CHAPTER TWO: THE CIRCUS

Oregon almost never got too hot. An Oregon governor must have passed a law a long, long time ago that said Oregon had to always have moderate temperatures.

F: Here we have another bizarre joke-statement-thing that could, conceivably, make someone smile slightly when drunk.

T: Kelsey’s getting up early for her circus job. Poor Kelsey. I mean, it’s not like she actually went to a job office and applied to get this job, is it? Apparently we also need to know exactly what she’s wearing, and exactly what she’s packing, and how she shut the zipper on her backpack. Obviously, we couldn’t make generalizations. We need to be told everything. I mean, it’s not as if we shut zippers on a daily basis throughout our lives!

F: Kelsey complains about her foster parents getting up early in the morning to go jogging. She complains about the soy milk she has to “force [herself]” to drink. Am I sensing a theme here?

With zero sentences devoted to the car ride, we teleport to the fairgrounds. Kelsey looks at a poster of the “Famous Dhiren!” and hopes there’s only one of him, and that he doesn’t “particularly enjoy eating teenage girls.” I thought it was specialists who took care of tigers, not two-week temps.

Kelsey gets instructed to find her boss at the black and silver motor home. We then meet the most stereotypical Italian man on this side of Stromboli.

He leaned over to grasp my hand. His completely enfolded mine and he shook it up and down enthusiastically enough to make my teeth rattle. “Ah, Fantastico! How propitious! Welcome to the Circus Maurizio! We are a little, how you say, short-handed, and need some assistenza while we are in your magnifica citta, eh? Splendido to have you! Let us get a started immediatamente.

T: This big man who is actually the Maurizio in the name randomly adds ‘a’ to his sentences, and basically acts like CHouck’s only sources of information regarding Italians were old Disney movies.

F: Mr. Maurizio tells a girl named Cathleen to bring Kelsey to Matt to be his assistant. We get a one-paragraph monologue about Cathleen’s history at the circus. Do we care? No. Will Cathleen ever show up in this story again? No.

“Hey, Matt,” Cathleen said as we grabbed the bottom of the booth to help him.

She was blushing. How cute.

T: I don’t think CHouck was going for a totally cruel and sarcastic tone there, but that’s certainly how it comes out.

F: And we need to know every little romance detail about this complex circus soap opera, though we’ll never come back here. Yay for pointless information.

Kelsey helps Matt set up the booth and stack crates and … zzzzzzzz. We honestly don’t care. A load of summer camp kids come to the circus, and the description of them is very … odd.

Before I could finish eating, the camp children descended upon me in a raucous, violent flurry of little bodies. I felt like tiny buffalo were stampeding over me. My customer service-like smile probably looked more like a frightened grimace. There was nowhere for me to run. They were all around me—each one clamoring for my attention.

T: I think that CHouck tried to mix sensory description with metaphors and failed miserably.

F: The kids only exist to give Kelsey one more thing to complain about, anyway. Once the show is underway, she and Matt get seats inside, and the entire first half of the circus is given a one-sentence description. There’s more kid frenzy at intermission, and then— you knew this was coming— the tiger act, as explained by Mr. Maurizio.

“And now … the highlight of our programma! He was taken from the harsh, wild giungla, the jungles, of India and brought here to America. He is a fierce hunter, a cacciatore bianco, who stalks his prey in the wild, waiting, watching for the right time, and then, he … springs into action! Movimento!

T: Kelsey thinks that Mr. Maurizio is a good storyteller. I think this is the most ridiculously convoluted excuse for a story that CHouck could come up with off the top of her head.

F: Matt’s dad is the animal trainer, and he lets the big white tiger out of an ornamental wagon and into the cage with him. The tiger leaps from increasingly farther-apart stools, and Kelsey is terribly impressed.

I clapped for a long time, totally in awe of the great beast.

T: This is basically just a routine tiger act; jumping through hoops, standing on hind paws and clawing the air, and putting the trainer’s head in the tiger’s mouth. Kelsey is unreasonably stunned. You could see this act at pretty much any circus with a tiger.

