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The Amy Virus is a novel by Andee Joyce. Fifteen-year-old Cynthia Ann Butt was diagnosed with autism as a young child, but she is now "in remission" thanks to the Good Brain Diet, a quack diet her parents make money promoting. But when she develops an obsession with the obscure 1960s bossa nova singer Amy Zander, she begins to realize she might still be autistic. Over time, she transforms herself into the singer, songwriter, and percussionist Cyan Beaut, but her parents (especially her Control Freak father) are not happy with her transformation and go to increasingly desperate lengths to hide the truth about her autism. In turn, this leads Cyan to go to increasingly desperate lengths to escape their control and become her own person.
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The Amy Virus was published in 2016 online and can be read for free here.


The Amy Virus contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Cyan's parents are the emotionally and financially abusive type. Cyan's mother eventually has a Heel Realization and becomes The Atoner, while Cyan's father just gets worse. This culminates in them divorcing and Belinda taking full custody of Cyan so Daniel can't hurt her anymore.
    • According to Eroica, her mother physically abused her because of her autism, which is one of the reasons why she helps Cyan run away from her parents.
  • The Atoner: At the end, Cyan's mother becomes this, admitting that her husband scared her into promoting the sham diet and financially/emotionally abusing Cyan, and that she's never been brave enough to stand up to him until after Cyan ran away. Afterwards, she decides to divorce him and take full custody of their daughter so he can never hurt her again. Then after finding Cyan in Portland and reconciling with her, she promises to expose the Good Brain Diet as the quack that it is, end the "autism remission" claims, and clear Mr. Shunsberg's name to the best of her ability.
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  • Author Avatar: The author, Andee Joyce, is autistic musician/songwriter like Cyan is, and according to the "About the Author" page, she began to discover her musical identity around the time she was embracing her autistic identity, just like Diane does in the story.
  • The B Grade: The Butts hold all three of their daughters to extremely high standards and are dismayed when Cyan starts bringing home B minuses.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Cyan's mother Belinda is a former plus-size model. She's still described as very pretty.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Cyan's older sisters, Annabeth and Tam, treat her with much more respect and understanding than their parents do. For example, when Cyan's father holds her down and tries to force clothes onto her so she can go to school, Tam instantly stands up to him and points out that Cyan actually threw up the previous night, so she was too sick to go anywhere.
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  • Big Sister Worship: Cyan is in awe of Annabeth, a brilliant, charming medical resident almost a decade her senior.
  • Book Dumb: This ends up being a major why the Good Brain Diet scam falls apart. Cyan is generally smart, perceptive in most cases, and is a great musician, but working in a standard school environment doesn't work because Cyan can't stay focused long enough to put down notes. It got to the point where all of her teachers noticed and start pushing for Cyan to get an IEP in order for her to be successful in high school, because there's no way Cyan would be able to graduate high school on the current path she's getting.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Cyan's parents' blog posts portray her as an eye-rolling teenager who thinks her parents are "soooo laaaaaame." Justified, since they're trying to make her look as neurotypical as possible.
    Cyan: I have never said laaaaaaame in my entire life.
  • Broken Pedestal: Discussed by Cyan and Renate, when the former isn't sure if she should seek out Amy out of fear that she may be a jerk. Ultimately averted when Amy is shown to be just as friendly in real life as she is on stage, and she appreciates Cyan recognizing her.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Amy reveals that this is one of the reasons why she left the music industry; she developed severe asthma, and because everyone smoked in the 1906s and doing it inside public places was considered acceptable, it became difficult for Amy to perform publicly.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Cyan and her mother are at a tea shop in town, the former mentions that the latter got their house in her Aunt's inheritance. When Belinda has her Heel Realization and finally stands up to her husband, which culminates in their divorce and Belinda taking full custody of their daughter, she gets to keep the house because she's the one who inherited it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Shaina Dill is a minor character, but she's mentioned to be one of the only people in school who was nice to Cyan before Renate shows up. When Cyan runs away with the help of Renate and Eroica, they contact Shaina so they can let a trusted person know they're okay and have her give them updates on Cyan's parents.
