Khanh the Killjoy


The Sound - Sarah Alderson
I lie down beside her and try to absorb everything she’s just told me about dead nannies, and about Tyler and Jesse almost killing each other over nothing. I’m glad I want to be a music journalist because I think I would suck at being an investigative one.

No shit. The main character is so fucking passive it drives me fucking nuts. It is NOT ok to play a victim, it is NOT ok to take shit just because your mama told you to. You do NOT have to be polite to someone who treats you like crap. Fuck what this book tries to sell.

Despite how rude he’s just been to me I have been conditioned by my mother to be polite at all times and so I smile at him in apology. He notices but doesn’t smile back at me, rather his eyebrows raise a fraction as though he’s taking my apology and wringing it by its neck before handing me back its broken corpse.

This book represents all that is wrong with YA contemporaries. The plot (a murder mystery) is bland, the character is the dullest hipster in the world. The characters are nowhere near realistic. There is ample slut shaming, terribly clichéd characters, a love triangle, complete with endlessly cringe-inducing observations about US culture and teens from the POV of someone who has clearly not lived here for very long. It mocks Twilight...

You want unicorns and rainbows and Care Bears in the sky and Twilight-style declarations of eternal love? Well— newsflash— it ain’t gonna happen, Ren.

...while falling right into the eternal luuurve and purity trap that made Twilight what it is.

Also, unlike Edward Cullen, the voice in my head pipes up, Jesse most certainly hasn’t fallen in insta-love with me and isn’t torturing himself over the fact that he can’t be with me in case he eats me.

This book has unrealistic, utterly stereotyped character, and truly atrocious writing (from the narrative POV of a girl who wants to be a writer, no less). For example, the description of a character.

He has dark, quiffy hair and wide-spaced eyes, though his skin is tanned as opposed to diamond sparkly white. He has a very square jaw with a dimple in the center of his chin but alas no jet pack. I note that his eyebrow is cocked and the smile on his face is half sneer, half smirk as if he’s laughing at Eliza but she doesn’t seem to realize.

Oh, and in case you're confused about the "jet pack" thing, it's because the guy being described looks like...

Robert Pattinson—if you genetically spliced him with Buzz Lightyear.

This book tries so ridiculously hard to be "hip," complete with numerous references to Facebook.

“I guess you could call it that. They hook up every summer, but it’s not like it’s Facebook official or anything.”

Urban Dictionary.

There are guys with attitude, and then there’s this guy. He needs his own special category in Urban Dictionary.

and several instances of extremely painful txting to name-dropping Perex Hilton (who is so 2000s), to teenagers abusing the use of "like." Which is so America. Cause, we, like, always, like, use "like" here, in like, every other, like, sentence. You know, like?

“Like, what are you doing?”

“Like, I’m renting a bike,” I answer. I’m still vaguely amused by the overuse of the word like. I thought it was something that Hollywood scriptwriters used to emphasize vacuity in female characters. Turns out that’s actually the way Sophie speaks.

That's really cute, making references to a stereotype only to use it yourself in a book.

This book is about a British music hipster/nanny (who does very little nannying) who takes every single opportunity to remind us of how utterly British she is, from reminding us that "nicked" means "steal," to telling us that she shops at Topshop and Oxfam, and that "college" is "university." This book is about a British girl who goes to America, only to discover that every single fucking stereotype about the United States is true. From beefy, red-necked men, to slutty size-0 girls who are terrified of carbs. CAAAAAAAARBS.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Brits. I am a self-professed Anglophile, but this book just tries too hard to portray a British girl. It doesn't feel authentic.

From extreme slut shaming, to girl-on-girl hate, to complete and utter failure of the Bechdel Test, to a four-year old girl with a mouth fouler than a sailor (or me).

“Did you make out with Jeremy last night?” she asks from her position perched on the bath.
“So you didn’t make it to first base? Or second? If you get to fourth base on a first date that makes you a dirty skanky ho.”

You heard me. Four years old. I'm not sure about you, but when I was 4, I was reading the Vietnamese equivalent of the alphabet book and I wouldn't know what a skank is if one bit me in the ass. A FOUR YEAR OLD. Goodness gracious me.

The Bechdel Test: For those who don't know, the Bechdel Test "asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man." This book fails so hard. Every single conversation between two female character has to be about a guy. This book didn't work. Every single girl is shallow (except for the virginal main character). Every girl in this book wants to talk about guys...

“Did you and Tyler hook up last night?”
“What?” Paige says. “It looked like you were about to bone him right there and then.”


“No. He’s hooked up with Summer one time I think and maybe a few local girls—they put out way more: total skanks. But last summer he was dating this college girl. Total cougar. He got major props.”


“Tyler’s the biggest player on the whole East Coast,” Eliza adds. “As if I’d get with that.” She rolls onto her back and wriggles her hips into the sand. “And anyway, I don’t do sloppy seconds.”

...and more guys.

With trepidation I open up my e-mail. Megan has sent me about a thousand messages all asking a variation of did you pull Jeremy?

Pull, is of course, British slang for kissing. Yet another reminder that she is soooooooo British.

