Okay, yes, it took me longer than anticipated to recover from the, shall we say, emotional experience of snarking Sarah J. Maas’s incomparable Throne of Glass, but I assure you I’ve spent the intervening months coddling my righteous incredulity back to full strength.
And lo, I return to you with Obsidian in hand and a bottle of alcohol suction-cupped to my face.
What is Obsidian, you ask? PREPARE TO BE DELIGHTED.
Starting over sucks.
When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring . . . until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.
And then he opened his mouth.
Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something . . . unexpected happens.
The hot alien living next door marks me.
You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.
If I don’t kill him first, that is.
Bring on the looming asshole aliens, my body is ready.
Note: all direct quotes are either in bold or block-quotes. If something’s in quotation marks but not bolded or in block-quotes, it’s paraphrased snark.
Looks like we’re starting off strong, so buckle in.
I stare at the pile of boxes in my new bedroom, wishing the Internet had been hooked up. Not being able to do anything with my review blog since moving here was like missing an arm or a leg. According to my mom, “Katy’s Krazy Obsession” was my whole life. Not entirely, but it was important to me. She didn’t get books the way I did.
Aw yeah, protagonist, woo me with your boring unimportant snobbish wailings, you know what I like.
I sighed. We’d been here two days, and there was still so much left to unpack. I hated the idea of boxes sitting around. Even more than I hated being here.
Woo me harder, woo me louder.
Katy rises to the occasion, gnashing her teeth about the incomprehensibility of their new house’s architecture (“It even had a turret—a freaking turret. What was I supposed to do with that?“), the insult of living in an unincorporated rural hellscape (“meaning it wasn’t a real town“), and the horror of having to drive into the Starbucksless town to get their mail (“Barbaric“).
But just as I’m getting comfortable with my horrified antipathy, Katy remembers oh, right, readers prefer sympathetic characters, maybe I should get on that, and briefly sags against a wall to explain how her life and family fell apart after her dad’s death three years ago. She and her mom have moved from Florida to the diseased backwaters of West Virginia to start a new, fatherless life together, where hopefully they can repair their floundering mother/daughter relationship.
(Any bookies in the crowd? This here crisp dollar bill thinks Katy’s relationship with her mom won’t even leave the barn.)
Having expended the minimum amount of effort to arouse the reader’s sympathies, Katy drops the topic of her dad and rebelliously decides not to unpack any boxes today (I guess her moans about the horror of unpacked boxes were an exaggeration?). She then lifts her delicate nose to the air, sniffs the breeze, and determines that lo, in yonder kitchen Mom’s trying to cook, and holy crap Mom’s trying to cook she’s going to burn down the house.
“This was so not good,” Katy informs us before racing into the kitchen, where awaits one of YA’s innumerable Parents Incapable of Adulting, whose inability to even scramble eggs is used as shorthand to explain (a) the protagonist’s world-weary, totally-mature-for-her-age attitude, and (b) the parent’s impending absence from the protagonist’s life/the story. Who needs concerned and attentive parents mucking up their budding alien romance? Nobody.
Mom also happens to be gorgeous, with “glorious blonde hair that was stick straight and sparkling hazel eyes,” which “made [Katy] look dull with [her] gray eyes and plain brown hair.”
Gray eyes and brown hair? THE HORROR.
And somehow I ended up more . . . round than her. Curvy hips, puffy lips, and huge eyes that Mom loved but made me look like a demented kewpie doll.
Yes, nothing is less attractive in mainstream American culture than a young white woman with curved hips, full lips, and large eyes. How does Katy manage to leave the house without first concealing herself in a Hazardous Waste trashcan?
Mom (a nurse, I’m guessing?) sloshes her eggy ruin all over the kitchen while detailing her work schedule for the next week or so (“I’ll be gone 24/7, don’t have too much fun without me lol”). Katy helpfully narrates, “most parents would saw off their left arm before thinking of leaving a teenaged girl at home alone all the time, but not mine. She trusted me because I never gave her reason not to. [ . . . ] I was kind of boring.”
We learn a bit more about our heroine (she’s a straight-A student! She stays out of trouble because she doesn’t want to stress her mom out! She, unlike her mom, remembers that grocery shopping is a thing that needs doing!) before Mom decides enough is enough.
MOM: “DID YOU NOTICE THE HOT BOY YOUR AGE and the girl who might be his sister WHO LIVES NEXT DOOR?”
That’s right, Mom, getting straight to the good stuff.
KATY: “GOD, MOM, GROW UP.”
MOM: “Honey, I might be old, but my eyes are still working fine. And they were really working earlier.”
While Katy’s busy heaving up her breakfast in the corner, let me make an educated guess: Katy’s not going to make any female acquaintances (who aren’t related to the hot alien) in this book—and if she does, it won’t be for quite a while.
I’ve come to this clever conclusion because it’s the time-honored role of the paranormal YA heroine’s female classmates (or friends, if she somehow has them) to assure both her and the reader that the Mysterious Paranormal Dude is in fact the pinnacle of male physical accomplishment. Because heaven forbid the heroine be attracted so someone who isn’t an 11 out of 10 on the universal fuckability scale.
Having accomplished the two tasks required of her, Mom advises Katy to go make friends, then disappears from the rest of the novel (I’m guessing).
Katy grumps that yeah, sure, she’ll swing by the guy’s house and ask where a grocery store and maybe a gardening store is—their new house boasts a flower bed that Katy’s itching to go all Better Homes & Gardens on—despite the existential terror of facing the physical reality of people her own age.
And so she bravely steps out of the house without donning additional makeup or a full-body balaclava, approaches the neighbor’s door, and knocks upon it. And then—oh my god this is exactly what I signed up for; quick, somebody grab me some popcorn:
Heavy footsteps came from the other side, and then the door was swinging open and I was staring at a very broad, tan, well-muscled chest. A naked chest.
The naked chest, she notes (AT LENGTH, THIS IS THE BEST), is connected to a rippling taut slab o’ stomach boasting a swath of petable dark fur that dips below low-slung jeans (presumably toward lower parts, omg—I’m shocked she doesn’t wax eloquent about any notable bulges), and it takes her several minutes of mapping out every crevice of the body before she finally looks up at the body’s face.
And sees that it is a face to write poetry about, a face to sculpt in marble, a face to sit upon immediately.
Dude, meanwhile, isn’t taking well to being reduced to a sexual object, and frowningly asks if he can help her. But his toxic green eyes are too beautiful for Katy to bother with behaving like a decent, well-socialized human being, and he has to address her three more times before she snaps out of her lustful haze and remembers why she’s here.
Katy hastily rolls her tongue back up off the ground and cuts straight to the chase (then blows right on past it), asking where the grocery store is, and introducing herself, and explaining she’s his new neighbor as of two days ago. His reply:
Katy’s reply to that:
So far, I’m on Dude’s side. If someone came knocking on my door, and proceeded to spend the next several minutes clearly struggling not to chip their teeth on my adamantine abs, and then failed to apologize for their poor manners, I’d be a bit terse myself. Katy’s silent offense frames herself as the innocent victim of a guy’s unnecessary temper, and that’s not quite what’s going on here.
So Katy repeats her question, adding that she’d also like to know where she can buy some plants, and okay, yeah, Dude’s being increasingly rude as she valiantly fumbles herself from mild embarrassment deep into existential mortification.
This disaster continues for a bit, with Dude draped sexily against the doorframe, glittering his eyes in a dangerous mysterious sexy way that she eventually realizes is laughter at her expense as he gently guides her to never-before-experienced heights of can one of us please die now, preferably him, preferably by my hand. Until, finally, he gives her the directions she needs, and she’s storming off to her car, and he shouts one last little jab that gives her the chance to call him a douchebag.
Dude lols that “douchebag” isn’t a ladylike thing to call someone, prompting Katy to whip out the big guns:
“You know, you’re right. How wrong of me to call you a douchebag. Because a douchebag is too nice of a word for you,” I said, smiling sweetly. “You’re a dickhead.”
“I appear to have misclassified you on my taxonomy of jerks” is a wicked burn.
(But hey, if there’s one good thing about this chapter so far, it’s this crushing imperative I’m feeling to cozy up under some blankets and never come out again, I am so embarrassed for her, oh my god.)
Having totally saved face and not made a fool of herself at all, Katy waves off another taunt with a middle finger—but Dude gets the last word in (“See you later, Kitten!”), and the chapter closes with Katy raging inside her car, learning the totally wrong life lesson:
‘Make an effort,’ Mom had said. That’s what happens when you make an effort.
Oh, god, child, no. That’s what happens when you fuck up an effort to befriend a guy who doesn’t want to be befriended in the first place. Don’t blame the universe or this guy for your own inability to control your cartoonish libido, and don’t declare his rudeness proof that you should never again attempt to make friends.
(It is possibly a bad sign that I’m one chapter in and already giving earnest life advice to a fictional teen.)