  • Classical Music Is Cool: Eroica loves classical music so much, she renamed herself after a Beethoven symphony.
  • Control Freak: Cyan's father in a nutshell. He believes that all of his daughters are destined to be doctors and go to Caltech, and thinks being interested in anything else will automatically result in a life of poverty. While Annabeth has sucessfully done this, it's not enough for him. He refuses to let Tam go to RISD and doesn't approve of her artistry, even though she's interested in the industrial design program which can still make a lot of money. This leads to Tam applying to it behind his back. The worst is with Cyan, as he constantly cracks down on her, doling punishment after punishment on her for wanting to be a drummer and constantly denying that she's autistic, which culminates into Cyan running away to Portland when he tries to pull her out of school and cut her off from her friends in order to have 24/7 surveillance on her. Even Cyan's mother has had enough of it near the end.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Cyan's parents promote and force her to eat the quack Good Brain Diet in order to "force" her autism "into remission", which consists of bits of animals most people wouldn't be caught dead eating (animal brains, animal eyes, animal organs, animal skins, even chicken toenails) and unripe fruits. It’s clear that the diet is a way for the parents to force their control over Cyan. Cyan buying some hot chocolate at a Safeway is the first sign that she is rebelling against her parents' control.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Averted with Eroica's mom, who was physically and emotionally abusive to her, so Eroica doesn't miss her one bit. Eroica's father, on the other hand, is a loving and caring parent.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: When Belinda finally gains the courage to stand up to her husband's abuse after Cyan runs away, she kicks him out of their house and takes full custody of Cyan as part of the divorce. This is justified because she was the one who inherited the house from her aunt and because Daniel getting cut off from Cyan will mean he can never hurt her again.
  • Dumb Struck: Cyan becomes so stressed out that she loses the ability to speak for several weeks.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Cyan finally gets to meet the real Amy Zander at the Portland drum store she now owns. She turns out to be just as friendly as Cyan imagined she was, and they do a drum duet together. This causes Spectral Amy to disappear because Cyan doesn’t need her anymore. Cyan’s mother has a Heel Realization and finally stands up to her controlling husband, which culminates in them divorcing. Belinda promises that she’ll clear the charges against Mr. Shusburg to the best of her ability. Belinda, Cyan, and Eroica decide to work together to write a statement outing the Good Brain Diet as a scam, expose Daniel’s abuse (which would guarantee him losing full custody of Cyan and her sisters in the upcoming court case) and end the “autism remission” claims. This would shut down the industry for good. Furthermore, Cyan is allowed to legally change her name, pursue her drumming interests, and can finally get an autism diagnosis and an IEP, which would help her improve her grades and stay focused. The best part is, the whole family can now eat anything they want, so Cyan decides to learn how to cook to make it up to her mom and sisters for running away.
  • Emancipated Child: One of the first songs Cyan writes is called "Emancipated Minor." She would have officially emancipated herself after running away if her mom didn't have her Heel Realization.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: Cynthia Butt, of course, which is one of the reasons why she wants to change it to Cyan Beaut. and her friend Renate Silverdick.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Cyan's father wants all three of his daughters to become doctors, but Annabeth is the only one who is willing to do this. When Cyan brings home a bad report card, he confiscates all her music and instruments. In addition, Cyan's older sister Tamarlyn is a talented artist who wants to apply to RISD, but Daniel doesn't want her to go anywhere but Caltech, his Alma Mater, so she applies to RISD behind his back.
  • Financial Abuse: Cyan's parents live off the money they make blogging about the Good Brain Diet. When Cyan begins to rebel, they crack down hard and eventually threaten to have her institutionalized to prevent anyone from finding out she's still autistic, which is what finally convinces Cyan to run away.
  • A Friend in Need: After her parents threaten to institutionalize her, Cyan runs away the next morning on a rental bike and leaves a note for Renate to let her know that she's leaving. Renate catches up in her own rental bike, and has Eroica drive up to the upcoming town so they can bring her back. However, once they learn why she's running away, they immediately decide to help her get to Portland so she can get away from her parents, even admitting it was worth getting grounded to do so.
