Review of “The Rift” by Allan

I did not like this book. And I’m saying this because it took me two tries to read it.

But, I want to figure out why this book was so bad. Why I disliked it so much. I mean, this read like a textbook, and it had the same effect on me. I kept falling asleep while reading it, which is saying something. I kept trying to snack to keep me awake—it’s a bad habit.

So let’s break this geode open. Except that’s a shitty metaphor because geode implies something pretty. So, let’s make it a shitty geode. Heh. 

Book_Rubric

Still using the same rubric as before.

WRITING STYLE 4

I’m going to argue that this is one of the better parts of the book. While the perspective yields a weak drive, leading to an uncompelling story, the style of writing feels fully developed. There is good sentence variation, which can be seen below, and some nicely written scenes, an example of which is below.

At one time, Selena would have bumped her in the ribs again and whispered: “Alien.” Alien-spotting was a game they used to play all the time, back when Julie was fourteen and Selena was twelve and they were both obsessed with The X-Files. Anyone they happened to see who was wearing odd clothes or acting strangely, they would raise their eyebrows knowingly then race around the corner and collapse into giggles. Selena remembered sometimes laughing so hard there were tears in her eyes. She didn’t believe these people were aliens, not really, but a part of her felt excited by the possibility that they could be. What she enjoyed mostly was the closeness with Julie… (9)

This is a good scene because it fully follows the ARR schematic. We have an action in red, a reaction in green, and a reflection in blue, completing the arc of the scene. The only thing lacking within this book’s writing style is that not every scene is like this. Although most of the book follows this, which is nice since it alters its style between flashbacks, the present, books, articles, etc, some parts do have a textbook feel which are more of a download of information, desperate to strive for the science fiction genre than a genuine narrative. For that reason, I’m giving its style a 4.

PERSPECTIVE 2.5

This book is so convoluted in perspective that I didn’t know who was telling the story half the time. It would flip back and forth between Selena and Julie, and I don’t know if it was intentional, but it kicked me out of the story every time. Looking back, you can have a clue from the chapter numbering system restarting at 1, but otherwise, you would have to read through the chapter and pick up on clues, and when you’re so focused on whose story you’re reading, how can you pay attention to what you’re reading?

I will say that I did appreciate Julie’s perspective. The dual perspective allowed the novel to build upon the characters, the theme, and this added overall to the novel, as seen in the quote below.

For a while, I was frightened to go outside unless Cally was with me. I was afraid people would see me and realise, that they would point and yell in uearthly voices, like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, unmasking me as an alien, running though the streets in droves as they hunted me down. (162)

I loved how Julie pretended that people were aliens, and also became one herself when she was transported to this other planet. And, it’s a good show of irony. But, unfortunately, this novel also loved to interrupt itself. It interrupted itself by switching perspectives disjointedly between Selena and Julie, and it also did so by littering the story with big blocks of text solely to build the science fiction world of Tristane and Dea. And, these were so dry. So boring. They were the ports that slowed me down and made me want to fall asleep. So because these interruptions led to a weak connection, I’m going to have to give a 2.5. It did have tons of details to build the character, but I loss the connection by its disjointed story-telling methods.

THEME 2

This story follows Selena coping how to move on from her sister Julie’s kidnapping, even though parts of the story starts earlier than that. But, even though this book contains loss, it’s not strictly about Selena’s grief over it; it’s about the fact that Selena and her family don’t know what happened to her sister, how they’re all scared of the unknown. And, I argue this because of the way the book ends, how it specifically concludes.

The more time passed, [Margery] Rouane maintains, the more the agony surrounding Julie’s disappearance evolved from a fear of what might have happened into the simple terror of not knowing. “It became a constant background noise, a wound that could never heal. (396)

Multiple motifs follow this fear of the unknown, and the book points to only one solution: belief and faith. But, we’ll examine each of these with short evidence for each.

Aliens

In the beginning, when the two sisters are younger, the two of them are obsessed with aliens, constantly pointing out outsiders, using quirks as justifications for why these people are extraterrestrials. What’s ironic is that even as Julie does this, it isn’t until she’s removed to another planet that she herself begins to identify herself as an alien, using the justification that no one understands or believes her about Earth or Manchester.

When you’re a kid you live so much in your own world you barely think of adults as having lives, even. When I realised that Mum lived mostly behind a screen – a screen of efficiency and reasonableness designed to hide every trace of her real personality – it was like playing the alien game all over again.