F: Kelsey gains Animal Empathy level 1 and thinks the tiger seems melancholy. She also randomly smells “night blooming jasmine and sandalwood”. Just a thought: even if the tiger is a cursed ancient Indian prince, as we all know, that still doesn’t mean stereotypical “Indian” scents follow him around. This is CHouck’s idea of foreshadowing. It reminds me of Bella thinking about how weird Edward seems when everyone reading the book already knows he’s a vampire. Kelsey actually reacts like a somewhat ordinary person to random smells:

The show was over, and I was officially crazy.

T: If only.

CHAPTER THREE: THE TIGER

F: Kelsey is unreasonably frustrated with her job of cleaning up after a group of children. I have in fact cleaned up after a group of children, and although it’s a horrifying thing to do in most circumstances, Kelsey wanted this job. She wanted this. She’s lucky to have it. I therefore demand that she STOPS COMPLAINING AT ONCE.

T: After all that horrible work, like actually picking up trash [shudder], Kelsey and the Circus Folk eat dinner. And they are Circus Folk. In other words, they’re badly written caricatures that, yet again, seem to be based off a Disney movie.

F: Mr. Maurizio gives a speech that insults Italians everywhere, and takes the time to compliment Kelsey and Kelsey alone on her magnificent job of … picking up trash and selling tickets.

I waited in line with Cathleen, and then picked up my paper plate and filled it with Italian green salad, a big scoop of spinach-and-cheese-stuffed shells covered in tomato sauce, parmesan chicken, and, not having enough room on my plate, popped a warm breadstick in my mouth, grabbed a bottle of water, and sat down. I couldn’t help but notice the large chocolate cheesecake for dessert, but I wasn’t even able to finish the dinner I had on my plate. Sighing, I left the cheesecake alone.

T: This description is actually alright, though very simplistic. I wouldn’t bring it up, except for the fact that CHouck takes every possible opportunity to tell us what Kelsey’s eating. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest.

F: In fact, it’s almost as if Kelsey is a middle-aged woman worried about her weight …? Nah. Couldn’t be.

T: Matt provides us with a short paragraph composed of pure Infodump telling us that the tiger (that’s what Kelsey’s calling it) has a murky history, and refuses to learn any new tricks, but it’s very docile.

F: If this wasn’t a romance book, I’d say Kelsey would be the special person who connects with the tiger and teaches it amazing tricks, and they win a prize at the associated circus convention or something. But Kelsey is even specialer than that, of course.

T: Our darling heroine meets up with Matt’s dad, who’s the tiger trainer, and he tells her about the tiger … by restating everything Matt said in a longer and more complicated way. The only new information we actually get is that white tigers are from India, not Siberia, and they don’t have a white coat to blend in with snow.

F: This is all incredibly boring. Seriously. Some people make ordinary life sound interesting. CHouck is not one of those people. It’s so obvious that she wanted to just jump straight into the romance, and is dragging through this because it’s supposed to make her a better writer or something. All it’s doing is giving Taffy the job of pinching me every ten seconds so I stay awake.

Those eyes. They were mesmerizing. They stared right into me, almost as if the tiger was examining my soul.

A wave of loneliness washed over me, but I struggled to lock it back into the tiny part of me where I kept such emotions.

T: Er, we appear to have taken a time jump and shown up in the tiger’s barn, where Kelsey is helping Matt’s dad feed him. You know, the word ‘transition’ is bandied about a lot these days …

F: Just look at the above excerpt. First off, we have melodrama to the four-hundredth power. Second, foreshadowing that this is going to be one of those heroines. “Oh, I just lost the ability to love since my parents died, but this guy is so hot, he makes me feel better!”

T: Also, Kelsey gets to stay in the barn — the loft, to be exact— and watch Matt’s dad, Mr. Davis, practice the tiger routine. That doesn’t quite seem according to protocol, but hey, if she gets eaten, I’m all for it.

Mr. Davis seemed to be a good trainer, but there were a couple of times I noticed the tiger could have taken advantage of him— but didn’t. Once, Mr. Davis’s face was very close to the tiger’s extended claws, and it would have been easy for the tiger to take a swipe, but instead, he moved his paw out of the way. Another time, I could have sworn Mr. Davis stepped on his tail, but again, he just growled softly and moved his tail aside. It was very strange, and I found myself even more fascinated by the beautiful animal, wondering what it would feel like to touch him.

