So a couple of weeks ago, I posted my review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer , her take on the origin story of the Queen of Hearts from Alic...

So a couple of weeks ago, I posted my review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer, her take on the origin story of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. If you haven’t read it, basically, it’s an incredible story… but the whole time, there’s that ending, lurking eerily in the back of your mind, until it swoops down, chews out your heart, and spits it back out in your face (this is the real reason the book is called Heartless, btw. Because you end without one). As I said in my original review, the whole story got me thinking about the nature of choices: whose fault is it when everything goes awry like this? When a villain has a “sad backstory,” or even just a reason, for the things that they do, does that mean that their fall is someone else’s fault? Are they actually a villain or are they, as one quote claims, “simply a victim whose story has not yet been told?”
Original pics: Loki, Anakin
Note: some spoilers below for Heartless, Harry Potter, Flash, various Marvel films, Avatar, and Star Wars.
Cath begins her novel a romantically realistic girl, dreaming of one day owning her own bakery, working to make that ambition reality. She doesn’t begin the story insane and evil; she’s innocent, kind, and with such empathy that the thought of killing an animal for soup makes her ill. She just doesn’t have villainy in her… yet. But, as we all know, she eventually goes from this sweet girl to the infamous Queen of Hearts, brandishing a live flamingo and screaming bloody decapitation. So how does a character go from one to the other?
In a word: choices. Everyone in the novel, Cath included, makes choices, and these choices add up to the climax, where Cath is faced with an impossible choice between two of the people she loves most. In this moment, she makes the only decision one can really expect of her, which leads her down a path towards other choices, and the results just grow worse and worse. In the end, her decisions and those of other characters tally up, and she arrives at her destination: the ironically heartless Queen of Hearts. The really interesting thing is that the turning points are crystal clear: you cannot miss the moments when someone, whether Cath or another character, could’ve easily made a different choice and everyone would’ve gotten their happy ending. But there was a result that had to be reached, and so the necessary decisions were decided and the end came about as it had to for Heartless to actually be the origin story of a villain.
Choices. That’s how all of this came about. Simple choices.
The problem with choices is that when one person makes a choice in a situation like this, it will either limit the options of others or expand them. In the case of Heartless (and Star Wars and Thor and every other villain with a “sad backstory”), the choices other people make limit the ones that the future villain can make, pushing them to a point where it’s difficult for them to see any other options.
In Star Wars, Anakin is surrounded by individuals who should help him but hurt him instead. From the Council’s, at the time, unwarranted distrust to his own father figure requesting him to commit treason; from the increasing pressures of the war he’d been tossed into at age 19 to the political intrigue that, as revealed in the Revenge of the Sith novel, had his own wife keeping secrets from him, Anakin is thrust by those around him into a situation of compacted pressures, underhanded scheming, and agonizing dishonesty. This is a character who needs people and their trust and acceptance; throughout this movie, it is slowly and systematically stolen from him. And I haven’t even started on his childhood as a slave, the traumatic death of his mother, his nightmares about his wife’s death—and the fact that he cannot see what will happen to their unborn child.
Anakin is—justifiably—a mess.
In the midst of all this, he attempts to turn to the Jedi; the first thing he does is seek out Yoda’s assistance in how to keep a vision of someone’s death from coming true. However, the Grand Master tells him to rejoice for those who transform into the Force, to be happy when the people he loves die. As a Jedi, he is not even allowed to mourn or miss them, but to simply allow their lives to slip through his fingers. He cannot explain why he must save those in this vision, because the very individuals who have asked him to commit treason on their behalf would expel him from their Order and shatter his reputation if they discovered he had married. He is made to believe that there is no one he can turn to for help, and so, in a moment of panic and pain, he chooses the one that makes the most sense in the haze all around him: the Dark Lord of the Sith, who promises a way to ensure the life of his wife.
Choices. Those around him chose not to trust him; he could feel it. When he reached out for help, they placated him with platitudes that could never work for someone like him. They ignored his inhibitions, chalking them up to arrogance instead of emotional agony; they left him to drown, assuming he’d find a way to handle it all. And so, when he felt he had nothing left, he made the choice to trust Sidious instead, which led him down a path of awful choice after awful choice until he became the very thing he set out to destroy.
