early these things were introduced, and how casually. They hardly seem important at this point except insofar as they further Harry’s abuse and sense of alienation, but they build and build throughout the series. I love it.

I enjoyed this chapter a lot more than the first one, and, more surprisingly, I’m finding Harry much more sympathetic than I ever did before. I don’t know if it’s a result of being older and more able to recognize and appreciate nuance, or if it’s just that I haven’t gotten to the later books when he’s much more angsty and unkind to his friends, but I want to give him a hug and assure him that Hagrid is coming. And I want to have a stern talk with Dumbledore and ask if there was truly no other way to protect Harry the way he needed to be protected, because honestly. This is just cruel and unnecessary and surely he knows what’s happening. I really believe that so much could have been avoided or at least minimized if Harry had had a more stable, less abusive upbringing and if he had been allowed to know things about his family. True things, not that they died in a car crash and were freaks.

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Harry Potter and the binge of nostalgia: Sorcerer’s Stone chapter 1

Note: I’m using the American title because that’s the title of the version I grew up with and the version I’m rereading from. Shhh.

My first ever exposure to Harry Potter was in sixth grade, on an afternoon when my class had gone out to a pizza place for lunch and stuffed ourselves silly. Afterward, we lay on the classroom floor and our teacher read us the first chapter, and, I’m going to be honest with you here, I fell asleep. I have hazy memories of Hagrid arriving on the motorbike, Dumbledore taking Harry and placing him on the Dursleys’ doorstep, their moment of silence, but not much else. It’s a mystery why I then went on to devour and shape my life around the entire series, with an introduction like that. But I did.

An even bigger mystery is why, during those early years, I was so in love with Dumbledore. If there’s one thing I took away from rereading this first chapter, it’s that he’s really unbearable. His constant deflections, his refusal to just answer simple questions, his secretiveness. How much might have been different if he had just talked to people as though they were his equals, rather than revealing bits of information to various people and creating a mess of an incomplete puzzle no one else had all the pieces to. He’s just one man, not god.

That aside, I was also surprised by the simplicity of the writing. I’ve never thought JKR was a brilliant writer–a worldbuilder, yes, but not a writer–but I guess I had forgotten just how basic it was in the beginning. It did start out as a children’s series, so it makes sense, and this isn’t really a criticism. Just an observation. It was like rereading the Oz books after years and years and fondly laughing about the writing of those. What you think is brilliant as a child is not always so brilliant as an adult. And I’ve gotten used to fanfiction, which, if you find the right authors, is much more impressive in terms of writing quality.

It was fun to see the first appearance of the Deluminator, so far ahead of when it becomes important, and to see Professor McGonagall in cat form (the perfect animagus form for her, by the way), and to see Hagrid and the trust Dumbledore had for him. Hagrid is wonderful and deserves every good thing. And it was fun to have a chapter that wasn’t from Harry’s perspective but, instead, from the absurdly over-the-top terrible perspective of Mr. Dursley. Imagine how much less volatile Harry would have been if he hadn’t been raised by people who hated him so much and were so irredeemably awful and boring. Like. Who doesn’t approve of imagination?

This is a short post, but it was a short chapter. So, until next time, to Harry Potter — the boy who lived!

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Harry Potter and the binge of nostalgia: intro

Harry Potter has been an enormous part of my life since I was ten years old. I’ve collected so many figurines, stickers, audiobooks, shirts, wands, necklaces, etc over the years. I’ve read so much fanfiction. So much. I’ve watched so many ABC Family marathons. I’ve spent so many days, nights, weeks, lifetimes immersing myself in the books, trying to will myself to Hogwarts through the sheer force of my love for it. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work, except in the ways it kind of did.

But I haven’t done a full reread of all the books in years. I used to fall asleep to Order of the Phoenix, and later Goblet of Fire, but the last time I read one of them all the way through was when I reread Deathly Hallows in preparation for the final film. Fanfiction and the films have completely taken over. And while they’re great in their own ways, I feel like it’s time to get back to the source material, to remember the days when it was all fresh and new and to find out if that core love is still there, even through a more critical adult lens.

So, I’m undertaking the project of reading all the way through, from beginning to end, and in an attempt to make something useful out of it, I’m going to be blogging each chapter as I read it. This is obviously going to be a long-running project–there are a lot of chapters. I’m thinking of trying to post two a week, but, you know … we’ll see. These aren’t going to be recaps so much as just my thoughts, feelings, and memories, with healthy doses of Dumbledore criticism and Hermione praise, I’m sure.