T: Yes, the tiger gets plenty of opportunities to hurt Mr. Davis— such as when Mr. Davis puts his head in the tiger’s freaking mouth! That’s part of the routine, isn’t it? And they don’t want the tiger biting off Mr. Davis’s head, do they? Then naturally, they teach the tiger not to hurt Mr. Davis. At all. Because if you’re going to work with a big cat, you can’t have it be willing to “take a swipe” every time your face is close to it. This is not stunning, and a sign of how fascinating the animal is. This is common sense. This is absolutely necessary.

F: Even CHouck seems to realize how boring her show is, so she skips over it in a couple sentences so that Kelsey can grab her sketchbook and sketch the tiger. She talks to the tiger a lot. This will continue, unfortunately.

Mr. Davis comes in, and she asks if they ever tried to find him a mate. Well, of course they did, Kelsey, because in this novel that’s the highest priority in the life of any creature! But for some reason the tiger wasn’t interested.

T: Kelsey nicknames the tiger Ren now. On her own. However, she continues to call it the tiger. She feels sorry for him, stuck in captivity with no deer to hunt … but the very first thing she feels sorry for him about is him not having a girl tiger or cubs. Those are, after all, the only things one could possibly aspire to.

F: After dinner, which, again, gets a one-sentence descriptor (it’s pretty obvious what CHouck actually wants to write about here), Kelsey heads back to the barn with a copy of Romeo and Juliet. She waxes poetic about Romeo’s good qualities, and— you know what, I’ll let you handle this one, Taffy.

T: Thank you. [deep breath] ROMEO AND JULIET IS ABOUT A COUPLE OF TEENAGERS WHO FALL INTO LUST, YOU IDIOT. Yes, lust, not love. Romeo and Juliet isn’t truly a love story. It’s a tragedy about what happens when teenagers think they’re faced with love, but actually aren’t. In Shakespeare’s works, there are plenty of true love stories, such as The Taming of the Shrew, which involve the getting-to-know and give-and-take that is an integral part of actual true love. Does Kelsey know this? NO! Romeo and Juliet just seems romantic to her. Actually, with what true love is considered within this story, I’d say Romeo and Juliet fits very well. That is not a compliment, CHouck.

F: I couldn’t have said it better.

Apparently Kelsey starts spending all her free time in the barn with the tiger. I don’t know why she keeps calling him the tiger when she stated she was going to call him Ren. But, in a show a week after arriving, Ren runs around during the performance and won’t perform, and is looking around wildly. Suddenly he sees Kelsey, and looks directly at her, then starts performing again. Mysterious! Of course, since this is all just described in two paragraphs, I’m sure CHouck will provide an explanation before it ceases to be remembered … no? Of course not. What was I thinking?

Anyhow, Kelsey drops by Ren’s cage and touches his paw. This is way more dramatic than it needs to be. Everyone reading the book knows that our protagonist is not about to lose her fingers. Although I do not advocate actually touching a captive tiger without asking its trainers, it’s not as dangerous as touching, say, a wild dog. Kelsey reads I am the Cat, a poem by Leila Usher, and everything is actually okay, I guess, for a moment.

A tiger isn’t a dog or cat to be somebody’s pet. He should be free in the wild.

T: So, we should have no tigers in zoos? Do we have an anti-zoo advocate here? Read this please. It’s much more eloquent than I am. Especially the beginning.

If tigers have souls, and I believe they do, I imagine his to be a lonely and sad one.

F: What, because he gives you a feeling of sadness every time you look into his eyes?

T: She wishes the tiger was free. So do I. I adamantly wish the tiger’s cage would disappear and Kelsey would suddenly be trapped in a barn with a free tiger. After all, isn’t that what she wanted?

F: Be careful what you wish for, folks. Until next time!

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Comment

  1. lilyWhite on 19 February 2013, 18:41 said:

    I thought it was specialists who took care of tigers, not two-week temps.

