Friday, August 30, 2013

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 8

Recap: Skye is perfect. That's pretty much all the author wants you to know at this point of the story. Oh, also, this is the day she's supposed to go dolphin-kissing with Morgan.

Turns out this is a long chapter and it's all awful, so this is a long post. Just a heads up.

Skye arrives bright and early at the Hamiltons' room (like before Tammy's awake early, because, again, Skye's parents don't care what their kid does) and immediately starts referring to Morgan as her dad.
Skye leaned closer and her voice fell to a whisper. “He said something about parents having to be with me when I swim with the dolphins. I think it was some legal mumbo-jumbo.”
Well, I'm just shocked. The cruise wants nine-year-olds to be with their parents when swimming with dolphins in a foreign country? That sounds almost like responsible parenting, a concept we're pretty hazy on in this book.

Morgan's in the shower, but Skye is in too much of a hurry to wait for him, so she dashes away to grab breakfast with a message for Morgan to meet her.
Tammy shook her head, staring at the youngster sprinting down the long, narrow hallway, and almost running into a couple coming out of their stateroom. “Excuse me!” she yelled, without breaking stride.
Again, this is why Skye can hardly be called a "polite" child. Rambunctious, yes, but polite children do not run through hallways yelling early in the morning when people are sleeping around them. She's not doing it to be malicious, she's just being a kid, but this is why I can't at all buy this "Skye is the perfect child" nonsense, because she's not even particularly well-behaved. (But then again, Rothdiener thinks it's charming for kids to run up and down the hallways in an airplane yelling too.)

Morgan gets out of the shower and he and Tammy talk for awhile about how awesome Skye is. We learn she speaks five languages:
“That’s interesting. I guess with parents like hers, and the places she has visited, she would need to communicate in different languages.”
I don't think by "parents like hers" he means "parents who drop her off with random strangers in unknown countries," but, yes, with those parents, she absolutely needs to be able to communicate in different languages.

Then we get a bit of dialogue that is so hilarious and weird that I just have to snark each piece of it.
“What is the topic this morning at the conference?” Morgan asked.
“Batten disease.”
“Batten? That’s extremely rare.
"Certainly not appropriate for a convention about rare childhood diseases or anything."
“I know. They’re discussing some of the rarest childhood diseases,
"...even some extremely rare ones!"
and how we can raise awareness in our society.”
"Have they considered writing an article about why we should care about rare childhood diseases?"
“Interesting topic,” Morgan said.
"And totally unexpected, given the nature of this conference."

Seriously, these people talk like they have NO IDEA what this conference is about, and, furthermore, have no expertise in the field.
Morgan continued, “There is something I’m curious about. I wonder why today’s meeting is so important that her father would miss spending the day with his daughter. Obviously, he adores her. I’m surprised that anything could keep him away from spending time with that girl.”
Which is obviously why Skye gets dumped at random people's houses, sent with strangers to Jamaica, and pawned off on unknown couples for days at a time. The times Skye and her father have been together on this cruise is far less than their time apart.

Tammy warns Morgan not to get too attached to Skye, because when the cruise is over in two weeks, they'll probably never see her again.
An ache settled in Tammy’s heart. “I know how much you love children. I’m sorry I can’t give you what you want.” 
He swallowed, noticing the room had grown quiet.
First of all, there's pretty much no textual indication that Morgan actually wants kids, given how callous he is about the whole thing. I am really, really unhappy that Tammy's pain is consistently framed entirely in terms of how Morgan feels about it. She's the one who's been depressed and inconsolable, while he's been all, "Why can't my wife just get over this?" and here she is apologizing to him because she feels it's her fault.

Secondly, "the room had grown quiet"? Was there all this ambient noise we were unaware of? Was Skye running up and down the halls yelling again? It's not like there was some mysterious phenomenon where The Room Grew Quiet. Tammy was just done talking and Morgan hadn't started yet.

I'm going to do that, now. If I'm in a room with someone and it's just us talking, I'm going to start saying, "I notice the room has grown quiet," during every single pause.

A moment later, Morgan has a mini crisis of faith when his wife expresses sorrow that all she can do to help rare childhood diseases is talk about them at this conference:
Morgan’s thoughts flashed to his conversation with Skye’s father the night before. Prayer came to his mind, but the thought quickly faded. There was a time when he and Tammy would pray for others, as well as their own needs. But their prayers seemed to never be heard; there was only silence from God. At least, that’s what they felt. If God wasn’t listening, if He didn’t care, why bother praying?
And this is why I'm so very confused. Generally, with people who are going through faith crises or doubting their beliefs, they don't go around telling other people to be Christians (as he did with "his conversation with Skye's father the night before"). I mean, maybe, if they're trying to keep up a facade or act pious and feel like they need to do that to keep up the front, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Morgan seems to be jumping back and forth between "God's probably not even there, so why bother?" and "Excuse me, sir, have you ever told a lie?" without a second thought. It makes me very uncertain what level his actual faith is at.

From a better writer, we could end up with a complex character who was doubting but still felt obligated to share, or someone whose old evangelizing habits kicked back in, or who was going through the motions of being a Christian in the hopes that they could jumpstart how they felt or something. But this is none of that. This feels much more like, "Whoops, I forgot this guy doesn't believe in prayer anymore!"

Morgan meets up with Skye and goes to breakfast with her, while Tammy meets up with Malinda Leontiou to do some chatting.
“I hope your husband is ready for a busy day. When Skye’s feeling good, nothing holds her back.” 
“When she’s feeling good? What do you mean by that?” 
“You know, when a girl’s happy and excited, nothing holds her back.”

That needed to be clarified?

Is this some terrible foreshadowing that maybe Skye has A TERRIBLE DISEASE, maybe even a RARE CHILDHOOD ONE, and sometimes doesn't feel good?

Or does Tammy just not understand what the word "good" means?

Malinda offers Tammy and Morgan a job at their clinic, because one can never have too many people who really understand why we should care about rare childhood diseases, and then they chat some more:
“Well, thank you. I’m honored. What is your history? I mean—” 
Malinda smiled. “You mean, why am I so much younger than Layland?” 
“Well, I wasn’t really alluding to that, but since you said we would talk girl talk, where were you born?”

That's like doing this:
"You mean, why am I so much younger than Layland?" 
"Well, I wasn't really alluding to that, but since you said we would talk girl talk, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
The two questions have nothing to do with each other, unless Tammy's assuming that like... Layland was around being a teenager when Malinda was born or something, which is a really creepy way to start telling that story.

Tammy finds out more about Malinda. Her parents are Canadian, she was born in Sweden during a cancer convention, her parents "discovered several breakthroughs in cancer treatment," and then their plane in Africa was shot down by rebels and they died. Which totally answers why she's so much younger than Layland. As I knew it would.
Tammy hesitated, giving Malinda a moment. Finally, she spoke. “How long have you been married?”
OK, that's a much better lead in for the question you're trying to ask and still being coy about for some reason even though Malinda brought it out in the open already.

Malinda talks about her first marriage, where she "dumped him like a can of beans" after he cheated on her. (Is this a phrase? I haven't heard of it. Do cans of beans get regularly dumped?) Then she talks about how she met Doctor Layland Leontiou at a convention, since that is apparently all that any of these people do.
He was a gentle man, but strong. He had to be strong in the world of business.
This line just makes me snicker. It sounds so much like The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. "Seriously, Betty, you know what this meteor could mean to science. If we find it, and it's real, it could mean a lot. It could mean actual advances in the field of science."
“I’m sure you have picked up on how protective Layland is with Skye.”
*spits water*


A brief lesson for all you writers out there. You can't just tell me what your characters are like. You have to show me. They have to demonstrate that with their actions. Otherwise everyone in the story looks delusional, like Malinda does here.
“It grieves her father not to be able to spend these couple days with her, especially today. He really wanted to share the dolphin experience with her.”
Malinda stirred her coffee. “Skye lives every day to the fullest. She’s an extremely organized, happy-go-lucky girl, who never thinks of herself. She’s always busy, always learning, and always excited.”
“It’s strange,” Malinda said, “but she never has shown an interest in video games, like most of today’s kids. She does things that help other people. And she’s definitely gifted.”
OK, let's first note that Malinda says the first paragraph and the last one... and presumably the second one, but if so, why in the world do we have three separate paragraphs telling us that she's basically just talking for awhile? It would be quite logical to assume Tammy was talking in the second one, given that she's that needlessly gushy about Skye on a daily basis and the fact that it's sandwiched in between two paragraphs of Malinda speaking. Basically, I'm not convinced this script ever made it to an actual editor. I think they just skimmed, said, "Yup, it's about Jesus," and printed it.

Secondly, I am ever so TIRED of them hyping up Skye to me, especially when it doesn't always match what she does either. I don't think she's nearly as selfless as they're hyping up, given the fact that, for example, she thinks it's appropriate to mock someone for their fear.

But she MUST be a perfect child! She doesn't play those evil violent video games! Right?

Malinda explains Skye has tested "extremely high academically, genius level," and is also a super talented pianist and artist. She then gets really defensive all of a sudden about how busy they are with their lab work and how sometimes they don't have time for Skye.

Then they talk about the cruise for awhile. Turns out, Doctor Layland Leontiou started it and pays for the cruises. It started out as essentially just a doctor vacation, but then it turned into a fundraising idea-sharing time. Malinda says she and Doctor L. L. are close to a cure for... some disease. It doesn't ever actually say which one. It's all really vague, with talk of "experiments" and "lab work" and "tests," but hardly ever does anyone mention a specific disease. THAT is how you raise awareness, people.

Now after all the important and essential things we learned in that forever-long section, let's zoom over to see what Morgan and Skye are doing.
Morgan held Skye’s hand tightly as she led him through the food line. He had never really babysat before, at least not by himself.
Uh, and I'm not sure he is now. From the sounds of it, she's babysitting him. Yesterday she taught him how water slides work, today it's food lines.

Skye talks with all her new friends as she gets her food, including one guy she's praying for. She makes some comment about how her prayers are always answered, and Morgan has another mini faith crisis wondering why God answers her prayers and not his.

And then we have... the weirdest breakfast conversation.

Skye says that her parents' clinic is in the Aegean Sea, near where Atlantis is located. She says that Atlantis is true because "the folk singer, Donovan, sang about it back in the sixties," and "Plato talked about it. He never talked about anything but the truth." Then she tells him, sincerely, the history of Atlantis and how it was destroyed.

Now, if she wasn't supposed to be a SUPER SPESHUL BRILLIANT MARVEL OF NATURE I'd assume this was just usual imaginative kid talk, where she'd heard about it, heard 1960s folk songs about it (which she sings to Morgan), read Plato about it, and incorporated it into her framework of real life. But with Skye and with all the hyping they've done... I have a horrible feeling Atlantis might actually be found at the end of this book.
Morgan was amazed at the girl’s ability to learn, to remember. She obviously was brilliant. How does Skye know everybody’s name?
I wouldn't call being good with names "brilliant." Maybe Morgan is just hugely incompetent at remembering names, and so she seems brilliant by comparison.

Skye then scolds the waiter who brings her ketchup for not calling his kids yet like she told him to. He says he is too ashamed, she tells him he needs to call them to feel better, and he says she's right. Because apparently everybody is ready to take life advice from a nine-year-old.

Then breakfast is over, and it's time to go dolphin kissing. Morgan and Skye get off the boat, with Doctor L.L., Malinda, and Tammy all watching them (though for some reason Doctor L. L. is watching secretly. And crying about it).

I gotta tell you guys, this was an exhausting chapter to get through, with nearly every line being just... wrong. I have no idea how people have been reading this seriously. But apparently people have. It's still got all five-star reviews on Amazon. Sigh.

(Chapter 9.)

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