Friday, 26 August 2011

"Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Oh Sarah-ah-ah (Sarah)...Are you saving me?" (A character study.)

No, this post is not about how much fun it is to write the name Sarah over and over, (although that is quite fun), but is actually about I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore (pen name of Jobie Hughes and James Frey.) I want to start by stating that I Did Not Buy this book, but got it for free, which makes it so much more acceptable to be caught reading it. (Maybe? Kind of? Not even a little bit??)

Warning: spoilers abound for those who want to read this book and haven't yet.

Ok, moving on. I Am Number Four is in many different ways an extremely flawed book, but this review will be focusing on my personal biggest problem, the love interest of narrator John: Sarah Hart.

Yes, that is her name. It says it all really. To get all nitpicky and deconstructionalist on you (thank you literacy theory!) that is one terrible, terrible name. Now, every Tom, Dick and Harry knows that the name Sarah is found a dime a dozen, so, if you're going to write a book, even a book completely set in the real world (which I Am Number Four is not), you should tread carefully with a name like Sarah. But in a YA fantasy/sci-fi novel? Seriously?? I mean, why not call her Mary Sue and be done with it?? And as for Hart, well, don't worry folks, it's not ironic. This girl's heart is so big she spends her holidays saving homeless kittens. 


(The above was words failing me.)

Sarah is the pancake-flattest, Mary-Suest, female-love-interest I've ever had the misfortune of meeting in print. Here's what I know about her: She's incredibly, unbelievably, astonishingly, oh-my-goddingly, up there with Aphrodite, in-your-face Edward Cullen, flat-out beautiful.  

Wait...she's beautiful? Oh! Well, thank god! Phew! I was worried for a minute there. I'll let Disney's A Swan Princess sum it up with the following 'how to offend a woman in five syllables or less' incident:

Odette: "Is beauty all that matters to you?"
Derek (genuinely baffled): "What else is there?"

Hmm. Good question. What else is there? There are a few other points to Sarah's character, but not many. Shall I make a list?!

1. She lurrvveess animals and being kind and extra nice and sweet to people, with an extra oozy dollop of saccharine and rainbow sprinkles. For the record, I am not some sort of happiness-Nazi with a vendetta against nice people, or nice characters. I attempt to be a nice person and to include nice characters in my stories. The problem is that I don't believe Sarah really is the genuinely selfless girl she's made out to be. For if she was, how she could ever let poor Sam be a friendless outcast and never bother speaking to him before John arrives?
Now, don't worry, I'm not delusional. I know this is lack of thinking on the authors' parts rather than a deliberate fakeness to her character, but unfortunately it still means that Sarah + nice = fail. *Nods head in agreement with self with what can only be described as Percy Weasley style pompousness.*

2. She is smart. There is no proof that she is smart, she never acts smart, the reader is just *told* that she is. In fact, she seems quite stupid. The only initiative she shows is when they're trapped in the school by dangerous aliens, and she says that she knows another exit. This is clearly not impressive as it is something anyone would know if they have been going to that school for longer than five minutes. But John feels a moment of pride. Pride. What a clever little girl she is! She can say her ABC in the correct order and everything. Next step- tying her own shoelaces!  

3. She's completely passive. John: "I'm an alien..." Sarah: "Well, whatever makes you happy, dear." This girl is so passive she makes Bella Swan look proactive. I can only assume Sarah spends most of her time zoned out on happy pills. 

4. She needs to be rescued a helluva lot. Big, mean ex-boyfriend hijacking her? Check. Stuck in a house fire when everyone else escapes? Check. Evil aliens after her? Check.

5. She has a rubbish sense of humour. Case in Point? John makes a completely reasonable comment and she laughs and says: "you're silly" and pokes/nudges/punches him. What is so frickin silly??
In all the time I've known John (and I've been in his head far longer than is comfortable) I've never once heard him say anything that could be understood as funny, humorous, witty or even faintly amusing.
Actually, correction, how about "I'm in love with Sarah"? I'll admit, you need an outlandish sense of humour for that to tickle you, but really, the idea that these two could fall in love is like someone insisting that a pair of newspaper dolls are in love. Actually, that sounds quite sweet. How about someone insisting that two opposite facing walls are in love? Yep. Makes No Sense.

6. Final point, I promise. She gives lingering kisses. Every single kiss *lingers.* Excuse me, rant/babbling session over now, I'm on my way to throw up.

And that is it. That is Sarah. That is literally all that I know about her.

Characters like Sarah are not only disappointing, they're also baffling. Perhaps I could understand her if she was a perfect depiction of a male fantasy, but she's clearly not. Her taste in clothing proves that. (Who wears a blouse to a house party??)

What Sarah is, in fact, is the typical result of authors who know they want a female love-interest in their story, but beyond thinking she's 'perfect', never bother to flesh out her character.

What we're left with is a pencil outline trying to impersonate a watercolour, and no one's buying it. Good characters take thought, love, back-story, and most importantly, flaws. Flaws! Yes, Sarah is flawed, but those flaws were never ones that the authors intended her to have. 

If one thing can be learned from her though, it is that she is a perfect example of a 'how not to do it' character.    

So there you have it- the end of my first 'review'. Cough*over inflated opinion*cough. I am impressed with your ability to wade through my babble/lashings of sarcasm and make it to the end unscathed. If you now have a strong need to explain exactly why I'm hideously wrong or to congratulate my brilliant deconstruction of a soggy tissue character, feel free to do so in the comments. Every comment made is loved and appreciated, even if it is simply to write a reminder to yourself to never come back here again, and I will give each commenter imaginary cookies.

Until next time boys and girls...   


Eleanor at Mirror Of My World said...

i love it although now youve made me so intrigued about this sarah character despite her boring and saccharine ways!!! xxx

prerna pickett said...

lol, awesome review...I knew there was a reason I hadn't picked this one up!

Charlotte said...

Congratulations, you two get extra big imaginary cookies with smarties and smiley faces on them for being the first two commenters. You know the sorts of cookies I mean, the kind that Sarah used to bake when she was a girl guide. :)

lindy said...

This is my first time hearing of this novel, so obviously I haven't read it. But I have to agree that characters--especially MCs--must have a life like quality to them. Flaws are great, silly quirks even better. I'd take a mangy girl who has a balloon fetish and a weird boil on her knee, over Miss Perfect, any day.

Isis Rushdan said...

After seeing the movie, I had no desire to read the book. The Sarah character was so annoying in the film, I no longer have to imagine how grating it must have been in print thanks to your funny post.

Welcome to the blogging world. You're off to a great start.

And thanks for the follow.