    A Mary-Sue is a type of specialist, I suppose…

    Really though, I have no idea why girls who whine about everything and care about nothing but boys and romance are so common in books. I’d hate to think that a majority of women are like that, where they identify with girls who complain about every little thing and think that being a girl means that you need to have a man, nothing more.

    I also love how just about every Italian word that Mr. Maurizio uses is barely different from its English counterpart.

  2. go.a on 19 February 2013, 19:57 said:

    “I also love how just about every Italian word that Mr. Maurizio uses is barely different from its English counterpart.”

    It’s a standard trope to show off how “exotic” and “foreign” a character is. Because just saying things in plain English without verbal gymnastics is apparently too much to ask for. I mean, why bother behaving like a normal person when you can be a huge asshole and/or stereotype.

    At least he doesn’t do the even more annoying foreigner trope of saying entire sentences/phrases in some other language then repeating it all back in English.

    Wait, Taming of the Shrew is actually a love story we should aspire to? WAT. I read that play about 6ish years ago in freshman English class, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t some great love story we should all emulate. It was pretty sexist and not at all romantic IMO.

  3. Asahel on 19 February 2013, 20:10 said:

    “Hey, Matt,” Cathleen said as we grabbed the bottom of the booth to help him.

    She was blushing. How cute.

    T: I don’t think CHouck was going for a totally cruel and sarcastic tone there, but that’s certainly how it comes out.

    The way I read it was that the sarcasm was completely intended, but the author was oblivious as to how incredibly cruel that was.

  4. Shy on 19 February 2013, 20:10 said:

    A testament to this writer’s skills that she makes taking care of a tiger at a circus sound boring.

    This kinda reminds me of the tiger in Prince of Tides…except that was interesting and exciting watching the brother tame the tiger without any sort of random magic empathy or soul-connection, whatever.

    By the way, I’ve been to the circus and seen the tigers and lions acts, and I never really feel ‘awed’ by them. More like depressed to watch these animals in way-too-small cages being hassled and harried for our entertainment. I know there are good circuses out there who care for their animals properly, but this particular circus sounds like a two-bit side-show that makes the incarceration of Dumbo’s mom look like paradise.

  5. ScarletSpecter on 19 February 2013, 20:22 said:

    @ lilyWhite: I’m with you there. But, while we could be here all day picking apart the many problems with these books, I couldn’t help but think about ways these books could be better. Or just tapping into all that wasted potential.

    The first change would be to make Dhiren the main viewpoint character because well… having a POV from a tiger would be pretty awesome. And I would drop the romance completely, and put more emphasis on fantsy and a karmic fate system that ties into actual Indian theology. Like say, Dhiren killed a tiger in a past life and so became reincarnated as a tiger over and over again in a karmic limbo. Forget this Star-Crossed Lovers-Prophecy BS; I demand vengeance!

    Instead the standard YA setting: contemporary America, why not an older era like 1800s England or India? Kelsey wouldn’t be a whiny teenager who’s only looking for a job, but an actual circus brat who grew up there and has experience with animals. That way her involvement would actually make sense and not just be another plain reader-standin blatantly shoehorned in.

    Instead of Twu Luv finding a way, why not Dhiren search for a way to repay for his past sins so that he may return to being human? Maybe that could involve aiding Kelsey in some way that may help better her own life as a way of karmic penance. I think this invites actual room for personal growth and lessons in sacrifice. But, that’s just me throwing around ideas. Any other suggestions would be encouraged.

  6. Forest Purple on 19 February 2013, 21:07 said:

    Wait, Taming of the Shrew is actually a love story we should aspire to? WAT. I read that play about 6ish years ago in freshman English class, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t some great love story we should all emulate. It was pretty sexist and not at all romantic IMO.

    T: The Taming of the Shrew is a love story we should aspire to? I wrote that? Shoot me now. I’m writing an analysis in English class, and my five-in-the-morning logic somehow found a connection that shouldn’t exist (namely, The Taming of the Shrew and love). You’re right, it’s a misogynistic, sexist comedy, and not even remotely close to an ideal model for romance. I honestly have no idea what I was thinking.
    I’ll stop writing these at five in the morning, anyways, it seems to be a really bad idea …

  7. Mingnon on 19 February 2013, 21:10 said:

    Oh GAWD, this is becoming more and more like Twilight: Tiger Edition with a dash of House of Night. Secondhand Lions would provide more riveting material than this!

