Well, everyone, at this early hour, I'd like to discuss a adolescent literature book I kinda hated. Not totally hated, but kinda.
I'd post a picture of the cover for you, but I already tried doing that a thousand times, and it wouldn't work. There is a reason I don't post photos very often.
Oh, no, that time I pleased the blog gods, and it worked. Behold, Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison.
I'll start off by telling you that this is a Mormon Book. And that while I know that the author didn't select the cover, whoever did clearly abides by the blonde girl=chaste mentality Jack Weyland (see earlier post) so lovingly espouses. Anyway.
You see, Leesie, the main character, is a good Mormon girl living out in the Mission Field. (I believe it is Washington.) She doesn't have any friends in her school, since no one is LDS, and all non-LDS people do drugs, apparently. But fear not! Leesie is a senior, and determined to get into BYU, find her happily ever after husband, and leave her heathen high school peers behind. Thank goodness for BYU.
Then, Michael moves into town. Michael is NOT MORMON. Danger! Michael is also recently orphaned, and dealing with grief in a variety of self-destructive behaviors.
Of course, Leesie and Michael start dating, and Michael wants to do it. (Meaningful glance.) WHATEVER WILL OUR HEROINE DO????? (Or not do, pervy snicker.)
Shoot. I am making it sound like I totally hated this book, and I didn't. So let us back-track and talk about the good points of the novel.
1. Angela Morrison is a fairly decent writer. The book is co-narrated by both Leesie and Michael, and she is adept at creating two distinct voices, and the transitions between the two are quite graceful. Talent wise, Morrison could kick Weyland's trash.
2. Micheal's grief over his parent's death is realistically portrayed, and the writing allowed me to empathize with him as a reader, which is important. In fact, if the entire novel had been about Micheal, this post would be a lot different.
There. Done. Now we shall return to aspects of the novel that inspired the "kinda hate." Items are listed according to the level of annoyance they achieved, the first being the most mild.
1. BYU. Oh. My. Gosh. BYU is portrayed as impossible to get into, compared to Stanford academically, and as the only school where anyone has ANY standards whatsoever.**
Flip to the back cover. Who went to BYU? Angela Morrison. Oh, I see.
Here's the thing. BYU is a good school. I know this. Here's the other thing. I was accepted to BYU twice. I could have never been accepted to Stanford. BYU is not Ivy League.
There are also lots of schools with learning environments conducive to people of the LDS faith. Morrison made it sound like anything outside of BYU was a party school, including BYU-I.
This little tidbit immediately triggered my radar for Negative LDS Stereotypes Often Found in LDS Literature. And said radar didn't stop blinking until I finished the novel.
2. Leesie very rarely mentions wanting to go to BYU for the academics. It is only to escape her High School of Whores and Drug Addicts, and find an eternal companion. Just once, I would have liked a passage where Leesie looks over a course catalog, or talks about what she might accomplish with her degree. Instead, you read alot about how the only way Leesie can meet her future husband is to get into BYU.
mini rant: COLLEGE IS FOR EDUCATION. THAT IS THE PRIMARY GOAL. MEETING PEOPLE/SPOUSES IS A BONUS, NOT A REASON TO ATTEND.
2a. It was really hard to believe that Leesie couldn't find any friends in her high school with high standards. LDS or not, logic dictates that even a small school in Washington will have nice girls to hang out with, and nice boys to go to dances with. Again, she lives in Washington, not Compton. There are lots of nice non-LDS people, I know this. I have met them. And Morrison should know this too.
3. According to Leesie, everything about Mormonism fits in a nice little box. For instance, in one of her poems (Did I tell you that a significant chunk of the book is written in the form of Leesie's poetry. Ooops. I think I buried that memory.*) she describes her future husband as blonde (the hair color of the righteous,) wearing a white button-down, wearing a CTR ring, and holding well-worn scriptures. In her fantasy, they chastely kiss (the B.O.M is between them....just kidding,) and live happily ever after. For Leesie, all Mormons look, and act the same. Furthermore, she also makes a lot of randomly offensive statements like "Mormons who marry non-Mormons always get divorced." Later, when Leesie and Michael go to a Stake dance together, Leesie insists that everyone is judging her, and that now no good LDS boys will date her because she is "fallen."
After bashing members as judgemental, and non-members as sinners, she is very surprised when Michael doesn't want to get baptized right away.
I still can't tell if Morrison was trying to make Leesie annoying as possible, or if Morrison believes this herself, but I would really like to see some LDS literature that depicts the complexities of being Mormon. Perhaps from the perspective of someone not raised in Salt Lake, not blonde, or maybe even from a family of combined faiths. Because there really are very few people who fit the mold described by Leesie and/or Morrison. So, heads up, writers: Mormons come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
4. Michael wants to have sex with Leesie. Leesie says no. Which is awesome. Hurray for standards! Hurray for not wantonly having sex! But her reasoning was very disturbing to me. She didn't want to sleep with Michael because if she did, she wouldn't get an ecclesiastical endorsement from her Bishop, and wouldn't be allowed to go to BYU.
Michael: Let's have sex!
Leesie: No thanks!
Leesie:Because I have a testimony of the gospel. I know Heavenly Father wants me to be happy, so he has given me commandments and standards to help me be happy, and return to him someday. Obeying my Heavenly Father and being happy in the long run is the most important thing to me. I make these choices because I believe in the gospel. ***
I guess the way Morrison wrote it made it sound like Leesie might have slept with Michael if BYU hadn't been in the picture, which seems insincere, and frankly, kind of lame. Combined with her desire to go to BYU for equally lame reasons, Leesie just seemed false.
I like my female role-models strong, sincere, and not afraid of making out.
(Again, though, I can't tell if Morrison is trying to depict Leesie as the hero, or if she is much more clever than I thought ((She did go to BYU,))and is depicting Leesie as the anti-hero. I don't know. It is much too meta for me. )
Anyway, I know this is super long (typing makes me tired, which is always the goal with long posts written after midnight.) I also know that a lot of people have read novel, and liked it, so note that my opinion is not the only one, or the most valid. And if you have read this book, and got a different impression, feel free to comment.
*Oh my gosh, the agony of teenage poetry. I know. I wrote some myself. Stab me in the eyeballs with my own chewed -on pen.
** I think this part bugged me more than normal, because I spent a lot of time with a girl who believed this to be true. I never stopped hearing about it. Actually said girl had a lot in common with Leesie, and I guess this is something that I should have mentioned before I started. If I read a book, and a character reminds me of a person I don't like, I will have a hard time liking the book, in general. There. Bias Noted. (Lately, but noted nonetheless.)
***I totally got my Ecclesiastical Endorsement. BOTH TIMES.