Khanh the Killjoy


The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant - Joanna Wiebe

“Because you’re different from the rest of us,” he says.
“Yeah, well, I was different from everyone back home, too, but.”
“There are different ways to be different, Anne.”
“I don’t suppose you know all that much about being different, Ben," I say, careful to sound as indifferent.
“I’d say I know a lot about a lot, including being different,” he replies.

Kill. Me. Now.

This book is incomprehensibly, horrifyingly, fantastically bad. This might be one of the worst books I have ever read in my life. This is so terrible that it might fit into the category of "so bad that it's good."

This book is about the race for "The Big V." When I hear "The Big V," I think Virginity. I was wrong. The V is for Valedictorian. It is a race to be Valedictorian. In most schools, to be Valedictorian, you simply have to have the best grades, not so in The Education of Anne Merchant. You see, in this very specialized, prestigious, ultra-selective school, being Valedictorian could depend on something else...something within a person's aura...something like...

“I have seen your PT. You have in your aura a tendency toward—” Teddy hesitates, standing in the midst of a great, long, exaggerated pause “—seduction.”

I am not fucking kidding.

The Summary: Anne Merchant has always been different from everyone else. She is 5'10, "hardly a Hobbit," a crooked tooth, and hair that is so frizzy and blonde that it is practically an Afro.

Yeah, you heard me, a blond Afro. The cover of the book so perfectly depicts Anne's hair.

Because clearly, that is what a blonde Afro looks like.

Her mother is dead, her father is a mortician, and Anne has long since been the outcast at her school, because she is the only poor kid in her school. For some fucking reason, we meet Anne as she is starting her new year at the new school of Cania Christy. Damned if we know how some poor kid ended up there in the first place.

It is a super, super selective school. To be Valedictorian is to win the ultimate prize. Despite the fact that everyone there is supposed to be education-oriented, there are still slutty chicks at school whoring it around all over the fucking place. The very first time Anne sees the Mean Girl clique, she brands them as skanks.

Like four slightly oversexed dolls, they stand at arm’s length from me, thrusting out their cleavage, tossing their straightened silky hair over their shoulders, and pursing their pouty, glossy lips.

So much for being accepting of others, since you were an outcast herserlf, right, Anne?

Anne learns that The Big V race is very competitive, EEEEEEEEE'RYONE in school wants the prestige of being the valedictorian. This prestigious, highly educational school's curriculum is so hard, so competitive that we hardly see the inside of a classroom besides that of art. I mean, fuck English, Social Studies, Math, Science, all that good shit right? Because Art class is all that's needed to be Valedictorian.

Anne attends art class. Anne attends more art classes. She draws a professor in the nude.

“Feast your eyes,” our model Trey exclaims, drawing his hand down his body. He’s a member of the faculty, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He’s nowhere near as hard on the eyes as most of the teachers here. “I am man. Hear me roar.”

There is something strange going on in the island. The students are forbidden to talk to the villagers...the villagers themselves are tribalistic! They worship idols! They cremate figures! They have strange rituals!

“This is the final ceremony in the Festival of Fire and Life,” Mr. Watso bellows, “a tradition unique to the Abenaki of this island they call Wormwood, this island that is Ndakinna to our great ancestors. It is a tradition that is just decades old but more meaningful than any ritual we have ever performed.”

Right. Very meaningful.

Since the race to be Valedictorian is so crucial to Anne, she snoops around, she gets involved in a love triangle, she dances her heart out! Anne gets her twerkin' on!

I pull out my California street-dancing swagger, which is insanely tough in this dress and heels, but I can’t help myself. This song is begging for some boom-pop, and I am all over that.

But damn, girl, no, that ain't all.

“You ready to take this on?” she asks. Not asks. Demands.
“Take what on?”
“This!” She runs her hands up and down her body. “Right here. Right now.”
“Wait. Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
She wants to battle. She wants a dance-off.

Oh snap!!!! Do you feel that? THAT'S RIGHT. IT'S A DANCE-OFF! Shit's gettin' REAL, yo!

I start it off, beginning by sliding into and out of an exaggerated S-shape formed by sitting deep in my right hip, rolling up to my left, arching my back, and smoothly busting out my chest. To warm things up. I pause for good measure, making deep eye contact with guys in the crowd, who clap when I do.
Finally, I wave my hand like you stink—steeped in swagger.

Kill. Me. Now.

The Big V: In most schools, it's simple to be valedictorian. It takes a lot of hard work, sure, but all it takes is the top grade in school, and that's it! Not so at Cania Christy. There are 3 steps involved in the process, one of which is completely fucking random. You see, you get to choose the standards that you wish to set for yourself.

