I leave these posts up to simply chronicle things that I did in the past, but I freely admit this was bad form on my part. My frustration with Abbi Glines had nothing to do with her and a lot more to do with being taught by trad-published writers how to write “well,” when indies like Glines put their fingers on the pulse of what readers wanted. I was sticking up my nose, demanding that there be things like story arcs and character motivations and other things that no reader cares about at all. Anyway, things have changed for me. I’ve stopped trying to write “well,” and started to try to write fun things that would make people happy. I still do worry about arcs and motivations, I must admit, but I try to make things more enjoyable. Abbi Glines always made things enjoyable first, and that’s why she succeeded and I failed (back then). I’m still not as successful as Glines, but I do all right for myself these days, and I think the bitterness of these posts is toxic.
This is part of a multi-part series of posts on the failings and successes of Abbi Glines’ book, Existence. It is, quite frankly, the worst book I have ever muscled through. And I aim to tell you why it doesn’t work.
(Note: I have nothing against Abbi Glines, nor do I mean this to bully her in any way. It is my attempt to evaluate her work, not her person, and to confine my criticism, when possible, to storytelling, writing, leaps in rational thought, and characterization.)
My discussion assumes you have a passing familiarity with the book, or that you have read it. To buy the book, go here.
The chapter begins with Pagan being annoyed with Leif for being late for tutoring, but “the steam I’d managed to work up evaporated” when she saw his amazingly gorgeous body. CONFLICT AVERTED. Again. Because heaven forbid there be any actual tension in this book.
Leif surprises her by having “depth” and thinking about adoption, not just football. But who cares, because she’s already bulldozed any resistance to him she might have had, because he is so pretty.
He ends the session by saying, “Who knows, you might like me before this is over.” Which might be cool, except she already does. Yawn.
In the next scene, Miranda and Wyatt are making up. So, um, what was the point of their fighting in the first chapter again? Again, there’s no conflict in this book. When you find something like this as a writer, you are meant to go and REVISE. This means that she should have cut the stupid fight with Miranda and Wyatt in the first chapter, because it does precisely nothing to either reveal character or advance the plot.
Teensy bit of conflict. Pagan wants to go to the Homecoming dance with Leif. Will he ask her? God, the suspense is killing me.
She admits to Miranda that she likes Leif as a friend now, but she denies that she’s hot for him, even though she has already admitted this to herself. Why? Is this more of Pagan’s very weird way of not being able to actually, you know, being attracted to boys?
In conversation, it’s revealed that Pagan was the HOMECOMING QUEEN last year? Are you kidding me? This is the everywoman girl I’m supposed to identify with? And she’s like, “It was only because of my date.” Gag me. I hate this girl right now. Seriously. I mean, maybe some people think it’s cool if people are popular and perfect, but still have this whole false modesty thing going on, but I HATE girls like that. You know those girls. The ones who are a size two but are always going on about how fat they are? This goes a long way towards my not being able to stomach this character. Now, admittedly, a lot of this is personal preference, but most girls are not, you know the Homecoming Queen. If you’re trying to write a character that most girls can identify with, making her the Homecoming Queen is a sort of dumb move if you ask me.
Moving on. Leif asks her to the game. She says she isn’t going. Wyatt interprets this as being “shot down.” Poor Pagan is just a baby in this business of flirting. She’s confused and can’t tell whether or not Leif likes her, when it is ridiculously obvious.
Pagan thinks she is not superficial, and yet she has only showed us false modesty, an odd aversion to feeling attraction, and the ability to listen to her mom. I haven’t seen her think one. Single. Deep. Thought.
Miranda realizes Pagan likes Leif, but she denies it again. Why?
In the next scene, we learn that Dank is watching her for some reason. Also he might be jealous of Leif. But essentially just he pops up and does nothing to move the plot along. Oh wait, there is no plot. (Yet. I admit something sort of appears later. Kind of.)
Wait. Dank seems to be helping her get Leif. He’s giving me whiplash. Is he jealous? Does he like her? Or not? He’s watching her a lot, possibly in a creepy-stalker way. But, you know, since my books are all about guys who kill people, let’s just not really get into the whole psychology of women liking jerks, ‘kay?
She has a study session with Leif, who says she is cute. This somehow makes her think that they can never be anything other than friends. Pagan is really freaking stupid.
Leif continues to flirt with her. She is oblivious. (All girls, I suppose, want to believe that maybe a hot guy was flirting with them all along, and they simply didn’t notice. I guess I get this fantasy.)
In the next scene, I almost fall off of my chair in surprise. Is Glines actually creating some conflict here? A misunderstood overheard conversation between Leif and Kendra, some slutty girl who keeps throwing herself at Leif. Pagan thinks that Leif likes Kendra, not her. The plot thickens. (um, begins?) Now Pagan will be confused about Leif’s feelings for her. (It’s cliché, but it’s something!)
She gets really, really upset, and Dank appears to convince her to stay in school! Don’t let Leif ruin her day. He obviously is way, way into her. Am I sensing a conflict of interest here? Two guys both into Pagan? Who will she pick? A love triangle! (Okay, okay. You know, there’s not a lot of originality going on here, but I’ll concede that originality is overated.)
She doesn’t listen and to Dank gets in the car. She drives and gets in a bad car accident. While dreaming, she sees Dank playing guitar. Now it makes sense, since we know from the blurb that he is Death. He was trying to stop her from dying. Apparently, he saved her life. (So, while Dank has been stalking Pagan, who has been taking care of all of jillions of dead people the world, hmm?)
Leif apparently sits by her bed all night.
She and Leif have a heart to heart and are completely honest with each other. He admits he has feelings for her. Well, so much for that conflict with Kendra.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the next two chapters. All Existence posts will be listed here.