Who was the alien, though? Her, or me? (166)

We see the alien motif again when Julie, in her past, learned something about her mother that didn’t coincide with previous memories of her, so Julie found herself in a place that she didn’t understand her. And of course, at any point in time when the girls don’t understand someone, we find ourselves back to the motif of aliens.

Parasitic Creefs

One of the stories that fascinates Julie from her time on Tristane, the other planet, is a story from an aeronautics technician named Linus Quinn. The story is this man went with his two friends, a naturalist and the naturalist’s wife, to a small planet named Dea, but when he returned from his journey, his two friends were dead. Of course, he claims this is due to a deadly parasitic isopod named creef, but there is no proof. That doesn’t stop the fear though.

[Noah] thinks something went wrong on Dea, something the praesidium doesn’t want anyone to know about. That’s why they stopped the transports, as a kind of quarantine. Then they shut down the radio station as well, so no one would find out. I’m not saying I think he’s right,” [Cally] said. “But I read some of those messages. They were awful, Julie. Those people knew they’d been abandoned. They were saying goodbye, mostly.” (181)

Here, we see the reaction of the fear of the unknown. Because the government doesn’t know who killed people on Quinn’s mission, all travel and transmissions to the planet were shutdown. What I think is even creepier is that through the last portions of the novel, we see Julie as she forgets more and more, a common symptom of being contaminated with creef, only, we never learn if she is or isn’t infected. Talk about the fear of the unknown and unresolved.

Missing Persons

For much of the novel, we see articles, movies, stories that Selena has read about missing persons. Where her father has coped with Julie’s disappearance by tracking down any and all information related to Julie, Selena copes by finding all information about any disappearance ever, perhaps thinking if she can understand other people’s stories that maybe she can understand her own sister’s.

Selena wondered how she would feel if Julie were to disappear from her life again, as suddenly as she’d returned. She felt surprised at how painful it was, the idea. Something about the empty park, the rain, the sense that you could live your life and die and still know nothing about anything.

What if knowing only made things worse? Perhaps it was better to remain in the dark about what had happened. There was an argument for not pursuing it, for ignoring the fork in the road, and moving on. (87)

We can see clearly where Selena had a choice. She could’ve left herself in the dark and not ask Julie about her disappearance, but obviously that didn’t happen because otherwise the book would be a whole lot shorter. Selena made the choice to ask because of the fear of this pain she mentioned, because she couldn’t stand not to know otherwise.

Black Holes

I love how this whole novel is space-themed, and how all the motifs circle around this. Even though black holes weren’t central to this novel, because they were so regularly mentioned, I believed they were integral to the theme.

I was about seven when it started, I think – I was terrified of black holes. I’d seen part of a science programme on TV – Horizon probably, or The World About Us – describing how nothing could ever escape a black hole, not even light. There was an animated diagram, showing what might happen if a planet were to get sucked into a black hole’s even horizon, and a map of our galaxy showing where astronomers believed black holes might be located. Gaping empty spaces, patches of nothing, the lairs of monsters. (133)

We can see that Julie’s fear started early, and over the course of the novel it develops, leading to Julie to compare multiple events to that of black holes: like the white van (from her ride with the serial killer), in which we don’t learn until the end what happened and the creef, in which we don’t know if they truly exist and kill. We see it from her teacher’s perspectives, who reinforces why black holes are so terrifying.

‘Julie was terrified of black holes. She told me they gave her nightmares. When I asked her why, she said that blackholes proved there were a lot of things we didn’t know about the universe, and that most of them were terrifying.’ (285)

Solution?

So in the face of this fear, what does this novel suggest as a cure? Belief.

You know that moment in almost every horror movie you’ll ever see, when the main character comes dashing out of the woods, or the haunted house, or the cellar or wherever, gibbering some insane story about a monster or a psycho or a secret passage leading straight into hell? There are all kinds of variations on that scene, but the one thing that’s always the same is that the person who gets told the story never believes it. (137)

When Selena read all those different missing person stories, she didn’t know what to believe, and throughout the novel, when Julie returned, she was faced with the choice of whether or not this person who called herself Julie was telling the truth. But, it wasn’t until she accepted this was her sister, that her sister’s story was true that she began to feel better.

