Chapter 1: Craig Johnson
In this chapter, we meet the actual characters. The others were just stand-ins to present a back story that would have been better told as lore in little bits and pieces. Instead, nothing is left a mystery and we're dropped into this scene with three boys (including Craig) playing tennis and making fun of the less athletic kid, Mark.
Craig stood off to the side, laughing his ass off. “Oh my God!” he exclaimed cheerily. “And you mean to tell me all of this is on tape?”
So now the author says things like "laughing his ass off," but the only character to say anything so far talks like a news reporter? Ok, it's a minor offense. Let's move on. Craig and lackey!Todd laugh at Mark for a few more minutes and dismiss his challenge of golf as "gay". Right away, we can see Mark's the outsider here. He likes golf and gets called gay for being from the city. He's all set up to be a sympathetic lead, right? WRONG. This chapter is all about Craig and his problems; Mark just gets to be a Butt Monkey
for the rest of the day.
Mark: Have you ever even tried [golf]?
Craig: [Shakes head] And I'm not gonna.
Todd: Hey, have you ever screwed a fat chick?
Mark: Lord no!
Todd: Don't knock it until you try it!
So yeah, this is basically all he exists for. I get the feeling that he's an Author Avatar
for Aaron, who wants us to feel bad for all the suffering he's gone through. Then we get this delightfully subtle passage:
Mark fumed, gripping his racket tighter. Craig knew Mark hated to be teased about not ever getting any pussy. But, hey, there was always that one friend in everyone’s high school circle who was still a virgin. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, except in the male virgin’s eyes. It was just something fun to tease the virgins about. The fact was, most people who teased virgins about being a virgin were virgins themselves.
What's that you're saying, Mr. Narrator? People who make fun of others are often insecure about the very things they mock those people for? What a ridiculous self-reassuring hypothesis!
We're treated to a heroic image of Craig, with inexplicably perfect hair
, "piercing" eyes, and a 6'3" stature. Everything about his character description screams "Gary Stu," but so far he's basically just been a complete douche to a kid who's too lonely to know better.
The Narrator/Craig's ego continues to wander, thinking about his hot math teacher who gave Mark such a boner in class that he couldn't get up to write on the board. Then he (very creepily, I might add) says that he, Mark, and Todd are Friends till the end
. It was italicized just like that, too.
Craig could not have had two better friends anywhere. He considered himself lucky. And, the best part about Mark and Todd was that they understood whenever he underwent a tough time.
... and any time Mark was working through some troubles, Craig would always be there to insult him and egg him on. +1 for awkward use of "underwent".
They all go to community college together, and everyone's happy, and also Craig has a girlfriend who's so insanely hot that she demands a full paragraph description every time she walks into the scene
. On principle, I refuse to post this, as it is 100% genuine, sexist, unrealistic drivel. All you need to know is that her name is Kristy (like the drink
. Oh, nevermind.) Craig runs to her side "like a long lost puppy".
Mark shoved his finger down his throat.
... and threw up all over Todd, who was standing next to him.
Not really (unfortunately). That was supposed to be figurative. Mark then makes some lewd comments about how Craig and Kristy are probably talking about what sex position to try out. Kristy slaps Craig for playing along "sarcastically". He adapts and calls her his "whittle yummy pie" and instantly solves everything. 0_0
Kristy regarded him favorably and kissed him on the mouth.
She then sat down to tea time with him for a spot of Earl Grey and crumpets. Wait, no, she just kisses him again (specified: "on the mouth" for a second time) and leaves. After a while, it gets dark and the group breaks up to go their separate ways. Since this chapter is about Craig, we follow him home like total creeps.
Finally, the plot starts to get vaguely interesting as we learn that Craig hears demonic voices at night, and that he hasn't told anyone. To be honest, this is just about the most solid plot element Rayburn has constructed up to this point, since everything else was full of holes or just plain nonsense. Craig is self-conscious about the voices because he's worried that he'll be sent to a mental hospital if he tells anyone. He decides that Kristy is the only person he would ever tell.
She might have a simple solution. But then again, she might not. She might turn out to be like everyone else and laugh at him.
Right. Because of all those other people he's told. Who laughed at him. Who were definitely not hypothetical.
He then gets a letter from his imprisoned father telling him that there's something they urgently need to discuss (hooray, motivation!), and that he should come to the prison alone as soon as possible. Then we get this comedy of errors:
Matt had served the last twenty years in Lucasville prison. He worked diligently on his paperwork so that he could be released into a state mental institution. It was the only way he could get back to his family. From there, he would be on the straight stretch home. Back to his family. Back to his real life.
