Once upon a time I worked at the now-defunct bookstore Borders. If you’re young enough never to have heard of it, think Barnes and Noble with better customer service and a worse business model. Publishers would regularly send us advance copies in the hopes that we would read them and recommend to customers. The best of these usually went to whoever was working the day they arrived (which is not a complaint–we all had a chance of getting the good ones from time to time); the leftovers went to a shelf in the break room. The books on that shelf were notoriously awful, and almost out of pity I would grab one occasionally and take it home to read just to remind myself what terrible schlock exists in the world. Occasionally, however, I’d run across a good one that had been overlooked or packaged with a bunch of terrible ones.
Nightshade is not one of these surprisingly good finds. It is as if someone read Twilight and thought “this should have been written from the perspective of the vampire, who is a werewolf instead of a vampire.” The book centers around the main character, which is so obvious a statement that it shouldn’t even have to be written down. But that’s seriously one of the big take-aways. It’s certainly not anything about said main character, whose name I have completely forgotten despite only finishing the book yesterday. She’s a werewolf, and ‘has’ to marry someone for reasons, but she really likes someone else. And… that’s about it. The dialogue runs something like this:
Main Character: “I don’t want to be thought of as ‘hot’, I’m totally a warrior! (But I’m also hot.)”
Main Character: “Boys would never like someone like me. Why won’t these boys leave me alone? I’m so totally fat.”
Every other character: “You’re so hot, how do you even live being so hot?”
Main Character: “The rules strictly say I’m not supposed to do X.”
Other character: “You should do X.”
Main Character: “I did X, but I shouldn’t have to face the consequences for X, because the people who put rule X in place just don’t understand what it’s like to be me.”
On repeat for 400+ pages.
Look, I’m sure there’s a demographic out there that this sort of narrative appeals to. I mean, there has to be given how many of these sorts of books I saw go through Borders back in the day. (I suppose it’s possible that the flood has dried up in the last seven years or so, but for some reason I highly doubt it.) Heck, for that matter I wouldn’t be surprised to see this made into a movie or a CW series.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time at all, you’ll know that I’m no fan of following the mob just because they should say you should do something. Everyone else is not automatically always right. In fact, there’s only one guide to life that is worse than the popular opinion of the moment–and that worse guide is your (and my) ‘authentic inner feelings.’ The polls will lead you astray; your inner desires will lead you even more astray.
‘But,’ we might ask, ‘if I can’t trust myself, and I can’t trust others, who can I trust?’ That’s a great question–and the big answer is the Bible. There are smaller answers that are useful for life in this world (‘the accumulated wisdom of the ages’ is the one I tend towards, given my conservative leanings), but the big answer is that you should look to the book that God has given us. The Bible will not affirm your inner desires, it will kill you and give you a new and better life.
All that to say if you’re looking for a book to tell you exactly what you want to hear–which happens to be the same thing basically every other young adult book will tell you–then this is the book for you. It is certainly not the book for me.
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO. His inner leanings are as untrustworthy as yours.