Her mother in return began to feel better when she believed that Julie had died, that the police had found her body within the woods by the lake. It is only when you have no belief that you suffer in the manner as Ray, when death finally overtakes you because he couldn’t face any belief on what happened to Julie.

Rating

So, I believe this novel does have a theme, but does that make it deserving of a 5? The answer is no. Everything about this theme seems to influence me, make me want to say I like it. Obviously, there was a lot of thought that has been put into it. There are multiple metaphors that strike a comparison for why a fear of the unknown is so scary, and I like the theme itself, especially since this is such a strong fear for myself—it explains why I’m scared of deep water and the dark—but my rating depends on the story’s compulsion. And, I’m sorry to say that was weak. This novel dragged, very much, and it lacked much conflict and tension that is contained in stronger books, so I’ll have to give its theme a much lower rating. I believe it deserves a 2 because the novel can be interesting and compelling, but this broken up by pieces of the novel that try so hard to build details and worlds, almost to force it to by a science fiction piece. It was trying too hard.

ORIGINALITY 3

What originally drew me to this book? I would have to say the plot originally. I do see a lot of books that put characters on other planets, so I will have to say, there is probably more than one where a character disappeared to one, wisped through some unseen portal. I know this exists because this was one plotline within the TV series The Agents of Shield. So that motif is unoriginal. Whether someone is or isn’t an alien isn’t original either. Neither are parasites since this was done in Aliens. And whether or not someone is crazy isn’t new—look at Legion. Putting this all together with a missing person narrative? I would say that’s probably somewhat uncommon, which is why I believe it’s a 3. But again, this is highly limited by my knowledge of similar plot points and motifs.

 

Allan, Nina. The Rift. London, England: Titan Books, 2017. Print.

 

Motifs’ Locations

  1. Aliens (9, 16, 73, 95, 135, 162, 166, 180, 284)
  2. Parasitic Creefs (176, 181, 201, 220!)
  3. Missing persons  (56, 59, 87, 129, 256, 279)
  4. Memories (13, 30, 72, 75, 79, 112, 119, 179, 227, 229)
  5. Crazy, insane, mentally ill (313, 318, 319, 320, 325, 328, 373)
  6. Belief (16, 18!–38, 56, 59, 64, 75, 87, 91, 123, 126, 132, 136, 220, 223, 266, 273, 316, 317, 410)
  7. Choices (53, 169, 253, 277)
  8. Black holes (134, 174, 224, 285)
  9. Lesbian (191, 216, 235, 302)

Character List

Julie Rouane Queer sister that goes missing

Selena Rouane Protagonist whose sister goes missing when she’s younger

Margery Rouane Mother of Julie and Selena, who divorces after Julie’s disappearance; medical practice manager

Ray Rouane Father of Julie and Selena, who turns obsessive after Julie’s disappearance

Stephen Dent Man who used to teach English in Japan and fell in love with Hiromi, but moved back to the US to care for Koi until they were killed, and he committed suicide; Selena feels guilty for never revealing his suicidal tendencies (324)

Cally saved Julie on Tristane

Noah Cally’s brother

Allison Gifford Part-time teacher at Priestley College, who noticed Julie as a lonely, shy, perhaps bullied student (281)

Lucy Khalil Indian, straight friend of Julie’s for two years, who wanted to grow up and be a doctor (301)

Steven Jimson serial killer and possible murderer of Julie

Johnny Selena’s boyfriend who invited her to move to Kuala Lumpur with him (321)

Lisa previous lover of Julie’s after she returns to Earth

Nadine Akoujan metallurgist in London who specializes in identifying space metal

Review “The Seas” by S. Hunt

How do you measure the value in a book?

Is it by style? Theme? Originality? Or perspective? There are so many different aspects to measure a book, and I’m sure everyone has their own criteria, which is why there’s no concrete rule of thumb on how to measure a bestseller. But, I’d like to work and create my own, using a teacher’s favorite tool: a rubric!

Okay. This may hurt some feelings. A lot of teachers feel attached to the four scale rubric; I don’t. And, I feel like I have to do 5-scale because this is usually supported by the 5-star rating system that multiple companies use to rate their products, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Goodreads.

This may take some time…

Book_Rubric

Okay. So this is pass 1 for the rubric. It hasn’t been edited, and it may change over time, but this seems like a good start from which to examine the latest book I finished: The Seas by Samantha Hunt. And of course I’ll support my decisions with proof from the book.