JKR says that Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home. I’m coming home. You should come with me.

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Unicorn and mermaid, me and you

“Marilla,” she demanded presently, “do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?”

“A—a what kind of friend?”

“A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it’s possible?”

–Lucy Maud Montgomery, “Anne of Green Gables”

Today is the birthday of one of my very best friends and one of the very best people ever to be born into this world. I wanted to write a post for her since I can’t celebrate with her in person, but now that I’m trying to do it, I’m finding that, as is so often the case with feelings, I don’t know the right words.

I don’t want this to be all about me, but the thing is, I can’t think of one of us without the other. We’ve spent a tragically short amount of time actually in the same space, but we’ve been in each other’s orbits for so many years. Our edges overlap, bleed into one another so that we’re an amalgamation of girl. Our blood rides in tandem, we been wove on the same loom. I love her and so I’ve had to try to learn to love myself.

She is a queen, the brightest star, the truest good. She sings beautifully, writes wonderfully (there’s no sharable evidence of that, so you’ll have to trust me), speaks honestly. There are layers to her that have been slowly and quietly peeled back over time, and even now I don’t claim to have seen beneath them all, but there’s also a bluntness to her when she’s comfortable that is more valuable than anything. I don’t have to worry and worry at her words until they become meaningless, searching for the things she’s not saying. I don’t have to distrust her expressions of feeling. I can’t even begin to tell you how important that is to me.

We sat together in silence for hours. Exchanging ocasional words, laughter, but mostly just being. She didn’t expect more than I was able to give. She didn’t offer more than I was able to take. She fit effortlessly into my established routines. We had sunshine, and we had cold, and we had bad movies and ice cream and picnics and late nights, and everything was wonderful. I was so afraid, but the first day she spent here we sat in my room and talked for hours and that was all it took. She patiently untangled my hopelessly tangled mass of necklace chains and, come on, do I need to spell this symbolism out for you?

Our temperaments are very similar, sometimes too similar, they crash against one another and sustain minor damage, but we always end up okay. We’re both a little difficult with regard to intimacy, whether romantic or platonic, we both feel a lot for and need a lot from the people we love, we both have a hard time verbalizing those feelings and needs and believing we deserve to have them honored. We separate sometimes, but inevitably find our way back together again because no one knows our siren songs like we do.

Often, I feel like my words aren’t saying what I want them to say, and I think that’s because, often, what I want to say is simpler than the words I use to say it. What I want to say is I love you, as vast as the salt seas, as bright as the moon, to me you are like breathing, you’re like food. What I want to say is I’m crossing all my fingers and making all my 11:11 wishes for seven, eight, nine more years of friendship to chart the as yet uncharted waters. What I want to say is I solemnly swear to be faithful to my bosom friend, as long as the sun and moon shall endure.

what I want to say is happy birthday, kindredest spirit, my Diana, the mermaid to my unicorn. I’m so indescribably glad you exist. Happy birthday, favorite girl.

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Guess who’s back, bac again

My hiatus is over and I’m ready to write again. I think. I can never be sure if how I feel today is how I’ll feel tomorrow, or even if how I feel in this minute is how I’ll feel in the next. But I have a lot of time and I’m not using it very productively, so, back to blogging it is.

I’ve kept some previous posts private and made some public–the writing I’m most pleased with, all happy wagons, all enchantment diaries, and my old badly read thirteen days of Halloween read alouds. I’ve cleaned up my blogroll a bit–renamed the categories, removed some no longer updated links, and added a few newer favorites. I’ve updated some details of the about pages to better reflect my intentions for this blog, which have changed over the four years I’ve had it. I’ve made a loose schedule for myself and set up reminders throughout the week, so hopefully I’ll be better at posting at least a little more frequently.

As ever, I’m much better at the planning and organizing parts of projects than the follow-through, so bear that in mind. But I’m a little more stabilized now and I have a lot of words that want to be written, and not all of them are words I want to publish in more professional venues. So, here we go. Let’s see where we end up.

