So, on the behest of my friend Jesse, this weekend I rented the first two books in The Mortal Instruments series. All in all, I was both deeply impressed and deeply disappointed. And if that basic review has you deeply confused, let’s launch into the longer review.
I gotta say, in terms of writing, these books were a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Phenomenal writing, easy to understand, funny in some places and heart-achingly sad in others. The books managed to capture a beautiful range of emotion through the conflicted characters, who were sympathetic and complex and exquisitely human (even the ones who weren’t entirely human themselves.) The books (not going to spoil too much) had a new, fascinating theme, complete with it’s own mythos and histories, and kept me turning the pages through the night, anxious to discover more of a world of demon hunters, vampires, werewolves, and angels. If I were simply another teen, I would have been sutably impressed and left it at that. Sadly, by tendency to overthink (ah, the curse of being a writer!) had me looking much deeper into the core of the book… and it was as slimy and gross as the monsters it portrays.
In the book, a young girl, Clary, realizes that there are demons and other “mythical” creatures roaming around, and that a supernatural police force keeps an eye on them. One of these policemen, so to speak, is the sexy and mysterious Jace, who immediately becomes infatuated with Clary. Jace is arrogant, rude, cruel, and horribly wounded, but he’s hot and has a sixpack, cause y’know, who cares about Jace being a person when he looks like a supermodel? Clary has a big crush on him. Clary’s friend Simon has a crush on her. It was at about the point in the first book when the two boys were getting pitted against each other that I realized..
I had read all of this before.
It’s a same-old, same-old story. Girl with cool power/destiny (Katniss, Bella, Clary) is torn between a sexy new guy (Peeta, Edward Cullen, Jace) and an old friend (Gale, Jacob, Simon) I continued reading with dread, knowing exactly what the author was about to do to this glorious story. And my fears were realized, because all of a sudden, the story was no longer a riveting tale of mystery and supernatural battles of good and evil… it was a stupid TEEN ANGST STORY.
But wait, it gets worse! Cause you know what this story is doing in the minds of love-starved teenage girls everywhere? It’s poisoning, seeping venom into susceptible minds! Girls see Jace, who is verbally abusive, cruel, arrogant, proud, selfish, and possessive to the point of creepy, as an epitome of “true love.” Instead of being repulsed by his behavior, the book presents him in such a way that they become enamored of it! And then Simon, who is brave, noble, self-sacrificing, showing true love (which is sacrifice, as we all know!) is shown as boring. Staid. Dull. Simon truly loves Clary, in a way Jace NEVER could, but this book is catering to a bunch of teens obsessed with their own feelings, which the author exploits by painting Jace as the better choice. Girls will go and look for their own Jace’s; cruel, abusive boys who choose lust over love.
And does Jace love Clary? NO. Certainly not. Jace is infatuated with Clary. The difference? Infatuation is characterized by a sense of urgency, by being involved with a person whose character is not fully known. Jace and Clary have had no chance to get to know each other, to see if they are a good fit. They are simply letting their emotions and lusts rule them as they slide into passionate infatuation. But infatuation fades quickly, which the book fails to mention, and lasts only a few months or years before ending in shattering heartbreak. Simon, however, has known Clary for most of her life. They have been friends for 10 years, and he has loved her for that entire time. This is no petty infatuation, oh no- infatuation would have fizzled out and died years ago. Infatuation wants instant gratification, but Simon has hidden his feelings because he knows they would make Clary uncomfortable. He knows Clary better than anyone, what she likes, what she hopes, what she fears, and he still loves her! He would do anything to keep her safe! But Simon is “boring.” He’s old news. He doesn’t have a six-pack and he doesn’t hunt demons for a living. He’s not covered in magical tattoos. He wears glasses, old t-shirts, and torn jeans. Obviously, his appearance is more normal than Jace’s, which is precisely why Clary doesn’t love him.
The last problem I had with these books is that as soon as the love triangle showed up, all character development stopped. Like in The Hunger Games, Clary’s talents and gifts seemed to fade into the background in the face of her relationship drama. We had started with a fiery, brave girl, with magical powers and fascinating gifts, and then we lose her. The whole story stops revolving around the mystery of who stole some magical artifacts, and instead revolves around Clary, Jace, and Simon. What does this imply to the gullible minds of the readers? That your talents, personality, gifts, and even the important events around you count as nothing IF YOU DON’T HAVE A BOYFRIEND. Having a boyfriend is all that matters. Oh, you can make magical charms stronger than any others? Too bad, you’re worthless because you don’t have a boyfriend. Oh, you can paint/draw/write/sing/play/throw/bat/learn/teach/insert-talent-here? Why do those matter? You have a boyfriend, you don’t need to have anything else. Gunmen shooting defenseless kids, innocent children murdered in the womb, evil men raping, bombing, and terrorizing the world? Who cares, you have enough to deal with: your boyfriend and you are fighting! In this culture, it’s almost as though our only worth as women comes from whether or not we have a significant other to canoodle with!
LADIES, THIS ISN’T TRUE. Your worth doesn’t come from whether or not a boy (or two, or three) likes you. You have SO MUCH to offer the world, so many gorgeous and unique talents, so much beauty and light and love that only you can give. Go out, live! Go to Italy! Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen! Learn to sew! Attend a camp or a retreat! Take up a new instrument or one you put away! Go out there, and find who YOU are before you worry about looking for a man. And when you do start looking, look for real love- love that sacrifices for the beloved, not love that tears at you and tries to get you to fall. And look beside you first- the best love is begun in friendship. So drop the stupid, poisonous books, my dear sisters, and LIVE.
Love to all!