  • Friendless Background: Cyan had no friends before Mr. Shusburg encouraged her to befriend the new girl, Renate. In turn, Renate introduces her to Eroica.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • While still emotionally abusive, Belinda is shown to be much less strict with Cyan. For example, she gave Cyan her music-writing notebook back after Cyan's father confiscated it, and when she found out Cyan and Renate were writing letters to each other over winter break, Belinda makes sure Daniel doesn't find out about it and never read the letters herself out of respect for Cyan's privacy. She also allowed Cyan to go to Renate's New Year Eve party unsupervised and she took Cyan out on a Girl’s Day Out during Christmas Break. She is also shocked at some of the harsher things Daniel does, such as telling Mr. Shusberg "Fuck you" when he thinks they should get an IEP for Cyan, and considering buying test papers and homework to keep the remission charade up instead of making sure Cyan can actually suceed in school. During the overheard conversation, she also states that she never should have let Daniel talk her into scamming people with the diet. Cyan running away is what finally kickstarted Belinda's Heel Realization and stand up to Cyan's father, and she becomes the parent who admits that her actions were wrong and put forth the effort to reconcile with Cyan and the other people she has hurt.
    • When Cyan tells Renate about the Good Brain Diet, the latter notes that the diet's requirements can cause serious malnutrition, which Cyan says that she takes vitamins to counter those deficiencies. Later on, Mr. Shusburg also questions the lack of nutrition in the Good Brain Diet. Both of them had every right to be concerned, because having to take excess vitamins to fulfill nutritional and mineral requirements is a major warning sign of a diet not being legitimate.
    • When Cyan's parents are talking about the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, they note that Lysistrata, one of the plays that's being performed during the event, is about the women going on strike against their husbands. The day the play is performed, Cyan runs away to escape her parents' abuse. This incident is what prompts Belinda to finally stand up to Daniel, which culminates in their divorce and Belinda kicking Daniel out of both her and Cyan's life.
    • One of the emails Renate gets from Shaina Dill after she and Eroica help Cyan run away mentions that Cyan's parents are yelling at each other while trying to find her. It's very likely that Belinda had her Heel Realization at that point and was finally calling Daniel out on the stuff he did to Cyan.
    • Cyan mentions that her father claims he's extremely allergic to cats. But when he and his wife come to Renate's house, one of Renate's cats is constantly around him, and he doesn't even so much as sniffle. This is one of the early signs proving that Daniel is a liar, and Cyan calls him out for his hypocrisy when he chastises her for lying to him.
    • When Cyan learns from Tam that her parents know that the Good Brain Diet is a fraud, she also learns that Daniel is the one who mostly runs the blog now because Belinda started slacking on her work with maintaining it. Sure enough, it turns out Belinda never was okay with scamming people with the Good Brain Diet or with the Financial Abuse Daniel did to their youngest daughter, but it took Cyan running away for Belinda to finally grow a spine and finally put an end to the abuse her husband was doing.
  • Gaslighting: Cyan's parents do this to make her conform to their rules and make her believe she's "no longer" autistic. Renate even refers to the trope namer when she points it out to Cyan.
  • Good Parents: Eroica mentions that her father is a much better parent than her abusive mother was.
  • Gratuitous Latin: When Cyan becomes severely overwhelmed and falls ill, she loses the ability to speak, but can still sing in Latin.
  • Grew a Spine: Cyan running away not only kickstarted Belinda's Heel Realization, but it also prompts her to gain the courage to finally stand up to her husband and kick him out of both her and Cyan's life.
  • Heel Realization: Cyan's mother eventually has one after Cyan runs away, causing her to divorce her controlling husband, take full custody of Cyan, and try to make amends for the damage she's done.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The Butts' blog is one of the top sellers for the Good Brain Diet. It's heavily implied that when Belinda, Cyan, and Eroica write a statement exposing the diet for the sham that it is, explaining Daniel's abuse to his family, and showing that there's nothing wrong with being autistic, the scam will end due to its top supporter denouncing it.
    • Cyan's parents force her to give up her phone when her grades start to slip. That ultimately bites them in the ass when Cyan runs away because they aren't able to track down her location or call her. It's even lampshaded by Eroica.
