#94 Crapometer

Coming of Age Fiction

THE BAD GIRL'S CLUB (the title doesn’t refer to anything nor to a theme in what you’ve written here; that always makes me nervous)

Sixteen-year-old Destiny lives with her mother, father, and five-year-old sister, Cassidy. On the outside, they appear a normal family but something is terribly wrong. Five years earlier, Mom kidnapped the two girls and tried to abandon her youngest on the edge of a cliff at Crater Lake. Destiny saved her sister but her role with her mother was reversed and, at eleven, she became the caretaker of the family. For five years the family hid their secret but Mom became progressively more insane.

You don’t kidnap your own children. What’s wrong with her father?

When Mom hits a lady over the head with a chair and is both arrested and hospitalized, Destiny cries out for help from her father because she knows that she will be the one who carries the brunt of her mother's care. She feels like she is going to go over the edge, but her father can't see that and he ignores her pleas. Obsession takes hold of Destiny and she abandons her best friend and her boyfriend to save her mother and sister.

I thought the mother was hospitalized and arrested? Why is she forced to abandon her best friend and boyfriend? (And I really hope the mother wasn't bopping Miss Snark on the bean for ripping apart synopses)

The woman that Destiny knew is gone and what's left is a shell of a woman who's like a time bomb that can go off at any moment. (shell of a woman and time bomb are contradictory states of mind) She takes up residence in the living room and stares at the walls most of the day. Destiny slips into a deep depression, develops stomach problems, loses weight, and begins to have delusions that color her mind even when she is awake. She is sure that she's losing her mind but the madness and its power seduce her, so she gives in. Her sister starts talking to her imaginary friend, Podos, a large dark man with wings who she says lives in their house. Sometimes Destiny can see him and she is convinced that he is destroying her mother.

When Grandma arrives to help, she can see that the whole family is crumbling and that Destiny, especially, is slipping away. When Destiny tells her that her mom told her that she killed her little sister, Leena, when she was eleven, Grandma decides it's time to put Mom in the psychiatric hospital. Destiny insists that the story is true. Grandma insists that it's all a big lie. Destiny pulls away from everyone, even her mother and imagines joining her mother in her insanity. But she begins to realize, after a lecture from Grandma, that she is letting her life slip away. She is trapped between saving her mother or saving herself.

Surely someone would know if Leena is alive or not?

Finally, Mom takes Cassidy as a prisoner in her studio, intending to kill her. Destiny realizes that everyone is out of control, including her, and that she cannot save her mother, so she decides to save her sister and herself. When she and Dad get into the studio through a window, she takes her sister to Grandma. She goes back to the house because she knows that Mom will be leaving the next day for the psychiatric hospital. She finally gives up trying to hold it all together and realizes that she will have to go on without her mother and make a life of her own. She feels like an incredible failure.

That night her mother sets fire to the house, maiming herself for life. She ends up in a psychiatric hospital, Dad is prosecuted for child abuse, Destiny goes on with Cassidy and they get their lives together with Grandma.

You’ve got two contradictory things running here: Destiny losing her mind, and Destiny being the only sane one in the household. In failing to distinguish those two states of mind for her, the character is confusing to me. Is she hallucinating? Why should we believe Grandma anyway? Is Leena alive? Do we ever know?

Resolving the conflict with “she realizes” is cheating. What makes her realize this? And if the house is on fire, how does she get out?

Even when you make stuff up, you have to get all the details just right so we’re focused on the things you want us to be thinking about, not wondering why something doesn’t make sense.


Anonymous said...

This family makes no sense, therefore the writer is manipulating them to adhere to a plot, rather than letting the plot develop as a result of the characters' interaction.

The weakest link is the idiot father. He married the mother, had kids with her, and just keeps enabling her violence when he should have moved out or gotten help years ago. This doesn't jibe with him helping to break in and save someone later on.

I hate the name "Destiny." It's dated already and will have hag lines by the time this tome sees a publisher. Pick something less reminiscent of a strip club dancer, please.

Do a character sketch for everyone. Include questions like "What do they want MOST? How far will they go to achieve it?" The answer to the last one should result in conflict between characters.

There is such a critter as Child Protective Services in most communities. Any whiff of trouble and they're more than happy to swoop in like the Lone Ranger, sometimes too much so. (Check the Net for real life horror stories.)

Decide if this is a Jerry Springer opus or a ghost story or a psychological study. The man with the wings bothers me. That sister seeing him needs medication before she starts having conversations with the fridge.

The Denial Thing is beyond weak. Give Dad and Gramma really GOOD reasons to keep on enabling the crazy mother other than what you've got. Maybe it's enough for a real life family (lotta really stupid people are out there), but fiction HAS to make sense.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, anonymous, you don't watch the news. Things like this HAPPEN ALL THE TIME. First, before you dash off comments like this, you better sure of which you write. You shouldn't give writing advice, especially since you're so obiviously out of touch with reality. Or just idealistic. True, there is child protective services, but if nobody ever slipped through the cracks, we wouldn't have news stories of Moms & Dads killing their kids, now would we? Second, I've read this book, watch it grow and develop. The synopsis just doesn't do it justice. It's a GREAT book, and will be published in 2007. Third, WHO CARES if you don't like the name Destiny? hag lines? This tome seeing a publisher?

Before you can judge the writing or the characters, you SHOULD READ THE BOOK. Or at least a sample thereof. Oh, I just figured out your problem. Heh. You are jealous!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for hating it so much.

I hope that you are wise enough to remember that an opinion is just an opinion. And a bad synopsis does not a bad book make.

You're entitled to your opinion but I find your utter hatred for this story very interesting. What the heck did it trigger in your head?

To Miss Snark: Thanks for the gracious comments. Luckily, I didn't need a synopsis to sell the book.

The Author

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, to whom did you sell it?

and im a different poster than the other two anons

Jack said...

I'm interested in reading the book. I have the title, but can you tell us your name in case the title changes.

Anonymous said...

The title won't change.

Anonymous said...

Bloomsbury published a book with that exact title in July, 2005 -- obviously not your story.