In Thor, we see Loki. A trickster, a teenager (by some Pinterest determinations ๐Ÿ˜‰), who struggles with feelings of inferiority and craves the esteem his brother undeservingly receives. The story commences with Loki’s own actions: he unknowingly makes choices that will cause Thor and others to make choices that will one, cause Loki to discover his true heritage, and two, leave him feeling alone as he wrestles with its implications. Prior to all this, his father made choices to one, take a baby from the enemy so he could later use him politically, two, hide the truth from said baby, and three, paint the Jotuns—said baby’s own people—as soulless devils, the “monsters parents tell their children about at night.” This line reveals a cultural hatred for the Jotuns, and these choices cause Loki to be terrified of himself; the desperation that had been quiet roars into view. This is the reason Thor received the crown, this is the reason Loki is always passed over. Because he is Jotun. He must prove that he is not at any cost. He must demonstrate to his father that he too is worthy in spite of his background. And so, Loki makes choices that set him on a path to becoming one of the best and worst villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Choices. Those around him did not directly address his disappointment, they allowed small slights to go unseen for approximately a thousand years; they let him believe his entire life that he was born to be king, only to put Thor on the throne when he clearly would have (and nearly did) ruin Asgard in a day. Loki snaps, determined to obtain what he believes he deserves and prove to his father that he is a worthy son. He did not want the throne, only to be Thor’s equal, but in the end, he receives neither. The result of these choices is defeat, brokenness, and exile.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, we see Zuko a young boy who loses his mother, is emotionally abused by his sister, verbally and physically abused by his father, and eventually, banished for the all-so-horrible act of loyalty to his country’s soldiers. After years of this mistreatment, Zuko is certain his family hates him, and so he is determined to do whatever it takes to regain their, in particular his father’s, love.
In all of these cases (and others), the victims experienced something traumatizing, often at the hand of another, often one who should’ve taken care of them. The traumatic event is piled on top of years of smaller issues, and they just snap, willing to do whatever it takes to escape the hurt, fear, and anger, to find love, inner peace, or acceptance. In the course of their quests, they somehow get sidetracked and become a person they never actually intended to be
These poor victims become villains, and it is all due to the choices of those around them. Sad, right?
Well... yes and no. Actually, mostly no.
Because right alongside these “victims,” you have Harry Potter, who was orphaned at one, forced to live inside a cupboard for years, surrounded from the beginning by adults who should’ve protected him but instead did everything from abusing and neglecting him to using him as a sacrificial lamb for their own “greater good.” He was physically and emotionally wounded in almost every book, endured the disdain and ridicule of the entire wizarding world for years, and continually lost friends and loved ones to this great and powerful Dark Lord that he magically had to find a way to defeat. Yet he did a find way to defeat him, yet he is the Boy Who Lived, and he is the hero of the Wizarding World.
You have Steve Rogers, who also lost both parents at a young age, was generally poor, often bullied, and plagued by physical diseases and disorders, from heart palpitations to scarlet fever, in a time when men were supposed to be strong and physically capable. He dies to save the world, only to be awakened decades later to fight yet another war for the same thing he just finished dying to protect the world from. He loses everyone he knew and loved and has to completely reacquaint himself with time and reality. Yet he is Captain America, the Marvel symbol of justice, freedom, and righteousness, an individual who fights daily and self-sacrificially simply because he “doesn’t like bullies” and he wants to help “the little guy.”
You have CW’s Barry Allen, who lost his mother before his eyes, grew up with his father imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, makes mistakes, falls down, gets hurt all the time. He loses friends and family by the season—yet he continues to stand up for Central City every time they need him, and he consistently gives all of himself to help his friends and save his city.
You have Superman, whose planet was destroyed, who grows up a literal alien with powers that make others fear him, who owes the world nothing, yet saves it and saves it and saves it, and stands as a standard and inspiration for all heroes everywhere. You even have Zuko, who, eventually, realizes that his own choices define his worth, and turns from his family’s evil to fight for his world’s good. There’s Batman, Spiderman, Supergirl, Murtagh of the Inheritance Cycle, and a whole host of other heroes who have a sad backstory, and yet choose to save the world anyway.
And that is the difference between Victims as Villains and Victims as Heroes: choices.
Yes, people around them made awful choices that limited the ones they had remaining. Yes, it’s excruciating to see where they could’ve been helped and were hurt or ignored instead. Yes, there are those who could’ve cleared their path and instead threw obstacles in their way. Yes, there’s a deep pain in each of them that others instigated and agitated, instead of helping to alleviate. But, at the end of the day, there was always another choice besides the one that they took: some victims picked the choices that turned them into villains and some victims picked the choices that turned them into victors.
All didn’t have to be lost. But the victims who became villains chose to believe that it was and the victims who became heroes chose to believe that it wasn’t.
Choices. That is why villains are villains.
Because of the choices others made, leading up to the choices they made, when they chose wrong instead of right.
Choices. That is why heroes are heroes.
Because of the choices others made, leading up to the choices they made, when they chose right instead of wrong.
So what do you guys think? What makes a person a hero or a villain? Who are some of your favorites of the two? Can't wait to hear from you, and I'll see you in the comment section!