    • Cyan accidentally left out the alt-weekly ad for the drum circle on her desk at home. Tam eventually finds it when looking for clues after Cyan runs away, which is how she and post-Heel Realization Belinda managed to find Cyan. It's a softer example because Belinda has realized how badly she's been screwing up and wanted to find Cyan so she could apologize to her.
  • Hollywood Autism: Cyan's parents believe in this trope. They think Cyan can't still be autistic because she displays musical talent and a sense of humor. Cyan herself averts this trope hard, though. Eroica, who is also autistic, also averts it by having a weekend job and being a lesbian.
  • Homeschooled Kids: Attempted, then defied. Near the climax, Daniel decides to pull Cyan out of school and homeschool her in a blatant attempt to completely dominate her life. Between Cyan running away the next day, Belinda finally standing up to Daniel, and Daniel being forced out of his family's life, it doesn't work.
  • Hypocrite: Daniel always gets upset about even perceived lying, yet he's made a living with scamming families with the Good Brain Diet fraud. He also believes Renate is a bad influence on Cyan, even though he's the one who's a bad influence on his whole family, especially his wife.
  • Imaginary Friend: Cyan imagines a spectral version of Amy Zander following her around and talking to her. Spectral Amy disappears at the end because Cyan doesn't need her anymore.
  • Jaw Drop: Cyan, Renate, and Eroica do this when Belinda reveals that she finally has had enough of Daniel's abusive Control Freak attitude, so she divorced him and kicked him out of the house she inherited.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Everything Daniel has done to Cyan comes to bite him in the ass once Cyan runs away. Not only does Belinda finally had enough of Daniel’s abuse on Cyan, she forcibly divorces him and kicks him out of the house so he’ll never hurt her daughter again. Also with the Good Brain Diet being exposed as a scam to the public, it’ll mean Daniel will now be known as an abusive liar who nobody will listen to ever again.
  • Meaningful Name: Cyan's father, Daniel Butt, is a pretty big asshole.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • From Cindy Butt to Cyan Beaut, as part of the process of discovering her identity and breaking away from her parents' control. Her mother promises to allow her to legally change it at the end of the story.
    • Also, Eroica Witt, formerly known as Erica. She added the "O" to her first name as a tribute to Beethoven‘s third symphony.
  • Missing Mom: Eroica's mother died when she was young. However, Eroica doesn't miss her because she was a physically abusive parent.
  • Moustache de Plume: Male example. Cyan's father writes blog posts under his wife's name.
  • Never My Fault: Other than being a lying hypocrite and a major Control Freak, this is the defining trait of Cyan's father. Tam reveals to Cyan that he actually lost his IT job because he messed up some code and blamed someone else for it instead of admitting he screwed up, not because he was laid off by younger competitors as he had claimed.
    Tam: Everything is someone else's fault, never his.
  • Nice Hat: Eroica wears a purple crochet cat-ear hat all the time.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • At first, Cyan's father seems like he genuinely believes that the Good Brain Diet is helping Cyan. He even points out that autistic people are less likely to be hired for jobs. However, as the story goes on, especially after it's revealed that Cyan's parents know that the Good Brain Diet is a total quack, it becomes clear that Cyan's father doesn't want Cyan officially diagnosed with autism because he wants complete control of Cyan's life.
    Cyan's father: This is our income stream. It’s all we have. If we lose this, we lose everything. We become homeless. All of us. There are no jobs here. There’s fierce competition for even retail jobs in every city in the state. They’re not going to hire us.
    Cyan: So you admit that this is all about you being unemployable.
    • Another example is how Cyan's father insists that his daughters become doctors because he believes it's the only guaranteed way to make a living in the 2010s economy because of other jobs are being shipped overseas and/or being lost to younger competitors. While those are genuine concerns, the fact that Cyan's father actually lost his IT job because he screwed up some code and tried to blame someone else for his mistake and won't consider that there are other ways to make a decent living note  demonstrates that forcing his daughters to become doctors is just another way he enforces his control over his family. This point is also well demonstrated by the fact that he insists they attend Caltech (his Alma Mater) for their undergrad despite there being other good colleges that can help one get into medical school and the fact there's no guarantee they can get into such a prestigious college even with having a relative of theirs attend in the past.
