Book Reviews

Book Review: Snowed, by Maria Alexander

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Snowed

By: Maria Alexander

Published: November 2, 2016

The Rundown: “Charity Jones is a 16-year-old engineering genius who’s much-bullied for being biracial and a skeptic at her conservative school in Oak County, California.  Everything changes when Charity’s social worker mother brings home a sweet teen runaway named Aidan to foster for the holidays.  Matched in every way, Charity and Aidan quickly fall in love.  But it seems he’s not the only new arrival: Charity soon finds the brutally slain corpse of her worst bully and she gets hard, haunting evidence that the killer is stalking Oak County.  As she and her Skeptics Club investigate this death and others, they find at every turn the mystery only grows darker and more deadly.  One thing’s for certain: there’s a bloody battle coming this holiday season that will change their lives—and human history—forever.”

Don’t Get Strung Out by the Way I Look: There’s a lot going on in this cover.  In the center is the main character, Charity, who is… stitching a torn blanket?  Skinning something? Pouring something into a dead creature’s mouth?  I really can’t tell.  There are evil eyes superimposed on whatever she’s holding.  Also, there are polar bears playing trumpets next to her.  Or are they hands?  Or just part of the sky?  I don’t know what’s happening here.  There’s just too much stuff crammed in, and it’s all “artsy.”  And if the girl on the cover is Charity, why is she some pasty ginger?  Charity’s black!

What a Wonderful World: Charity attends high school in Oak County, California, where all the students are completely insane.  She is viciously bullied for being biracial and being an atheist, to the point where other students picket the first meeting of her Skeptics Club.  No, really: there is a group of students standing outside the meeting, holding signs and screaming that she’s an agent of Satan.  Apparently, each and every student here is a clone of the insane guy on your college campus shouting that fornicators and masturbators are going to hell.  Charity also receives constant death threats via text.  Now, this is some pretty vicious bullying, and it’s done in a way that’s difficult to ignore.  Where are the teachers in all this?  Where are the parents?  Nobody does anything.  Also, this book is set in Oak County, right?  I looked it up, and that’s not a real place.  Well, I suppose inventing a fictional county would save the author the trouble of finding a place this conservative in California.  Research is for losers!

The Good Guy: Charity Jones is an assertive engineering genius who likes to build robots in her garage.  Sounds like an interesting character, right?  Think again.  Charity is wholesome, prissy, and if we’re being honest, a bit of a Mary Sue.  She’s bullied, but it’s because people are intimidated by her superior intellectual abilities, and the fact that she’s “diverse;” not because she’s an annoying jerk.  Charity has a younger brother, Charles, a “tough guy” who smokes and ditches school.  He also has problems controlling his anger.  But Charity’s too superior to Charles to feel any sympathy towards him, and she’s certainly above trying to help him.  Instead, she blames him for each and every thing wrong with her life.  Charity’s an unsympathetic asshole, but the author still expects us to like and root for her.

The Bad Guy: The book likes to play coy, refusing to admit who Aidan’s evil father is.  At the same time, it beats the reader over the head with foreshadowing; it becomes very obvious very quickly who the bad guy is (I figured it out 11% of the way in).  It’s Santa, you guys: the slasher is Santa.  Unfortunately, the author fails to see the inherent humor in the premise and asks the reader to take everything extremely seriously.  In this world, Santa is an evil maniac who… uh… you know, he doesn’t actually seem to do much, aside from beat his son.  And rape people.  In this world, Santa is a rapist. NECESSARY.

The Love Interest: Charity is in love with Santa’s son Aidan MacNichols (sigh).  Aidan is a foster child who’s staying in Charity’s house until his immigration status can be sorted out.  He has cute black hair, silky skin, and talks like he just escaped from a poorly written Jane Austen fan fiction.  He and Charity fall in insta-love, and know that they will be together forever and ever even though they’re high school students who have known each other for about a week.  Aidan has no real personality besides being “perfect.”  He’s so perfect that for a while I thought the author was going to subvert our expectations and make him an evil psychopath, but no such luck.  He’s a sexy lamp through-and-through.

A+: I found myself drawn to Charity’s tough guy brother, Charles.  He hates the main characters.  I also hate the main characters.  He’s the only character whom I could relate to.

F-: A couple years back, they released a faith-based movie called God’s Not Dead.  The movie sets up strawman atheist characters who persecute the kind, gentle Christians.  For example, there’s an atheist professor who makes all his students sign a pledge saying that God is dead.  There’s also a liberal blogger who goes up to Christian men and screams at them that they are abusing women.  Snowed felt like the atheist version of God’s Not Dead.  The Christians picket Charity’s Skeptics Club meeting and call her a whore of Satan because she dares to think for herself.  What’s more, the words on their signs are misspelled because, as well all know, Christians are uneducated and stoopid.  The Christian students are also druggies, because Christians are hypocrites too.  In fact, they’re so into drugs that the drug dealers are the most popular and influential kids at school.  Reading this book made me very uncomfortable, and I’m a militant atheist.

Does it Represent…

Women: This book’s protagonist is a female engineering genius, which is cool.  However, it lost any feminist points it had when it made Santa a rapist.  Pro tip: don’t introduce rape into your book for shock value.  If you want to include rape, you have to actually address how it impacts the victim.

People of Color: The main character, Charity, is biracial.  But we’re not going to talk about Charity; we’re going to talk about her brother Charles.  At the beginning of the novel, Charles is presented as a tough guy, asshole type.  He’s not a nice dude, but he doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary.  As the story progresses, he turns into a sociopath with no redeeming characteristics.  He tries to kill Aidan for no reason, then does something which he knows could lead to the death of his entire family.  Despite being only 15 years old, he acts like a supervillain in his mid-thirties.  The other characters even compare him to the Joker.  Oh, and did I mention that Charles is black?  This story takes a black child and portrays him as an irredeemable monster.  Does the author not read the news?  Is she unaware of the societal violence directed at young black men?  The way Charles is portrayed is extremely irresponsible.

LGBT People: Charity’s friend Michael is gay, and is forcibly outed by Charles near the end of the novel.  As soon as people find out he is gay, they immediately start spamming him with death threats, attacking him at school, vandalizing his car, etc.  And I mean IMMEDIATELY.  Never mind that this kid was considered relatively cool before.  Oh no, as soon as people find out he’s gay, it’s death threat time.  Yeah… it’s pretty melodramatic, and doesn’t really line up with the kind of bullying most LGBT kids experience.  Most of the time, it’s more like, “gay people are silly and gross, let’s make fun of them.”  I feel like the author didn’t do much research on bullying before writing this book.  It has a definite “what straight people think gay people experience” vibe to it.

The Disabled: Charity’s mom struggles with depression and her problems are exacerbated when Charles starts getting in serious trouble with the police.  Charity has no empathy for her mom, and can’t understand why she’d be sad that her child is in jail.  This is not necessarily an abnormal response from a teenager, but it is troubling that the reader is supposed to empathize with Charity over her mother.

Memorable Quote:

“I hear Christmas caroling.  Who is singing?  I hurry toward the noise.

Silent night, holy night.  All is calm.  All is bright.

As I round the music building, I see the library.  The carolers flank the front door, holding signs.

JESUS (HEART) YOU

ATHIESM = SATANESM

JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

STOP MILITENT ATHIESM”

Recommended for: People who hate themselves?  Look, if you want to read good a Christmas-themed horror story, read NOS4A2, by Joe Hill.  If you want to read a good paranormal romance, read The Art of Wishing, by Lindsay Ribar.  Don’t bother with Snowed.

My Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars

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