The Skinny Bitches: There is nary a positive female presence in the book. It is cliché to end all mean slutty Queen Bee clichés. The main character is refreshingly size 10.

I’m a size ten to twelve with normal-size boobs—not ginormous, but not flat either. I have an average body with curves that, according to Will, are sexy.

While the rest of the characters in the book are mean, skinny bitches who are terrified of carbs. Of course, the main character is SO NORMAL because she has the nerve to eat bread. BREAD.

Eliza stares at it sitting on my plate and I realize that I must have committed some monumental carb faux pas. I reach for the butter and start to slather the bread with it, thinking bite me.

She keeps bringing up the fear of carbs. I don't get it. Is this a thing now? I mean, I confess that I watch my own food intake like a hawk, but I'm not gonna judge anyone for not eating what I eat. And the mean girls in this book just do not eat. Unlike the refreshingly plump and normal main character, who just gobbles it all up.

For lunch Matt went and bought up half the supermarket—dumping a pile of crisps (they call them chips just to confuse me), cans of Coke (no diet), and sandwiches onto a towel between us, which all the girls complained about and refused to eat (carbs).

The Slut Shaming: From the hideous examples of a potty-mouthed four-year old, we now have the utter slut shaming of almost every single girl in the book. Even girls who are going to Yale can act like sluts.

Eliza spins to face him and starts wriggling her way down him as though he’s a greased pole.

Even her best friend, back in the UK, is a slut (but she's a self-professed slut, so it's all good, right?).

Megan thinks anything with a Y chromosome is hot. She’s perpetually in heat. Even she admits as much (with a tonguelolling emoticon for emphasis).

Girls gyrate and slither all over guys, not the other way around. The guys are just innocents in all this. It's all the girls' fault, with their seductiveness.

She holds her hair over her shoulder and starts gyrating her hips and butt against a guy who has stepped into the ring of light. His hands, feeling their way along Eliza’s sides, are moving fluidly, but he isn’t groping at her.

Of course, the virginal heroine thinks the slutty girls are so fucking dumb.

Eliza then wraps her arms around his neck and leans pouting toward him, but the bottle is in the way and she clashes her nose against it.
Classy move, I think to myself, smirking.

The girls in the book all hate each other, they call each other names, even though they are friends.

“Eliza’s perfecting her Ice Queen routine.” Summer laughs, trying to break the tension.
“Better than perfecting a skanky ho routine,” Eliza snaps back, looking in Paige’s direction.

And breasts are to be shamed.

She is short and not as skinny as the other three, but her boobs are quite enormous, which I imagine makes her exceedingly popular with the boys.

How dare girls show their boobs.

Her breasts are having their own conversation with him, one hand rests on her jutting hip bone and the other plays with a loose lock of hair.

Unless they're the main character. Then it's totally OK to wear a bathing suit and show off your ass and have a cute guy rub sunscreen on you when you're in a bathing suit.

“Do you want me to put some sunscreen on your back?” he asks instead.

Clichéd Characters: There is not a single character in this book that felt realistic. They are all "lobotomised zombies" (spelled with an S because she's British!). The men are big. American big.

He’s in his forties and big in that way I imagine only American men can be, with a tanned face, thick graying hair and teeth so white they shine like headlights.

American couples dress alike!

Carrie and Mike are both wearing tan trousers—I didn’t think they were the type of couple to go in for matching, but they’re American and what do I know about how Americans dress?

Girls are bitches, boys are mindless idiots. Preppy slackers who drink beer and tequila and go to parties every single fucking night. Where were these people when I was a teen?

The Romance: Clichéd as all freaking hell. This book is not a contemporary, it is a fantasy. A fantasy in which the ordinary, plain girl get the attention of AAAAAALLL THE BOYS. From the golden, gorgeous pre-med Harvard boy to the grease-streaked asshole "serial killer" type (but he has a heart of gold).

"The mysterious, messed-up, bad boy with secrets. If I didn’t love him myself, I think I’d have to kill him for being such a cliché.”

You know, when someone looks like he's going to fucking kill you, you should probably not fall in love with him.

I glance upward. He’s still glaring at me, but not with irritation. He looks instead like he wants to kill me. His fingers twitch around the wrench. Unconsciously I have edged back toward the door.

When there is a serial killer killing nannies, you should probably stay away. When someone is rumored to have beaten up a kid so badly he had to have his mouth wired shut, you should probably stay away. Even if you constantly notice how hot his body looks when it's stained with grease. Of course there's a fucking love triangle.

But Jesse is so off-limits that if he were a place, he’d be a nuclear testing site. And Jeremy doesn’t make me not quiver. He kind of does. Is that enough? I’m so confused right now.

The Writing: The main character wants to be a writer, and her thoughts in this book are all sorts of atrocious. We have narratives like this, for the grease-stained-killer-wannabe-love-interest.

He is wearing jeans that fit well, but he swaggers a little in them and I wonder if he learned that in prison. He’s also wearing a white T-shirt that has a few grease marks smeared across it but which shows his muscles to obscene perfection. His whole attitude screams do not mess with me.

This book is all sorts of terrible. I wanted a nice romance with a mystery, all I got was a headache.

All quotes taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition.