Okay here we go again, this is the third time I have blogged my thoughts regarding a Sarah Dessen novel. Unlike the previous two I have had the pleasure of reading this novel before. One chapter down – twenty one to go.
Jason needs a list to pack, which isn’t weird. I need a list because I challenge anyone to be as forgetful as I am. That being said, he’s a teenager who willingly chooses to pack vitamins and has his girlfriend read the list to him. Yeah he might be attending Brain Camp but that doesn’t make him suck. Haven’t you heard? Nerds are the new black. Packing vitamins makes him uncool. I think having separate lists for different bags also categorises him in the control freak, stay-away-at-all-costs kind of guy too.
“Jason knew perfect”
I know there was a reason I didn’t like him immediately. I think attempts to be perfect are a waste of time because everybody’s notion of perfection is different. In the end we can only please ourselves and be the best we can be. People like Jason just makes others feel bad and often use their “perfect” status as a reason to lord over others. Grrrrr.
Clearly Jason is a take charge kind of guy. Macy is clearly floundering in a sea of indecision, grief, depression and numbness. Of course he is exactly what she needs. A puppet master. If it were just that though she wouldn’t be with him (you would hope anyway). His ability to cut through the fogginess of her mind makes him ultra appealing. Everyone needs clarity and if you have nothing but fog in your sphere of vision then he is a necessity in getting through the rest of high school. When you are enveloped in darkness you need that sliver of light. She needed someone to be her lighthouse and unfortunately that seems to be Jason but it’s better than nothing.
“He took the mess that was Macbeth and fixed it, and I had to wonder if he might, in some small ways, be able to do the same for me. So I moved closer to him, and I have been there ever since.”
Macy perceives herself as broken, missing a piece. Jason’s orderly existence fills the breach, cluttering it with instructions and extra curricular activities. If you are truly busy, sometimes you can forget how lonely and desolate you’ve become. This seems to be a mechanism that works for Macy’s mother too.
When Jason’s professor parents were detailed, I wondered how much of Sarah’s description relates to her own parents.
“They were so scholarly that every time I saw either of them without a book in their hands they looked weird to me, as if they were missing their noses, or their elbows.”
Her parents are both academics of the literary sort whereas Jason’s are science-y (as my friend Jen would say). Regardless it was a description that clearly painted these unimportant characters and similtaneoulsly made me chuckle.
The warning light starts flashing when you hear about Macy’s plans to replace Jason at the library. The further embellishments of their relationship involving student government and yoga classes just make me groan. This isn’t a typical guy we are dealing with. The lack of physical intimacy in their relationship is also troubling, not so much “going all the way” but most couples would be touching legs or holding hands in the backseat in the lead up to a prolonged separation.
The lack of a farewell snog (even in front of the parentals) and his scent (deodorant stick and acne cream) put me off even more. This guy is screaming out – I am not the right guy for you or any full functioning human being. His ideal mate? Probably a mirror or a robot.
“…I’d long ago learned not to be picky in farewells. They weren’t guaranteed or promised. You were lucky, more than blessed, if you got a goodbye at all.”
These are three simple sentences that really get to the crux of the matter. Macy is clearly slumming or settling for comfort and safety. Should she give up on wanting more? There are clues already in this chapter that her self-imposed funk and resulting Jason-safety are beginning to fray around the edges. She is beginning to want more but is dismayed that she isn’t being thankful for what she has.
It is very peculiar to be writing about this book at Christmas time when Macy describes her own father’s demise at the same time of year. I understand how she has become the idealised Jason-mate instead of being the sprinting daddy’s girl that she was before his death. In becoming perfect, Macy had to stop being who she was. Her existence settled deep in the heart of grief was the best place for her to be…at this time.
Being labelled is a horrible thing. Unfortunately it is the way of high school. Macy got the ‘dead dad’ title, at least it had the benefit of being alliterative. In high school I got the ‘divorced parents’ title. At the time, my parents were the first to do so in a country town and the label was heart wrenching. It just added a shin-kicking cherry to the top of a searing pain sundae.
The Face – “…the one with the sad look, accompanied by the cock of the head to the side and the softening of the chin”. Pity isn’t a fun.
What really struck a chord with me what her noting of Caroline’s sobbing during the funeral. That it didn’t feel right for Macy to cry as well. My grandfather passed when I was the same age as Macy and though I was grieving deeply, I felt people judging me because I didn’t cry freely at the funeral. There is so much stock place upon one’s reaction to death. More emphasis placed upon the expression of grief in the correct way, than the importance in just grieving.
Worse is the guilt she is experiencing over her father’s passing. Had she gotten up on that day after Christmas morning and jogged with him, he might not have died alone. Had she not been selfish, she may have been able to save him. I think this is normal self-incrimination for one left behind. Does Macy realise this? Nope.
I love that Sarah used the EZ Product delivery as a physical manifestation of Macy’s father in their house. Grief is obviously a heavy emotion drifting in mother and daughter’s lives but the presence of the box was a fantastic addition. Macy’s father love of the innovation, the promise of these mystery items allowed the readers to clearly imagine his contagious enthusiasm. The loss of his presence in her wife’s and daughters’ lives was always going to leave a giant, gaping hole. Not only were these products a representation of his continuing presence in their lives after death but it also symbolised the passage of time with its holiday deliveries. Keeping the box of products, despite her mother’s rampant organising, was a method by which Macy was holding onto her father still. Not only holding onto her father but perhaps her grief and guilt too?
The IOU for a Christmas gift would have angered me had I received that as a present but I suspected upon my first reading that the gift would raise it’s head when he broke through the grief and numbness. I love that Macy’s a daddy’s girl, I unfortunately never have had that bond with my father. I think it’s great that the orange mac and cheese mix is mentioned as blissful as I completely agree. No wonder she misses him so greatly when by all appearances her mother has disappeared into a fog of house selling and organisation.
A Note from Adele
Apologies for the delay in updates. I was struck down by food poisoning which was an awful experience, especially over Christmas. Had I physically been able to type, you can betcha bottom dollar that I would have finished chapter one already.