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Happy wagon: self-care

For once, my reason for failing to write is not that I’ve been too depressed and anxious, but that I’ve been too busy appreciating not being so depressed and anxious. There are a lot of reasons for this–having someone else around the house again, so much sunshine, slowly but surely learning how to stop feeling guilty for the way my life is right now and all the free time I have, consistently remembering to take my medication, etc–but I’m not going to make a new happy wagon list about them. Instead, I’m going to share this self-care list, because these are all things that are important for me to do to maintain health and sanity (using both those terms pretty loosely here), and I’ve done almost all of them recently, and I think that counts as a happy wagon list so writing another one would be redundant.

So, here are some important self-care things, some of which are pretty specific to me but some of which are more universally applicable.

  • read fanfiction (romance, fluff)
  • go to bed early
  • spend time outside in the sun, or use light box if no sun is available
  • read favorite children’s books
  • take a hot shower
  • cover self in lotion, brush hair, put on perfume, get dressed
  • listen to Dan Gibson birds and water playlist
  • eat dark chocolate
  • eat regular, full meals
  • stretch and treadmill
  • talk to/if possible spend time with loved ones who understand
  • cuddle cat
  • drink water
  • listen to comedy podcasts (HDTGM, Rooster Teeth)
  • read Jenny Trout’s Fifty Shades recaps

And here is a playlist for helping you to tap into your innate awesomeness. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for weeks and it’s made a noticeable difference in how I think about myself, so if you’re easily influenced like me, maybe it will do that for you too.

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On mental illness and personal narrative

This started out as a Facebook status, but then I kept adding words until I realized it was actually a blog post. So.

A fascinating (to me) thing about depression and anxiety is how insidious they can be, and how completely they can warp your thinking and perceptions and your baseline for feeling okay. I spent so long being miserable and exhausted and apathetic about everything that it became the normal state of things, and if anyone asked me how I was doing, I said I was fine, because I really thought I was. I thought that was just the way I was meant to feel, that maybe I was a little lazy, introverted, not a fan of going out, but mostly fine. And if I wasn’t fine, it was only because I was being silly or dramatic or having an off day/week/month/year/life.

But I was only going outside when I absolutely had to, and I was forcing myself through every day and then sleeping for hours in the middle of the afternoon because it took so much effort to be awake. Even when I was awake, I was mostly still in bed. I was hardly reading, wasn’t writing at all, was doing the bare minimum of connecting with people. I didn’t care about anything enough to commit to it in even the smallest ways, let alone in bigger life decisions ways. If I did commit to something, I quickly became panicked about it and wanted to distance myself from it. Winter was my favorite season because it was so cold that staying inside under blankets was what everyone was doing and I didn’t feel like I needed to make myself go outside. I was on edge all the time and cried at the drop of a hat. I called myself a misanthrope because it was easier to say I hated people than to say I was terrified of and exhausted by them, by their very existences. It’s unfathomable to me now that I existed in that state for so long and maintained even the vaguest semblance of being functional, and it’s unfathomable to me that I actually convinced myself I was more or less okay.

Now, I can’t get enough of being out in the sunshine. I want to go out and do interesting things and find interesting places, and meet new people (even if that’s still a little terrifying), and move my body (even if it’s just for fifteen minutes on the treadmill). I’m no longer ghostly pale and it turns out, all I had to do to get some healthy color was leave my house sometimes. Who knew? I make my bed when I get up every morning and I make a point of not getting back into it until I’m ready to wind down for the night. I still don’t eat as well or as often as I should and I still need excessive amounts of quiet alone time after being around people and I’m still too much in my own head, still carrying Xanax around in my purse just in case, still crying at the dentist and the gynecologist, still panicking about the passage of time and how much of it I’m wasting being crazy. I’m still not as good a friend as I would like to be, still too neglectful of the relationships that mean the most to me because distance complicates communication and sometimes, I’m just so tired. I’m still tired a lot. I still cry too easily. I still feel reflexively guilty for so much that isn’t my fault and so much that doesn’t even warrant guilt and so much I can’t change now anyway, and I still seek validation for everything from other people, even after I’ve already validated it for myself.

I’m not perfect, in other words. But now, I’m learning to be okay with that. To not tear myself apart for the slightest flaw, to not hold it up and magnify it until it eclipses all the good things about me. I’m learning that there’s no reason to be uncomfortable about saying I’m kind and funny and creative and good at the things I love doing, or that I’m strong and resilient and braver than I often feel. I’m learning that those things are a lot more important than all the things I think are so wrong with me, and that it takes good and bad to make a whole person.