WRITING STYLE 5

I feel that The Seas deserves a 5 because much of the book is written with highly selective word choice and sentence variation. Readers can see her extremely particular word choice throughout the book since she continuously uses the mermaid metaphor to develop physical and emotional imagery for the protagonist’s actions and reactions. An example of this can be seen below.

“Jude?” I turn and ask, but before I can get any response the water rushes in like a couple of police officers with their blue lights flashing, with their guns drawn. The water rushes in like a couple of police officers would rush in to surround the smashed-up car of some drunk people who are evading the law. The water is like two officers, one on either side of the car both with guns drawn and pointed at me. (171-172)

Here, we can see Hunt’s careful word choice. She has selected each word so that it 1) reveals the imagery of the action sequence of this scene and 2) co-develops a reaction through the use of the ocean as a metaphor. Although we see the action of officers collecting the protagonist to arrest, we feel the reaction of the protagonist as she feels herself drowning in the sense that she’s lost control. Because Hunt is doing so much within so few of lines, I believe this is a strong scene deserving of a high score, and because most of the book is mirrored in this example of style, I believe it earns a 5.

PERSPECTIVE 5

For me to rate this, I want to first consider what we know about the character, which is a lot. I know the protagonist’s whole family: how her mother was raised on a deaf island; how her father left eleven years ago, losing himself to the ocean—not sure whether because he’s actually a mermaid or committing suicide; and how her grandfather is obsessed with typesetting and font. I know the protagonist’s history on the island, how she’s always felt alienated and picked on. I know how she wants Jude to return her love. I also know she believes herself to be a mermaid, and so likes to participate in mermaid-like behaviors, like soaking in her bathtub or pretending to breathe water. We see this with details within scenes like,

I was thirsty. It was just floating there. And anyway, that word is mine. (22)

I sometimes sit underneath our small boardwalk. It’s out of the weather, away from anyone who might recognize me, close to the ocean. There I feel as though I am among people, while in actuality I am still alone. (25)

There is a window over my tub and when I was younger, I’d lie down in the tub instead of my bed. My mother would wake me and make me move back to my bed but finally she gave up and let me sleep there. I liked it in the tub because from the window I could see stars and the ocean and sometimes, if it was calm, I could see the stars in the ocean. (31)

We also see throughout the novel her obsession with the word blue. She loves words with multiple definitions, and I wonder if blue is to signify something else. But, I’ll look into that later. What I believe is that because this character has been overwhelmingly developed, shown so many details about her life, that the perspective requires a 5.

THEME 5

Going a little bit out of order here…but, I have to be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of the theme, or even the book now that I’ve finished it. I thought I knew where it was going, and then I didn’t, and where it ended left me feeling very confused. But, I swear this has something to do with the theme.

Let me look at some common motifs within the book first.

  1. Her father “left,” or died—it depends what you think.
  2. She experiences unrequited love with her older friend, Jude.
  3. Her grandfather’s obsessed with words, including their sources and definitions.
  4. Her family’s experience with alcoholism.
  5. Jude’s post-traumatic stress disorder from the Iraq war.
  6. The protagonist’s belief she’s a mermaid.
  7. How she feels ostracized and alienated.
  8. Her blindness, or difficulty in seeing.

Well, now that I’ve had time to outline and contemplate, I believe I’ve figured it out, so now, let me show you her story. It’s beautiful. SPOILERS!!

This is a story of grief. Back when the narrator was eight, her father left home, his footsteps following from the edge of the beach to the sea, to where most of the town imagined he drowned since he was never seen of again.

My father was a dark, slender, and quiet man…He drank a lot—so did my grandparents…When my father disappeared I blamed his disappearance on his drinking. I was only eight at the time. Since then I have changed my mind. (59)

The original story is that her father must’ve committed suicide, possibly due to his drinking, but because of the overwhelming sadness and harshness of this reality, the characters within the book prefer to choose a different one, with each character experiencing their own version of reality in order to give them some sense of happiness.

People often suggest that it would be better if we knew for certain whether or not my father is dead. That, to me, seems cruel, as if they want me to abandon all hope. (32)

But to abandon all hope means to accept his death, and the narrator cannot accept this and neither can her family. Looking at her mother, we can see no one wants to accept this. Instead mom believes he’s walked out, and so she stands watch for his return.

