Okay, so this is what I was going to post about yesterday. I've been reading a bunch of anthologies lately - this one, this one and this one, among others. They all came up in my library holds queue at once, and aside from the slight feeling of scatteredness that reading a bunch of short stories at once gives me, I've been quite enjoying most of them. I also just finished Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, which "covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers."
Most of the stories were really good - some quite sweet and funny, some with a very loose interpretation of the term 'geek' I thought, and a couple utterly forgettable. There was one about a popular cheerleader trying to learn more about geekdom for her football player boyfriend who kind of likes Star Wars, so she asks a few of the school geeks to help her out, and ends up forming a bond with them and outgrowing the meathead boyfriend - I loved that one. Weirdly, I didn't love the John Green story. "Quiz Bowl Antichrist" by David Levithan was probably my favourite - it was the most subtle and bittersweet snapshot of a moment of insight in a teenage boy's life that I'd read in a while.
Then there was The Truth About Dino Girl by Barry Lyga. It starts out well, with a main character who eats, sleeps and breathes dinosaurs. She's also in love with a popular guy who seems cool because he doesn't rag on her for being smart and seems to find it silly when others do. Unfortunately, he has a beautiful, popular girlfriend. The main character tries to convince herself that the girlfriend is nice because she must be to be with the guy, but it turns out she's a classic mean girl. So the main character (sorry, I can never remember the main characters' names) and her best friend sneak into the girls' locker room when mean girl is half-naked after cheerleading practice, take pictures of her and then photoshop it to look like she's in a cheap motel. Then they post the pictures all over the school of the mean girl, with her boobs showing, saying that she sleeps around, and getting her ostracized by her boyfriend and everyone else in school.
Like.... WTF? It's clear that we the readers are supposed to be complicit in and approving of this completely disproportionate revenge. Like yay, child porn, slut shaming, probably ruination of the girl's life? Is this what passes for out-mean-girling the mean girl in the author's mind?
I had to go search the reviews on Goodreads to make sure I wasn't the only one shaking my head over this one. I found a few readers who said the same thing I was thinking, although fewer than I'd expected. I'm not sure if it should, but it does kind of make a difference to me that the author is male - it puts an extra-creepy spin on the whole thing.
Then I wondered if I was just being too sensitive-new-agey about the concept of revenge. I remember watching the movie version of A Little Princess, and when Sara's father returns and she has a chance to get back at the mean headmistress who treated her like a slave, I expected her to show mercy, being too big a person for petty revenge. I don't think I've actually read the book but in the movie, I was totally wrong - the mean headmistress was now treated just as badly as she'd treated Sara.
I'm not against the concept of revenge per se. I just think the punishment has to fit the crime and it's no good if the act of revenge drags someone lower than the antagonist. It's kind of like how if I'm writing an angry letter to complain about poor customer service or if I get into an argument on the internet, I find it more satisfying if I can be calm and cutting, as opposed to losing my temper and stringing together expletives and insults. Is this just loser thinking? Is Barry Lyga out-feministing me by proving that a girl can be merciless in the pursuit of revenge? Do I have some milk-toast politically correct concept of vengeance that would get me laughed out of the Justice League?
What do you think?