And I’m learning to be proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I had to hit rock bottom, emotionally, to get here, but it’s okay. I’m sorry for the things that destructed along the way, or, more accurately, I’m sorry for the way they destructed, but it happened. It’s the past. I made mistakes and I didn’t handle things perfectly, and I’m going to make more mistakes and handle more things imperfectly, and that’s how life goes. But when it happens in the future, I’ll have more solid emotional structures to weather it, and I’ll be able to curb my catastrophizing tendencies and not self-destruct, and that’s not nothing. I’ve worked so hard over the past year or so, both in therapy and out of it. I’ve done so much. Just because the bulk of it has been internal doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

This wasn’t just intended as a rave about how great I am. I also want to say that if you’re anything like I was, if your position is even vaguely similar, you don’t have to live like that. And you don’t deserve to. Perpetual exhaustion/sadness/apathy, extreme reluctance to leave your house/apartment/whatever, fear of everyone and everything, those things aren’t normal. They don’t have to be your normal. This isn’t to imply that there’s something inherently wrong with you or that you’re failing by not fixing yourself/your circumstances. Ultimately you have to do what seems right and best for you, and that’s not always therapy or medication or exercise or any of the other things people always recommend. “Recovery” is a loaded concept that isn’t right for everyone. It’s just to say that if you aren’t happy with the way things are, if you don’t want them to stay that way forever, they can change. You can change them. Depression lies. It tells us that this is how things will be until we die, and, furthermore, that it’s how we deserve for things to be because we’re fundamentally terrible, unlovable human beings. But we’re not. You’re not.

I’m saying this because it’s what I needed to hear. I knew that therapy and medication were good things for other people, and that other people’s mental illnesses were real and serious and deserving of treatment. I knew that the things I was feeling and thinking were bad. But somehow, I couldn’t connect those two concepts into anything that involved asking for help. If I couldn’t be well and happy on my own, it just wasn’t meant for me. That’s nonsense. And it was also nonsense when just months after starting to meet with my first therapist, she decided that I was well enough to be done with therapy and go it alone again. She wasn’t a very good therapist. I didn’t try again for a while, because a professional had told me I was okay. But I wasn’t. My second therapist is so, so much better. I’ve been seeing her for just over a year now, and I think, maybe, at the end of the summer I’ll be ready to decrease the frequency of my sessions. Not stop them, probably, just decrease them. I have a concrete plan for what I want to do with my life, one that actually feels achievable and sustainable and enjoyable, unlike most of the others I’ve considered. If I could get to this point, you definitely can. I’m such an unmotivated, anxious, defeatist person, and, still, here I am.

Therapy and medication might not be your things. They’re the thingsI recommend most strongly because they’re the things that have been the most transformative for me, but you’re not me. All I’m trying to say here is that you don’t deserve to feel the way I felt, and you don’t have to just accept that as the baseline for feeling okay. The story I told myself when I was in the middle of feeling that way was a cruel, destructive, completely untrue story, and I’m sad for that self and how long she believed it. If you’re telling yourself a similar story, of being unworthy of help, of being not mentally ill enough, of being lazy and selfish and horrible, I just want you to hear that it’s not the truth, and that you deserve to write yourself a different, truer one.

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Top 5 favorite Fear Streets and why you should read them

Disclaimer: These books all contain pretty terrible and offensive portrayals of mental illness, blindness, romantic relationships, female friendship, fatness, being poor, etc etc. R.L. Stine appears to hate consent and everyone who isn’t rich, beautiful, and neurotypical. My fave is problematic, I already know. I would advise against reading any of this series, not just the ones discussed here, if you think any of these things might upset or trigger you.

In lieu of a happy wagon post, here’s one about Fear Street. It’s pretty much the same thing, anyway.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Fear Street has become one of the great joys of my life. I’ve read an embarrassing number of them over the past eight months or so, and, despite having loved almost all of them, a few favorites have emerged ahead of the rest. So now I’m going to tell you about those, and try to entice you to read them, too, so I’ll have company in being a grown adult reading these absurd teen horror stories.

