Friday, February 6, 2015

Bleeding Earth

Is there a fun German or French term to describe the fascination of watching a train wreck unfold before your eyes?  What is actually happening is horrifying, but at the same time, it engages your brain with its unpredictability and newness.

I was intrigued by the premise of Bleeding Earth, and I thought it would be an interesting paranormal book along the lines of Croak by Gina Damico.  Plus, there is a queer protagonist who's very comfortable with who she is.  I thought this would be a great diverse title for libraries.


Where to start?

The one positive thing I can say about Bleeding Earth is that it held my interest.  I didn't get bored and start reading something else; I powered through to the end because I had to know if the author could get out of the giant, blood-filled hole that she dug.

She didn't.

If you look up "wasted potential" in the dictionary, there is a picture of this book next to it.  I mean, really: cool horror premise + confident protagonist + friendship drama + apocalypse + possible paranormal powers = possibly awesome story.  Instead, we got a story that started, but ... just ended with absolutely no explanation whatsoever.  Let me just try to work my way through this.

Okay, so the book begins with Lea and her BFF Hillary doing grave rubbings for a class project.  All at once, alarm bells started going off, but very faintly.  These girls are in high school.  We did grave rubbings in 3rd grade as part of our local history unit.  I can't imagine a school that would accept a grave rubbing as a completed "project."  Anyway.  Hillary doesn't like graveyards, but both girls freak out when blood starts oozing out of the ground.  Yes, it's human blood.  They squish their way home, where we meet Lea's parents, who fight with each other but support their daughter.  She says they find it "cute" that she has a crush on another girl at school, Aracely.  Lea is out at school, but Aracely is not.

I've nailed down the three main issues with the book as:

  1. Relationship authenticity
  2. Narrative voice
  3. Plot resolution
Warning: from here on out, there are spoilers everywhere.  So if you actually still want to read this, stop now.

Let's Talk about Love!

Aracely's grandparents are "very old, so French they don't even speak English, super Catholic, and old-fashioned in all the wrong ways."  I have many questions about this description.  First of all, if this is in the U.S., why did Aracely's elderly grandparents leave France?  Does she see them often?  I also didn't realize that there was a spectrum of French that runs from "speaks English" to "speaks no English."  Most French people speak English to some degree.  It's kind of like saying that being a certain nationality precludes you from learning a foreign language.  Let's flip it: "Aracely's grandparents were so English they don't even speak French."  It's just an odd statement that makes no logical sense.

So Lea and Aracely are dating on the DL.  Lea wants to take Aracely to prom, and even her principal's totally cool with it, and said she can go to prom "with whoever I'd like.  Whoever, wink, wink."  Because it's the object of a preposition, the correct word would be "whomever."  Hopefully someone catches that in the final edition.

Aracely knows how to do lots of things, like hotwire a car (note to self: learn this skill for the zombie apocalypse), which makes Lea want to kiss her, so they spend vital minutes making out instead of escaping.  Actually, this happens a lot in the story.  The romance aspect never felt natural to me.  It wasn't "hey, this is my story.  I happen to be a lesbian, so my significant other is a girl instead of a guy," but more like "HI I'M LEA I'M OUT AND PROUD AND GIRLS ARE SEXXXXY AND I LOVE ARACELY AND I KISS HER LOTS AND LOTS."  Woo.  This does not sound like a mature relationship to me, and it made me wonder if the decision to make Lea an LGBTQ character was so that this book could be claimed to be "diverse."  I'd be curious to hear from LGBTQ readers for their perspective on this (as a cis woman, I can't comment without cis privilege).

This Is How I Behave During the Apocalypse

Lea notices a church sign that has "the absolute creepiest quote I have ever seen.  Beloveds, don't be afraid, it reads, and there's something so chilling about reading those words in that cheerfully bright lettering.  I take a picture of it with my phone because this needs to be texted to every single friend I have."  Uh, wouldn't you think your friend had kind of lost it and/or been drinking if that was the text you got from them?

"But now that Mom told me not to--and said it in that chilling voice--I am dying to go down there."  I'm pretty sure people with chilling voices only appear in Goosebumps.  P.S.: She goes in the basement.  The BIG DEAL is that it's flooded with blood, which isn't really that surprising.

If blood is coming out of the ground and nobody knows why, isn't everyone's goal to tick off their parents by doing stupid things?  Well, it's Lea's!  All Lea can think about is Lea.  "Mom can just deal.  What's she going to do, anyway?  I'm already not allowed out."

There's a scene in a church that had the potential to be really powerful, given all the religious hints dropped about the source of the blood, but mostly Lea wants to know if there's any holy water they can drink.  Yum!

"And we're kissing again, and this is so much better than talking about the people we've murdered."  I'm just going to leave that there.

So Much Potential Energy ... Like a Roller Coaster Just Before the Hill

Of course, there's a toxin in the mysterious blood that makes people very sick.  Like, hallucinating and dying sick.  Oh noes!  The globs of hair floating in the blood also grab your feet and try to drown you.  This is the point where Lea feels strangely drawn to the blood, like it's calling to her.  I thought, "Oooh, she can control it?" and then that plot line went on a wild ride to Nowhere, USA.  It would have been so fun had the author revealed that Lea was summoning the blood with her mind or that she was actually the reincarnation of somebody or other whose job it was to bring about the end times.  But, nope.  Nada.  Give me something to work with here, please!!!

Somehow, even with blood contaminating the water supply and flooding the streets, the characters still have internet access until about halfway through the book, which is totally ridiculous.  I think most internet providers set things up so that the slightest variation in temperature or placement can shut off the wifi, thus necessitating an expensive visit.

Lea's dad, who works at a dam, leaves for an extended period.  This is where things get really off the wall.  Her mother goes crazy, so Lea shoots her.  Then Lea leaves all the supplies in her house and runs through the toxic blood to get to Aracely.  They try to rescue Hillary but somebody broke into Hillary's family's house and killed them all.  For being BFF's and all, Lea's reaction is shockingly meh.  It's time to run for the hills, girls!

And just when it seems that things can't get any worse, the blood recedes, Lea and Aracely make it to the dam, and her dad welcomes her to safety.  The end.

No really.  I'm not kidding.  That's it.  I guess we're supposed to make a Biblical connection, because Lea sees "an an actual living bird.  Something grayish brownish white--a mourning dove, maybe?  It tilts its head to the side, like it's startled to see us, and then takes flight."  Yes, I get it: Noah and the dove and the olive branch.

So many questions.  Questions like:

  • Why did the earth start bleeding?
  • Was it aliens?
  • Was it God?
  • Was it a god?
  • Did someone drilling for oil hit the blood bank's secret storage unit of type A?
  • Is the hair sentient?  
  • Why am I still reading this?
  • You want to know why?
  • Why did the earth stop bleeding?
  • WHY?????
I mean, I'm really trying to create a semi-coherent review here, and I just keep looking at my computer screen and then gently spreading my hands out to the side and lifting my eyes to heaven, seeking answers that will never come.  



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