“Suppose,” Teddy offers, “your PT is to…be selfish to succeed in life.”
“I would grade your actions over the course of the next two years against that PT. I would expect you to skip to the front of every line, fail to share, sabotage the efforts of your peers, especially those who are most desperate, and—”
“Steal money from a beggar’s bowl,” I suggest.
“Precisely!” Villicus and Teddy exclaim.


So if you choose to slut around for the next two years and do it well, you could be Valedictorian?! I was kidding. This book wasn't.

Dropping my arms to my side and letting my hand hover at the hem of my pajama shirt. Holding my breath, I lift it slowly. Take it off. And blush at my reflection. Because my body is so unrecognizable to me, it’s almost pornographic.
“Not bad,” I whisper, looking at myself as I never really have before. Something inside me stirs—not because I’m attracted to myself. It’s something else. It’s realizing, for the first time ever, that I may possess a teensy tiny bit of sexual power.

The premise isn't even well-executed. Everyone gets a Guardian to grade him or her based on this premise, but Anne's skeevy Guardian is pretty much the only one ever around. The idea is stupid, ludicrous, utterly laughable.

I Know You're From Uzbekistan Just By Looking At You: A person's nationality shouldn't be obvious from the very first glance. Somehow that just totally skips over Anne. She automatically labels a person with their nationality just by looking at them. They don't even need to open their mouth.

Her followers—a Thai girl, an Indian girl, and a stark blonde—glare at me.

A woman is "Japanese," a dark-skinned man is "Indian," somehow she knows a woman is from Quebec just by looking at her. And then there's the Mandarin. Wait, what?

Behind me, a Mandarin guy...

WAIT, WHAT? Ok, let's get one thing straight. Mandarin is a language. Mandarin is an orange. You do NOT refer to a Chinese guy as a Mandarin unless he is a time traveler from 18th century who is a Chinese official. Fuck me.

Slut Shaming: This book not only takes the Mean Girl high school trope and make horrible missionary-style sex to it, it ramps up the ante on slut shaming a thousandfold. The very first moment Anne meets the Mean Girl clique (oh, so very fucking original---not) at her new school, she labels them as tramps based on the way they dress. And then proceeds to accuse them of being whores.

"But I’m sure you know all about getting around.”

"Gang o' skanks," "skanky cows," "coiffed skanks," "skanky awards." FUCK YOU, ANNE. FUCK YOU!!!!!

Anne goes out of her way to highlight the slutty clothes that the girls wear.

Their matching red bras busting out of their cleavage. Their sex-kitten hair. Every day, they replace their standard-issue boots with whatever ultra-expensive, ultra-hooker shoes they have; today, it’s Manolo Blahnik spiky boots.

She accuses them of going down on faculty in order to earn their grades. Anne implies that they walk like they belong in the "red-light district." Fuck slut shaming, fuck Anne, fuck this book.

You A Piece Of Me?: Everyone finds Anne attractive. Everyone wants to get into her pants. There is a love triangle between Anne and two guys her own age, but from adult men, too. They leer at her, they make lascivious gestures at her. Everything is hyper-sexualized in this book. From the lecherous Headmaster (German, naturally, fuck you, stereotypes) who calls her a nubile fraulein. To a skeevy old Senator with a school uniform fetish. To her Guardian (who is hideously ugly).

“I could rate you very favorably,” he says, his soft voice sending shivers up my spine, “if you could be so obliging.” Then he lowers his hands to his pants and undoes the top button.
My mouth drops open, but not in the way he wants it to. “You’re disgusting.”
“I’m your meal ticket.”

The Writing: Atrocious. Clothing is "as wrinkled as the cloak of a dead Franciscan friar." A French accent sounds like "eating peanut butter while fighting a head cold."

A thought is drawn out into a paragraph.

The one thought I have hasn’t quite reached me yet. It moves through the darkness of my room slowly, deliberately, like the Grim Reaper wading through a sludgy pond to reach me, like he’s been wading toward me for days, has jerked his way up the stairs, and is finally here, his slender, long arms extending toward me. I want to back away from him, from my one unavoidable thought, but he keeps approaching, nearer and nearer until I’m in his cold, wet grasp.

If you still insist on reading this book, I have some recommended prerequisites. One simply does not walk into Mordor read this book unprepared. Ready? Here's what you need to do.

1. Get a group of friends together
2. Buy a lot of alcohol
3. Read this book out loud

All done? Good. Sit down, pour yourself a drink (or 5), and get ready to have the laugh of your life.

I had the misfortune of reading this book alone, without alcohol. Fuck this book.