“Switched”

Nicole always thought her friend Lucy’s life was so much better than hers. She had cooler parents, a cuter boyfriend . . . next to her, Nicole felt like a loser. So when Lucy asked if she wanted to switch bodies, Nicole thought it sounded like a fun idea. Good for a laugh. She didn’t realize the switch would actually work. Or that Lucy’s life might not be so sweet after all. Turns out, Lucy’s got a few issues. And she’s about to get her revenge — using Nicole’s body!

This was one of the first ones I read and it’s amazing. I figured out the twist about halfway through, but even so, I was legitimately hooked and anxious about how it would all turn out. Don’t judge me. It’s really depressing if you think about it too hard, so don’t do that either. Just read, try not to hate Nicole too much even though she’s incredibly annoying, and laugh
along with me at the terrible surprise! ending. And look forward to creepy well drowning scenes, heads being torn off with sounds like the scrape of Velcro, and the most inept police officers (or are they?) ever, in typical Shadyside fashion.

“The Face”

They say something horrible happened that day. But Martha can’t remember any of it–not the smallest detail. They say it will come back to her in time. But someone wants her to remember now. She draws his face, over and over–the face of a dead boy. She can’t control her hand. And she can’t remember how he died. But she’s going to find the answer.

This one is sooo good. If you don’t read any of the others (and you probably won’t), you should at least read this. There are kisses that taste like salty nacho chips, kisses that taste like candy bars, implausible hypnosis, the most unbelievably convenient plot contrivances in the history of terrible writing, and a fantastic decapitation scene in which someone’s head “bounced onto the snow. And emptied out. Emptied out. Emptied out.” It also has one of the flimsiest reasons for murder that I’ve ever read, even for Fear Street. And the most word repetition of any book ever. Basically, everything about this book is the best thing about it and you’re really missing out if you don’t read it.

“College Weekend”

Nothing can ruin Tina River’s big weekend at Patterson College with her boyfriend, Josh Martin. She’s so excited, she doesn’t even mind that her cousin, Holly, will be tagging along.

But when Tina and Holly arrive, Josh is gone. His roommate, Christopher Roberts, says Josh is stuck in the mountains, delayed by car trouble. That’s weird—Josh never mentioned he was going away.

It gets even weirder when Holly suddenly disappears. But Christopher isn’t worried— about Holly or Josh. Christopher seems to have the answer to everything. Tina is confused. But one thing is clear— she’s about to learn more about love and murder than she ever wanted to know.

This book has a disgusting description of a person’s face being burned away by photo developing chemicals. I’m not even sure if the chemicals in question could actually do that, but if reading about it happening isn’t something you’re eager to do, I don’t know what you’re doing here. It’s great. And before that, the villain forces the heroine to dress up in his dead girlfriend’s clothes and take pictures, and then in his great-grandmother’s clothes, and, I mean, come on. R.L. Stine has some serious problems and we’re blessed with these books where he tries to work them out, the least we can do is read them. This is also one of the most blatant depictions of his favorite “he forces himself on you because he loves you” trope, which, well … maybe you’re not eager to read about that, and fair enough, but it’s impossible for me to take seriously in these books. Maybe that makes me a garbage human being. So be it.

“Fear Hall: The Beginning” / “Fear Hall: The Conclusion”

Come with me to Fear Hall. That’s the creepy college dorm built many years ago by the cursed Fear family. Hope and her roomates live in Fear Hall. Hope’s boyfriend lives there, too. They’re all good students and best friends. Everything is going great…until one of them becomes a murderer! Now Hope is about to find out that life at Fear Hall can be a real scream! I hope you’ll join me for Fear Hall. This story has so many scares, it took me two books to tell it all!

I read a recap of this duology before I read the books themselves, so the whole thing was spoiled for me. Don’t do that. Just read the books. They’re off the rails from start to finish, and so full of plot holes that it’s amazing there’s even a consistent narrative at all. I don’t know what I can tell you about them without ruining the experience of reading them, so you should just trust me. There are many gruesome murders, a violent, unstable boyfriend, terrible friends making the worst decisions possible, inept police, psychological contortions that will make your brain hurt both because they make no sense and because they’re awesome … everything you want from Fear Street, and they don’t even take place in Shadyside. Warning: there’s a lot of disturbing-ish fat-shaming, so, you know … if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, maybe give this a miss. It isn’t portrayed as an okay thing, but I also don’t think the effects it has on the girl in question are portrayed particularly sensitively. It also has a girl getting her skin burned and peeled off by six gallons of chlorine poured in a jacuzzi, though, and another one being steam pressed to death, so it’s got that going for it.