Let's go over everything that's wrong with this paragraph.
- Why would the prison system require twenty years of paperwork to be filled out for transfer to a mental hospital? How would they expect anyone, let alone a mentally incapacitated person, to finish that?
- How does being in a loony-bin get him any closer to his family?
- Why does it need to tell us in three separate sentences that it was the only way back to his family?
So... that happened. Matt confuses "awhile" with "a while" and then tells Craig that he's having prophecy dreams and that Craig must come alone because Susan is not to be trusted. He signs the letter "Your loving father and best friend, Matt Johnson". Yep! Good ol' mentally stable Matt Johnson!
Kristy, of course, arrives to ruin the moment. Craig greets her by telling her she looks beautiful tonight, and Susan starts crying, so the kids laugh at her (Tch, sentimentality? What a loser!).
It was obvious to Craig that his mother had no idea what he was talking about. Nor did she know when to keep her mouth shut.
That's 2 very personal issues that have come up in this book. In addition to the "virginity is ok, guys!" speech, we now have the main character hating his single, traumatized mother who's been kind enough to give him a house for 4 extra years while he went to underachievement school.
He makes fun of her for living in the sixties and then storms out the door. I kid you not. He and Kristy get into Craig's pickup truck and she kisses him (this time in
his mouth) and demands that they go eat. There's a dialog at the restaurant where Craig acts like a soap opera character. Something like this:
Kristy: What's the matter?
Craig: Nothing, it's nothing. Shut up, subconscious!
Kristy: I can tell when something's wrong.
Craig: I'm fine! I mean leave me alone! I mean no one understands me!
Kristy: Oh, ok, I guess I just won't ask then.
Craig: What? Wait! No, you're supposed to pry.
Kristy: Sure: What's troubling you?
Craig: I hear ghosts at night and my dad's in prison for strangling a guy and also he says that something horrible will happen to me.
At least that's how the conversation looked to me. Craig acts more like a gossipy girl in this chapter than a normal douchebag. He's relieved to have told her; as he stares into her unblemished
(sic) face, he knows she understands. Then he fantasizes for a few minutes about making babies and starting a family with her.
At home, Craig "blows a breath of exaustion" (sic) and lays in bed. He falls asleep instantly and has a dream.
Craig rose and saw a flock of sheep grazing in the meadows. They were, somehow, communicating with him, but he had no idea what they were saying.
"Baaaaaaa," they said. "BBAAAAAAAAA!!!".
A shadow falls over them and everything disappears. He wakes up to the creepy ghost voices again, sees a blue light in his closet,
He was mesmerized by the lucid, shining blue light. It was a sign. It meant something. It, too, seemed to be beckoning him. But was it dangerous? It could be. It could have something to do with the thing his father wanted to talk to him about. Was his father seeing this very same thing right this instant? Were they having the same kind of psychedelic connection?
I laughed out loud in a library when I read "psychedelic connection". Is that when two guys are high on LSD and they suddenly feel really close to each other? That's all I can surmise. It just seems like we should have been told already that Craig was on acid.
Right away calls for his mom to come help. That's right, after acting like a twelve-year-old and complaining about every element of her existence, he still needs to call her in to check his closet. She can't see the blue light, so she calls him a baby and leaves. (Hell yeah! Take that, Craig! Go Susan!).
Craig then does the next logical thing, he walks towards the closet and opens it to find that the light burns him, then makes him feel better, so he's like "Oh, ok, this is totally normal and the light is my new friend." and he just steps in.
Well, that was interesting. It's only the first of three parallel chapters charting the day of each of the three friends. There were so many misused words in this chapter that I couldn't hope to quote them all in context.
- Regarded him favorably: Wholly unnecessary.
- Self-esteem: Not the same as "motivation" or "hope".
- Awhile: He meant "a while". They are antonyms.
- Dire: Really shouldn't be used to describe light.
- Lucid: = Clear as in "clear-headed," not "clear water"
- Psychedelic: I lol'd.
- Distressfully: Not a word.
- Ranted: Something a mind cannot do on it's own. (Craig's mind ranted)
Well, there's a lot of useless drivel in this chapter, and the whole thing so far has come across as a personal fantasy fulfillment. Worse, knowing that the next chapter is called "Mark Williams," I can expect that I'm going to read the entire post-tennis-game story all over again. Craig is supposed to be some semblance of a protagonist, and I have the feeling that he is
one in the eyes of the author, yet he's really just a lazy boomerang child with no respect for his parents and very little motivation to do anything, ever. I feel terrible for Kristy, since she's the token girl in the story yet only exists to be a sex-toy for Craig and the Rayburn.