My mother is still in love with him even though he’s been gone eleven years. She says, “Nothing has changed between your father and me. I just don’t see him as often.” As though he moved to Tallahassee or somewhere else way down south. (61)

A few old houses in town have widow’s walks—the small square rooms or flat platforms built into a roof so that women left behind by fishermen husbands could look out to see if their men’s ships were ever going to come in. We don’t have a widow’s walk, so my mother sometimes just sits on the roof with binoculars around her neck. She acts as if she’s just looking at the ocean, the birds, or the waves but I know she is looking for my father. (110)

But again, this is only one version of the story: her mother’s, which the narrator is not interested in. Instead, she chooses changes her story so that her father has returned to the ocean since her and her father are mermaids. This is belief stems from a story that her father used to tell her when she was young, back when he was alive.

He meant we were from the ocean. “You’re a mermaid,” he told me at the breakfast table. “Don’t forget it.” A corner of toast scraped the roof of my mouth when he said it. The cut it made helped me to remember. So I don’t think he’s dead. I think he is in the sea swimming and that is kinder than imagining his boots filling up with water, and then his lungs. (32)

This feels like a momenta of her father. If she believes in herself being a mermaid, she can still retain a memory and a connection with him, even if he’s gone. But, to hold onto this belief from when you were eight to when you’re nineteen for eleven years, this can only look one way to an outsider.

I’d rather be subject to the ocean’s laws than the laws that apply to young girls trying to become women here on dry land…Sadness can be like a political cause, almost, or a religion or a drug habit…I think of the carny girl’s teardrops and I can’t believe that is her purpose…I suspect that she wants her boyfriend to stay in prison for a long time so that every year she can add another drop until they reach below the collar of her shirt and everyone who sees her will say, “My. There’s a sad girl.” (62)

At this point, her grief has driven her crazy in the eyes of the town, so most people have ostracized her, leaving alone and lonely. It is not too long later, when she is twelve, that she finds someone who can be a friend, if only because he reminds her of her father.

There he is, I thought and meant my father, because I had been waiting for him to come back….Then Jude was coming out of the water and I thought, in quantum physics there must be a possibility that all the molecules of my father would find each other again and would walk out of the water looking at least a little bit like him…Tall and dark, he looked like my father. There at that moment, I started loving Jude. (23-24)

But the man is old, much older than her, and the man, Jude, realizes what this will look like in the eyes of the town, in the eyes of morals, court, her parents.

“I feel like your name was on that list. Like you are off limits. Like if I say your name or if I touch you, I’d get court-martialed, found guilty, and executed.” [Said Jude] (107)

And so, he refuses to accept her love. At this point, I wonder why she doesn’t stop loving him, knowing that he will never return her love. How does she keep this love alive from when she was 12 to 19 knowing it’s never returned? She even acknowledges in the book that she will never abandon even given this situation.

In the short time that I waited for Jude, not too long, the dragonfly matured enough to fly away. So I hated it because I knew that would never happen to me. (122)

So why does she stay? Is it because Jude resembles her father so much? Is he her replacement for a father figure? Or, is it because she takes after her father? Does she want to nurse him back to health, like her father’s done for animals and bugs?

He’d sit quietly, stirring a mixture of warm water and sugar to nurse back to health a sickly black fly…These are the parts of [my father] I find impossible to cut myself loose from. They are beautiful qualities. (61)

We see her stick with Jude even after he tells her he doesn’t love her, that he never will, so there is a sense of dedication that isn’t within normal limits, so I do believe that is some additional purpose driving her to stay with him. And, my belief is that she’s trying to fix him. I believe she is trying to nurse Jude back to health, given his post-traumatic stress disorder, by giving him all her love, realizing that if she can’t, the ocean will take him back, just like it did with her father.

He stares like water in a way that lets me know that if I don’t do my job as a mermaid, somebody else will, a bounty hunter from the ocean. (96)

This fits in with the narrator’s mermaid story because  as her mother mention’s mermaids can only kill. This is perhaps speaking in metaphor that the narrator can’t save Jude, that it’s impossible.