“Into the Dark

Paulette Fox refuses to let her blindness stop her from living a full life. But one thing she’s never done is fall in love–until now. Paulette knows Brad Jones is the only guy for her. Even when her friends see Brad commit a horrible crime, Paulette is sure that he’s innocent. Her friends tell her he’s out of control. That she will be his next victim. But Paulette knows he would never hurt her. Is Paulette right about Brad? Or has her love put her in terrible danger?

I haven’t laughed so much at a book since reading this, and before that, I hadn’t laughed so much since “Fifty Shades Freed”. If you’re one of my blind friends and inaccurate portrayals of blindness make you angry, you should probably skip it, but really, it’s fantastic. Paulette can tell exactly how fast her friend is driving by the way the wind feels on her face, identify people by smell, and travel all around town–even to an abandoned house–on her own, but she needs guide rails to find her way around her own backyard. She doesn’t want her parents and friends to be so overprotective of her, but she makes such ridiculously stupid decisions that she’d probably be dead if they weren’t. She refuses to call the police when her bedroom is vandalized, lies to her parents after the villain tries to pull her out her bedroom window, and refuses to call the police again when the villain creeps and heavy breathes around her backyard and takes away her guide rails, all because she doesn’t want people to think she can’t take care of herself. Spoiler alert: she really can’t. She also feels people’s faces to get an idea of what they look like, which, like. Writers. Stop this. It’s not a thing. We don’t do it. Ditto counting steps. But actually if you’re my guy R.L., don’t stop it, do it as much as you want. This book is flawless, even though the twist was obvious from the beginning, and I’ll probably read it many more times.

Honorable mentions:

“The Boy Next Door”

Lynne and Crystal think Scott has it all. He’s handsome. He’s the new star of Shadyside High’s football team. And he’s moved in right next door! Both girls will do anything. Say anything. Try anything to get the chance to go out with him. That’s all either of them want.

But that’s all Scott’s last girlfriend wanted, too – and now she’s dead.

This is R.L. Stine’s attempt at a “Psycho” ripoff, except the villain doesn’t become his mother when he kills, he just mutters phrases she’s drilled into his head. Warning: a dog gets killed with a pair of hedge clippers. Pets are another thing R.L. Stine hates. There are elements of this book that I actually find a little unsettling, especially for a Fear Street story, and a lot of it takes place from the killer’s point of view. But there are hilariously dramatic internal monologues to balance it out, and it contains the line, “Okay. So we’re both hot for his bod!” I love the idea of someone actually saying that and also the idea of R.L. Stine writing it. And I love such charitable sisterly thoughts as, “She hated it when Melinda put herself down that way. Sure, Melinda was plain, and shy, and kind of drab. But she could have a shot at any guy if she made the effort.”

“The Prom Queen”

A spring night…soft moonlight…five beautiful Prom Queen candidates…dancing couples at the Shadyside High prom—these should be the ingredients for romance.

But stir in one brutal murder—then another, and another—and the recipe quickly turns to horror.

Lizzie McVay realizes that someone is murdering the five Prom Queen candidates one by one—and that she may be next on the list! Can she stop the murderer before the dance is over—for good?

Lizzie McVay is the best Fear Street heroine I’ve read so far, maybe the only good one there is. Pushy Shadyside boys don’t get her all hot and bothered, and she actually kicks one of them out of her house and another out of her car when they get creepy, and calls one of them out for cheating on his girlfriend and assuming she must be interested in him because every girl is. She has a long-distance boyfriend she only communicates with through letters because I guess this is set in the 1800s, and she never cheats on him even though he’s not in the book at all until the end. That’s a low bar to set, but sadly, it’s saying something for Fear Street girls. She also breaks the villain’s foot at the end and manages to save herself, rather than being last-minute saved by the police or the guy she likes. And she’s mostly nice to people and not a terrible friend, except for the catty mean girl thoughts she has, like, “Rachel wasn’t the most popular girl in the class or anything, but that was mainly because she was so shy. Well, I guess it was also because she had a bitter streak in her, about being poor and all.” And, “Simone was playing Maria Von Trapp, of course. She always was the star. Even though she didn’t make a very convincing nun.” That’s so perfectly high school and I love it.