  • Offscreen Karma: Belinda, Cyan, and Eroica decided to expose the truth about the Good Brain Diet at the end of the story as well as Daniel's abuse to Cyan. This will permanently discredit Daniel, Dr. Nansi, and everybody else involved with the scam, and they would be charged with fraud and faced with several lawsuits. Belinda even acknowledges that she will also have to face legal proceedings even though she was one of the people who helped expose it because she still helped with the fraud in the first place. However, since the story ends after Belinda and Cyan reconcile, we don't see this happen.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Belinda finally stands up to Daniel, forcibly divorces him, and then kicks him out of the house she had inherited so he can never hurt Cyan again. Because the story is told from Cyan's P.O.V., we only learn about what happened after Tam and Belinda find her in Portland.
  • The Other Wiki: Cyan obsessively checks Amy Zander's Wikipedia page, which keeps being deleted for lack of notoriety. She also fantasizes about her own Wikipedia page if she makes it big as a musician.
  • Portland: The story takes place in a small town in Southern Oregon, and Cyan runs away to this city to escape her parents.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • What starts the plot is when Cyan learns from Dr. Ngo, a college-trained school psychologist, is that autism is a developmental disorder, so even though you can learn the social and communication skills to get through life, you can’t be “cured” of it. Cyan’s parents even know that the Good Brain Diet is a fraud.
    • When Cyan starts rebelling against her parents by eating stuff that banned by the Good Brain Diet, it's noted that since she has eaten not-normal food since she was four years old, her body isn't used to the regular food she's eating, so she has to make sure she doesn't eat too much "banned" food or else she'll throw up.
    • Even though Belinda has a Heel Realization at the end and reconciles with Cyan, she acknowledges that she still will face legal trouble and possible lawsuits as she still helped her now ex-husband scam people out of their money.
  • The Runaway: After Cyan's parents threaten to institutionalize her to cover up the fact that she's still autistic, Cyan runs away early the next morning, convinced that if her parents are willing to go that far, they'd be willing to kill her if they thought it could bring them more money. When Tam and post-Heel Realization Belinda find her, Cyan outright states that she was given no choice but to run.
  • Satiating Sandwich: The first meal Cyan has after she runs away is a Subway sandwich with pretty much everything on it.
  • Screaming at Squick: Part of the reason why Cyan knows that she won't be able to become a doctor is that she can't look at gross things without screaming or heaving.
  • Screwed By The Label: In-universe example. For Amy's second album in 1971, the label forced her to record a song she hated. When she couldn't get it right, the label dropped her and got another girl to record it.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: After Cyan runs away, Renate and Eroica go after her because they think she's making a terrible mistake. Once they learn that her parents threatened to institutionalize her, they immediately decide to help Cyan run away so her parents can no longer hurt her, even when they know they'll get punished by their own parents for it.
    Renate: We're supposed to be back in Ashland by noon, and it's almost eleven-thirty now. We're doing some backstage tour meet and greet thingie-whatsis. [The Chaperones] are going to freak if we're gone for the entire day and then miss Lysistrata on top of it. And my parents will ground the crap out of me. And [Portland]'s what, a four and a half-hour drive from here, if we don't hit major traffic?
    Eroica: But otherwise you don't completely hate the idea, do you?
    Renate: Nope.
    Cyan: What, you're not afraid of getting grounded?
    Eroica: For smuggling you into Portland? Oh, I'll totally get grounded for that. Probably won't see my car keys for a month, at least. My dad's not that lenient. But it's still nothing compared to what your parents plan to do to you.
  • Self-Harm: Cyan tried cutting herself when she was stressed out about her grades. Not only did it not work, it hurt like crazy.
  • The Shrink:
    • As Cyan starts losing focus in school and her grades start to slip, she decides to go the school therapist, Dr. Ngo, during his open office hours to figure out what's going on. He's the one who helps her realize that there is no such thing as autism remission, and he becomes a major confidant of hers from then on.