    And it seems that it’s the heroine who would be our Edward here. ._. I’m getting late Bella vibes off of the tiger, as if he might end up becoming comatose if Kelsey weren’t around.

  8. Brendan Rizzo on 19 February 2013, 22:43 said:

    I thought it was specialists who took care of tigers, not two-week temps.

    Yes, but if this story followed logic, then the author couldn’t have her teenage Self-Insert be with the uberromantic exotic prince. …I think I threw up in my mouth a little just typing that.

    I’d hate to think that a majority of women are like that, where they identify with girls who complain about every little thing and think that being a girl means that you need to have a man, nothing more.

    I hear ya. I’m actually worried that if I read too many of these sporks, I’ll wind up becoming a misogynist.

    I also love how just about every Italian word that Mr. Maurizio uses is barely different from its English counterpart.

    I actually read his lines in Mario’s voice.

  9. Fireshark on 20 February 2013, 00:47 said:

    After Kelsey’s tragic mauling, the tiger went on to star in Life of Pi, in which his status as an Indian boy was more up for debate.

  10. Juracan on 20 February 2013, 05:37 said:

    Kelsey gets instructed to find her boss at the black and silver motor home. We then meet the most stereotypical Italian man on this side of Stromboli.

    This is kind of a pet peeve of mine. Unless there’s any indication that he’s just got to the states from Italy, I don’t understand why he just wouldn’t speak English. Unless, of course, he’s around other Italians.

    My parents don’t lapse into random Spanish when they’re talking to people. Why should this guy lapse into Italian, if for nothing else than to make him a stereotype?

    Kelsey gains Animal Empathy level 1 and thinks the tiger seems melancholy.

    Does the book give us any description of said melancholy, or is it just something Kelsey knows? I’m guessing the latter, given the Sue-ish vibes I’ve been getting…

    The only new information we actually get is that white tigers are from India, not Siberia, and they don’t have a white coat to blend in with snow.

    Well, yes, they’re Bengal tigers, but I don’t think white tigers actually exist in the wild…

    Do we have an anti-zoo advocate here?

    [hits head repeatedly against wall]

    Yes, lust, not love. Romeo and Juliet isn’t truly a love story.

    Well… there are some readers out there that disagree—John Green, for example, made a case that the two title characters are actually in love and the tragedy is the limitations forced upon them by society. Granted, it’s not an interpretation I buy into, seeing as the play takes place within the span of a week.

    The Taming of the Shrew is a love story we should aspire to? I wrote that? Shoot me now. I’m writing an analysis in English class, and my five-in-the-morning logic somehow found a connection that shouldn’t exist (namely, The Taming of the Shrew and love). You’re right, it’s a misogynistic, sexist comedy, and not even remotely close to an ideal model for romance. I honestly have no idea what I was thinking.

    Once again, arguable. There’s some debate over whether Kate’s speech at the end is supposed to be taken at face value or sarcastically. Either way, it’s certainly a dysfunctional relationship, and not one someone should aspire to.

  11. Epke on 20 February 2013, 14:10 said:

    That doesn’t quite seem according to protocol, but hey, if she gets eaten, I’m all for it.

    I doubt it: as a tiger, Ren can probably already tell that eating someone like Kelsey will just be a lot of grime.

    Romeo and Juliet. She waxes poetic about Romeo’s good qualities,

    Like how he dumps Rosaline the moment she won’t put out and then hooks up with a 13-year old Juliet because she’s pretty? Or choosing to elope with Juliet rather than face the consequences of his actions? Or is the good quality that he’s less mature and responsible than Juliet? What good qualities, you bint?

    Anyhow, Kelsey drops by Ren’s cage and touches his paw.

    Mocking Tone: Was there some strange electricity between them?

    @ScarletScepter: That’s an awesome idea… and it’d probably make a great movie.