Please read any or all of these books. Do it. And then talk to me about them.

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She learned a shining language

Day 7 of The Enchantment Diaries from The Fable Tribe
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

SHE LEARNED A SHINING LANGUAGE

What are you most good at?

Don’t self-edit. Write down everything you can think of that you’re proud of knowing or creating or being.

These are the languages by which the world may not measure your worth, but by which your story is created.

Celebrate one of your favorite achivements today.

I’m a very compassionate an empathetic person. I care so much about other people and their lives, both the happinesses they experience and the sadnesses, and if I don’t have firsthand understanding of what they’re going through, I want to learn about it. I want very much to help people, especially at-risk youth and those who are marginalized, and I want everyone to have a space in the world where they feel safe and heard and validated. I do my best to make sure that my language and attitudes are not harmful to the oppressed, and, if they are, to change them because it costs me nothing and improves the lives of others who need it. I work daily at solidarity and allyship, and I also work daily at keeping myself open to correction when I get it wrong, even if it’s uncomfortable.

I’m wildly imaginative, sometimes to my detriment, but usually it’s something I love and value very highly about myself. As a small child, I imagined entire worlds into being, populated with people who each had full names, phone numbers, parents, and complete histories. I told stories to myself, to my dolls, to my tape recorder, to anyone who would listen to me. I was often alone, but never lonely, because I always had friends and adventures and alternate worlds living inside of me, ready to come out at any moment. As a teenager, I wrote constantly, every day, stories and novellas and poetry and letters and diaries, most of it absolute nonsense, but drenched in my wild, desperate heart. I told stories to Miranda whenever she would let me, which was often. Most of those were absolute nonsense, too, but she liked them and I liked creating them. As an adult, my imagination has turned against me more often than it’s done any good, but it’s still there. I just need to remember how to harness it. It’s gotten me into trouble and it’s made me cry and it’s made me laugh and it’s delighted me and it’s terrified me and it’s kept me company when nothing else could, and I’m endlessly grateful to have it, even when it makes me a little crazy.

I’m good with words. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable about saying so, because it feels like bragging, like taking credit for something that I shouldn’t own. If other people say it about me, that’s great and I’ll glow about it for days, but I shouldn’t say it about myself. Why? I don’t know. False modesty is so irritating. I love Kanye and Frank Ocean and Beyonce and everyone who loudly, unapologetically gives themselves credit for the traits they think are great, the things they’ve done that they feel are deserving of praise. Even if I can’t aspire to their level, I can at least say here in this quiet little space that I’m a good writer, and I’m glad about and proud of it. When I try to talk, I stutter and stammer and fidget and blush, but when I write, everything comes out just the way I want it to. Or, if it doesn’t, I can rework it until it does. It feels so much more natural to sit down and write a letter, or a blog post, or a poem, than it ever does to sit down for a face to face talk. Maybe that isn’t great, but since it’s the way it is, I’m happy to have this natural affinity with written words for all the times when verbal ones fail me.

I love enormously and fiercely. Someone who thought he knew me best of all once called me a cold, emotionless robot, and I’ve never stopped laughing about it because it’s so absurdly far from the truth. I’m all emotions. They burn me up. If I’ve ever loved you, a part of me will probably always belong to you, and even though sometimes I hate that and I feel like it means that eventually I won’t have any of myself left, I wouldn’t change it. With such high highs come equally low lows, but the highs are so high. It’s so good to love while the loving lasts and is reciprocated, to feel that intimacy with another person, to be so terrifyingly known. It’s so good to give something so deeply held, so integral, to someone else, to watch it take root between you and grow into something no one else could have created. It’s so good. My friendship is not easily gained, but it’s also not easily lost, and I will love and praise and defend my friends to the moon and back. Love is not all we need, but without it, none of the rest really seems to matter.

I laugh easily. I learn eagerly and quickly (excepting anything to do with numbers). I care passionately–sometimes too passionately–about the world outside of myself and what directly affects me. I believe in the goodness of people, regardless of all the reasons they give me not to. I’m easily exhausted, but I persist. I dream big. I’m always seeking the good, and seeking to share it with everyone else. I have great hair. I can sing a certain kind of song passably well. I’m flawed and messy and this was hard to write, but I think I’m okay.

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