“Why would you want to be soulless? It’s a sad story. This Undine.” She holds up the book. “She falls in love with a knight named Huldbrand and Huldbrand loves Undine too, but he also loves her stepsister, Bertalda, a mortal. So Undine’s uncles, he’s a river spirit, is disgraced. He takes Undine back down under the water and tells her she must kill Huldbrand or else he will.” (111)

But the narrator swears she’ll be a different kind of mermaid. She’ll save him, and we follow her attempting to fix him throughout the story until the end, where her and Jude have too much to drink. And, when Jude finally works up the courage to tell her his war story, he finally works up the courage to love her. Unfortunately, except, this pushes Jude off the deep end with him committing suicide at the end, using the same way as her father. A repetition in events. And again, when the narrator doesn’t like this version of Jude’s story, she changes it.

Jude killed himself. The possibility that this might be the truth swoops near my head like a bat at dusk, a bat that soon flies off in the other direction uninterested in me. / Jude’s note. I smile. He really fooled them. (210)

I believe in this note, he explains his suicide, which the police say was by drowning, maybe saying why he couldn’t stay and love her, perhaps using the reasons he had outlined before. But because the narrator didn’t like his story, she changed it.

Words have more than one meaning all the time. Just like Jude’s note. (212)

And we know she changes words all the time, because she mentions other authors doing that before, which is seen earlier within the book.

I am not dead yet, though I feel so bad I might be close. I imagine that even if a sailor lived through the worst storm and spoke to the papers, the sailor might report, “The sea said ‘I get you’ and did not mean ‘get’ as in ‘understand’ like I initially thought.” The newspapers would translate what the sailor had said into, “The first wave snapped the pilothouse in two.” (83)

And so, she changes Jude’s story to that of him melting, since his chest was made of ice, because of her mermaid father not allowing them together, eerily similar to a story her father had told her much earlier in life.

“In fact,” he told me whispering, leaning forward and tucking his can of beer on the floor beside his armchair, “I traded my rib cage for a chunk of ice instead.” / This explained a lot. From my father I got many recessive genes. Fair eyes, fair skin, and the mermaid part. The surrender places. I did not get a torso of ice, though sometimes it feels that way, as if something solid that once was there melted now and still aches with the vacancy of him when it rains. (59)

This reinforces how the narrator sees Jude as a replacement for her father, and how when we read this story, we’re able to see how the narrator uses stories to cope with grief, love, and death. In summary, this story is of how the narrator uses stories to cope with loving her missing father, and the plot follows how the narrator uses this strategy in action with a figure similar to that of her father. We see this theme specifically in a scene where the author has trouble describing her love for her missing father, which we see in the excerpt below.

“I don’t think you’ll believe what I found,” he says. “A word, can’t pronounce it. We don’t have a word to match it but we should. We should develop it tonight because the word means, “the feelings one retains for someone he once loved.'” (124)

We see these feelings throughout the novel, as the narrator grasps to hold onto the love for her father, by using the story of her being a mermaid, a childhood story that her father used to love to tell her. We see this throughout the novel, perhaps as a worry that she will one day forget what her father looks like, due to quotes like these.

“Daddy,” I say, because I haven’t seen him since I was eight years old…My eyes are getting dry but I’m scared he’ll disappear if I blink. (126)

This story is definitely a sad one. And, I wonder if it is a story not only of love and grief, but of one of sanity. I imagine when she was younger, imagining herself a mermaid was a good coping mechanism for a while, especially when she was younger.

When I was younger I’d go down to the water and each wave would ask in a thug accent, “You want I should take care of those kids? You want I should tell your father?” (72)

But I also wonder if she lost herself along the way.

Can you “breathe” underwater? Are you really a mermaid or does it just feel that way in the awkward body of a “teenage girl”? I breathe water into my lungs. I wait for my test results. (136)

“I don’t want to be the mermaid who kills Jude, Mom.” / “Oh,” she says in a voice that sounds like the voice of a mother whose daughter just broke something, a piece of china or crystal and she is trying not to get made about it. But in this instance, though, the thing that my mother believes is broken is me. (133)

I guess in a way, grief will always break you, but maybe this story asks, what do you do to cope? Because this story pulled me along so intensely, I am definitely giving its theme a 5. It had a strong drive. I loved the story that came out of examining its motifs and plot, and I really feel like this is a story I will want to pass along to those who have lost someone. 

ORIGINALITY 4

Now here me out. In the beginning, I thought this story was highly original, and I still like to argue that it is, but when looking at my rubric, I believe that because this book  encompasses some motifs that have been used previously, it’s not necessarily perfectly original although the plot certainly is.