    • Renate is a former bulimic, so she sees an Eating Disorder therapist once a month to prevent relapse.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Cyan wears glasses.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Cyan's parents, Dr. Nansi, and the others who promote the Good Brain Diet to "cure" autism are all this, and Cyan's parents' case, they know that it's a fraud. At the end, Cyan, her mother, and Eroica are planning to write a final blog post exposing the truth about the diet in order to shut down the scam.
  • Starving Artist: The reason why Cyan's father discourages her drumming and songwriting hobbies, and doesn't want Tam to go to RISD for college, is because he believes that being a doctor is the only way to make a living in the current 2010s US economy. However, this belief also demonstrates one of the ways Daniel enforces his control over his family. Not only is he insistent that they attend Caltech, his Alma Mater, despite being other good colleges out there, he goes so far as to confiscate any of Cyan's music and instruments to keep her from practicing her hobby. Also, in Tam's case, she's planning on averting this by majoring in Industrial Design at RISD, which would help her find a very good career off her drawings.
  • Stepford Smiler: Cyan's mother starts to give off this vibe as the book goes on, foreshadowing her eventual Heel Realization.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Cyan's father encourages Tam to spy and snitch on Cyan. It doesn't work because Tam treats Cyan with much more respect than either of their parents do, and because by that point in the story, Tam isn't on good terms with her parents, either.
  • Supreme Chef: After Cyan and Belinda reconcile, Cyan promises to learn how to cook so everybody can start eating normal meals again.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: In-universe example. "Gypsy Love," the song Amy's label forces her to record, sounds so similar to "Gypsy Woman" that Amy is worried about being sued by Curtis Mayfield.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Cyan's father falsely accuses Mr. Shunsberg of this in order for the school to back off on getting Cyan the help that she needed. Cyan and Belinda plan to reveal the truth at the end.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Cyan's father believes Renate is this because Renate is encouraging Cyan to stand up to him. In reality, he's a toxic influence in his wife, and she ultimately becomes a better person once she finally stands up to him and divorces him.
  • True Companions: Eroica and Renate prove to be the best people in Cyan's life, and things only get better for Cyan when she gets more involved with them.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Eroica Witt is an autistic lesbian.
  • Useless Bystander Parent: What Belinda is ultimately proven to be before her Heel Realization. She hated scamming people with the Good Brain Diet and hated the actual diet itself, and she wanted to end the blog after the first year. However, Daniel kept scaring her into thinking that the scam was the only way for them to make money. It wasn't until Cyan finally ran away after Daniel's threat to lock her up in an institution that Belinda finally Grew a Spine and stood up to Daniel and kicked him out of her and Cyan's life so he could never hurt her again.
    " This isn't what I wanted. I let him scare me into doing all those things to you. To be honest with you, I hate that damn diet as much as you do. And after the first year of doing that blog, I was ready to pack it in, but I didn't stand up to him. That's on me."
  • Wham Line: Two in a row at the end, demonstrating Belinda had her Heel Realization over how she had treated Cyan after she ran away.
    • When Belinda and Tam find Cyan in Portland, Cyan tells her mom that she will only return home if Belinda promises her to do a few things; allow Cyan to legally change her name to "Cyan Beaut", get her an autism diagnosis and an IEP, take her off the Good Brain Diet and admit it's a sham, give her her music stuff back and set up a soundproof practice space for her drums, allow Cyan to hang out with her friends without being under scrutiny, and confess to the school board that Belinda and Daniel lied about whatever they told them to get Mr. Shunsberg suspended. Her mom's response?
      Belinda: The first five things are no problem.
    • Then when Cyan asks what her dad would say about this;
      Belinda: Nothing, which is why I can't make you any promises about your number six. I will back you up on anything you have to say, but I can't make your dad do anything. Especially since he won't be living with us anymore.
  • Women Are Wiser:
    • While both of Cyan's parents are jerks, her mother is definitely the kinder one. She's also the parent who makes an effort to reconcile with Cyan when she finds her in Portland and admitting everything she did to her was wrong, while her husband continues to insist he's done nothing wrong.
    • Inverted with Eroica's parents, whose mother abused her back when she was alive and her father is loving and supportive with her.

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