Creepy and atmospheric, I love the epic rise and fall of this. It is a splendid villain song... which is rather perfect, because that’s w...

Creepy and atmospheric, I love the epic rise and fall of this. It is a splendid villain song... which is rather perfect, because that’s what I’m talking about later this week: Villains, Victims, and Heroes. ;) Stay tuned for that, and hope you all enjoy the music!

So, I worked some extra days the last two weeks and have barely read any blog posts. :p But here are a couple of the ones I did manage to g...

So, I worked some extra days the last two weeks and have barely read any blog posts. :p But here are a couple of the ones I did manage to get to; hope you enjoy them!

Love is a Good Thing by Faith. So ,yes this is an old post, but I was fascinated by the idea of her doing one on each of the Fruits of the Spirit (I came in it the very end of the series, lol), and decided to go back and reread them when I had time. This one is absolutely beautiful.

The Most Important Decision of Your Life by Talya. Another update from my small group leader! This one also contains a really cool opportunity to share your salvation story with people in Romania. Check it out!

This Changes Everything Review by Coye Still. Another awesome review of the wonderful book by Jaquelle Crowe. If you haven’t read it yet (the review and the book), I highly encourage you to check it out. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Thoughtful about... A God Who Loves by Mrs. Roseanna White. A beautiful and necessary message. For those of us who are Christians, and have been for a while, the phrase "God Loves you" can become just something we say without a recognition of what it really means. But no other religion has this: a God who loves, a God who bridges the gap between humans and Himself, a God who says, “It’s not about what you do, but about what I have already done for you.” And that is always something to remember and to celebrate. :)

Well, that’s it for this week! Have any thoughts on love or anything else you’d like to share with me? Can’t wait to hear from you, and I will see you in the comment section!

Link to Goodreads It took me forever to figure out what I wanted to say about this book. For a while, I honestly didn’t know whether ...

It took me forever to figure out what I wanted to say about this book. For a while, I honestly didn’t know whether I loved it or not. I mean, it was good, amazing honestly, gripping and engaging with SO MANY PLOT TWISTS, drawing me in just the right amount to know that, every time real life made me leave, I absolutely needed to return ASAP. I know that even when I disagreed with the characters’ decisions, I felt for them; and in spite of the fact that it was doomed from the start, I still somehow hoped that things would turn out well. In fact, I almost stopped about midway through the book because Cath was so good and she deserved so much more and it hurt to think that she’d turn into the infamous Queen of Hearts sometime before the end. In a way, I did love her and Jest and Mary-Ann and even the King a little bit; the Cheshire Cat was my absolute favorite and the Duke was just awkward enough that I at least had to feel bad for him, if nothing else. I know that the writing was absolute gorgeousness and that Marissa Meyer needs to write a cookbook or something so I can just relish those incredible descriptions of food for forever (because I don't cook).

All of this to say that on all the technical story-telling elements, this book is just sublime. The only reason I’m not sure I love it is because of the way it ended. And obviously, it had to end the way it did in order for it to work as an actual origin story, so I’m not necessarily faulting it. But it just… it hurts, honestly. To know that someone as pure and passionate as Cath, with all the right turns and all the wrong choices, could become someone as selfish and heartless as the Queen of Hearts.

The part that I found the most interesting, though, apart from the heart-wrenching bit, was the thought-provoking questions the book subtly posed. These are kind of spoilery, so you can highlight to read if you want, but if you don’t, let’s just say it really made me think about whose fault it is when situations like this go awry and how a culture of inaction can suppress one’s ability to make certain decisions.

The people of Hearts were prone to looking the other way when something went wrong, to sweeping it under the rug so they could just swing on along with their pretty lives and not have to worry; no one actually knew how to deal with real problems. Because of this, Cath dilly-dallies over her decisions for ages, and then things happen and circumstances change and she’s left with far fewer options than she began with, causing her to have to make decisions that are basically gonna turn out badly either way. So, when she finally does make a decision, she pendulums in the opposite direction and not only acknowledges the problem but also takes... let’s say drastic measures to rectify the wrong done.

Springing off of that, another question arises based on one of the last scenes: whose fault is it that everything went awry? Her mother’s, since she stifled Cath’s every dream and verbally bullied her daughter about her weight? Her father’s, for simply standing by until the very last moment, only to step in in exactly the wrong way? The king, for being too spineless and childish to properly guard a kingdom? The Fates for twisting EVERYTHING such that they received exactly what they needed and no one else came close to what they had originally desired? Does the blame lay squarely with Cath herself? Perhaps the fault is the Hatter’s, simply for being a general jerk throughout the entire book (I honestly don’t remember how I felt about him when I read the original Wonderland tale, but he made me so mad in this one). Or is it a myriad of choices, winding into a myriad of outcomes, at which point Cath plucked out the only one she seemed to be able to choose?