One of those previously-used motifs is the time-old mermaid motif. This story has been overused in stories like The Little Mermaid, The Thirteenth Year…just look at Goodreads list of mermaid books. It’s no surprise that people like to hear the story again; just imagining you’re unique in some way is a comfort.

A second common motif is to externalize your grief through some sort of fantasy. I don’t know how much I can find on this, especially since it took me a while to think of it, but I’ve written a short story version of a similar tale. So, I don’t think I can claim this as original in my perspective since technically I’ve heard of it before.

A third is her family’s experience with alcoholism.

I would argue that this story is still unique if for the fact that it balances reality and fantasy, and you don’t see a lot of books that can balance it that artfully.

 

Hunt, Samantha. The Seas. Portland, OR: Tin House Books, 2018. Print.

 

Quotes I haven’t used but that I like: 

blue – 1. having the color of the clear sky or the deep sea 2. melancholy 3. puritanical 4. obscene 5. faithful 6. said of women, especially those with literary inclinations / If one word can mean so many things at the same time then I don’t see why I can’t. (216)

“It’s the ocean. It’s coming up behind us,” I say. I watch as the blue rises up like a tidal wave so quickly that I am certain it will catch up with us soon…I don’t think we can outrun the ocean but I’ll try for your sake.” (171)

And the red bird sings, I’ll be blue because you don’t want my love. (75)

Sentence Structure

This isn’t to be a post to tell you how to write. It’s to give you some structure, or pieces that you can pick up and re-arrange in your mind. I think some of us (myself included) tend to fall back on a reliable, repetitive style, where it can get quite boring reading the same thing again and again and again…but this post doesn’t tell you how to do it. Merely give you the awareness to think on it.

EXAMPLE PART DEFINITION PHRASE
When Marker  Word signals at the beginning of a dependent clause. EX: after, although, because, before, though, since, when, while Dependent Clause
she Noun/Subject  A subject is who/what the sentence is about, the thing using the verb. EX: she. A noun is a who/what. EX: she, crack, sidewalk
quickly Adverb  A word that modifies a verb or adverb, usually explaining how someone does something. EX: quickly, hurriedly, slowly, extremely, painfully
ran, Verb  An action of the subject, such as what the subject does. EX: ran, hiccuped, jumped, is, has, does
she Noun Independent Clause
missed Verb
the Article  A word that works like an adjective by describing the noun as a specific or general object. EX: a/an, the
giant Adjective  A word that modifies a noun, usually to describe it. EX: giant, small, crooked, tilted, oblong
crack Noun
spanning Participle A verb used as an adjective, ending in -ing or -ed. EX: running, swallowed, danced
the Article
sidewalk, Noun
and Conjunction A connecting word between two independent clauses. EX: and, but, or, so, yet, nor, for Independent Clause
she Noun
tripped Verb
and Conjunction
fell Verb
on Preposition A word that describes the time or location between nouns. EX: on, below, above, beside, in, to, by
her Possessive This is a possessive adjective that shows who owns something. EX: his, her, my, their
knees. Noun

Gerund –  A verb that ends in -ing that can function as a subject, noun, or subject complement (basically acts as a noun or ~adjective). EX: The dog is lying down. Running is my favorite form of travel. 

* This is different from a participle because while one acts as an adjective, one acts more like a noun.

Infinitive – Another form of verbs, usually its root form, that can act like a noun, adjective, or adverb. EX: to go…to fly…to learn…

  • Sentences require a subject+verb. If it doesn’t have both, it’s a fragment.
  • You can have a maximum of two independent clauses within a sentence or it becomes a run on.
  • You can have as many dependent clauses as you want.
  • You can mix the order of independent and dependent clauses, although if dependent is first, you add a comma after its last word to signal the following independent clause.
  • Verbs basically have three tenses: present, past, future. There’s also a “perfect” form of each of these, which is the more complicated version of a verb aided with an auxiliary.

These are some of the rules, but the thing about writing style – you don’t have to follow any of them. You can make them up as you go! But, these are the norms when writing, and the most comfortable way to read, so consider breaking the rules when you want something to stand out or hit hard, when you don’t want the reader to feel comfortable. Otherwise, being average is okay!

This isn’t a complete list, and please refer to the Purdue Owl if you have any questions! These offer more insight and exercises for practice.