I’ve actually got a few theories, and I’m planning a separate posts based on them, but suffice it to say for now, the book really got me thinking.

Overall, Heartless is a brilliant story and (up to the end) thoroughly enjoyable. It’s occasionally disturbing, but very exciting and brilliantly written, an original take on an older tale.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

So have you read Heartless? What'd you think of it? What's a book you've read that really made you consider how it could apply to real life? Can't wait to hear from you, and I'll see you in the comment section!

So, unexplainably, I went on a nostalgia trip over the weekend: I found a bunch of songs I listened to in my early teens—and I actually sti...

So, unexplainably, I went on a nostalgia trip over the weekend: I found a bunch of songs I listened to in my early teens—and I actually still love them because obviously I had impeccable tastes. ๐Ÿ˜‰This is one of my favorites.

This song is performed from the perspective of a Christian to the Lord, a lovely reminder that He has already done the required work in us: He has already done the work to clean our souls when we’re filthy, to make us whole when we’re shattered. Everything that needs to be done in us, He paid for it on the Cross, and now we just have to accept it and perform the daily task of walking in it. And it is a daily task, but I just love how this song reminds us that in Him, we are strong, we are righteous, we are whole. It’s not about what we can or can’t do, or some extra act we have to perform to make it to this righteous state, it’s about what Jesus has already done: taken our punishment, made us right with God, and thereby, spiritually speaking, made us all we need to be. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Interestingly though, I also love the idea of the chorus being from one character to another, particularly a hero to a secondary character. I have this picture in my head of a hero experiencing a situation that just… shatters him, and he’s just sitting in a room with a loved one, feeling like he can’t fight another second. And as the tears start falling, he leans his head against the loved one’s chest and his plaintive cry becomes, “Tell me again that I’m strong. That I won’t fall. That I can actually beat this.” I’m developing an idea for a scene where this will actually work into one of my stories, and I’m mildly in love with it. :p

So yeah. Nostalgia is fun.

Anyways, what’d you think of the song? Have anything that goes along with it? Can’t wait to hear from you, and I’ll see you in the comment section!

PS: I know I’ve only talked about current events a couple of times on the blog, but Hurricane Irma has also been on my mind this weekend because I’m from Florida. I live in Virginia now, but I still have a lot of friends there and, while most of them have reported that they and their homes are safe, I’d really appreciate it if you keep Florida, the Caribbean islands, and the rest of the affected area in prayer/your thoughts. And, if you can, donate to a known charitable organization. Even a couple of dollars can make a huge difference. ๐Ÿ˜Š

EPIC NEWS: I HAVE ACTUALLY MANAGED TO MANAGE MY TBR. I AM SO PROUD OF ME. Ahem *clears throat* On to the posts! The Voices of YA Ta...


Ahem *clears throat* On to the posts!

The Voices of YA Tag and the Cookie Book Tag by Victoria. Because one, these tags are cool, and two, her advice to other writers is on point. So helpful and encouraging.

When Answers Create More Questions by Keturah. I don’t even have words for this, but it’s absolutely beautiful. The sort of thing that I kinda already knew, but needed someone else to so eloquently put into words.

Why I Follow Your Blog by Shar. Because it’s a really interesting question, a really interesting post, and I love sharing those. Why do you follow blogs?

#Rebellious Writing: Why We Need Better Books by Faith. Very thought-provoking. I love that people are talking about this and taking the time to really think about what’s being put into YA books.

The One About Clyde by Talya. This one is actually by my high school small group leader. She’s on an 11-month missions trip called the World Race, and it's super cool! So proud of her going out and changing the world. ๐Ÿ˜Š

9 Things Regular People Should Never Say to a Bookworm Unless You Have an Extreme Death Wish by May. Because can we ever have enough lists about things to not say to bookworms? No, no, we absolutely cannot.
And that’s it for this week! Tell me, what’s your favorite kind of cookie? What do people say to you as a bookworm that just grates onto your skin? Haha, can’t wait to hear from you, hope you enjoy the posts, and I’ll see you in the comment section!

Happy Labor Day, everyone! So, I had grand plans (well, not grand, but you know, plans ) for POTW last weekend and for this week’s posts......

Happy Labor Day, everyone! So, I had grand plans (well, not grand, but you know, plans) for POTW last weekend and for this week’s posts... but then I got sick. :p So, for now, Happy Labor Day and please enjoy the music I’ve been listening to as I languished over the weekend, lol. I hope to return to my bi-weekly schedule at the end of this week. :)

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