Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 18

Right, so, Aleksei invites Pavel, Kimber, Helmut, and Trocar to share in Gillian’s trauma help Gillian get over her trauma in five minutes. I just have to point out that Pavel, Kimber, and Trocar were also there and may also be traumatized by the event, but whatever, let’s not care about the effects of plot events on anyone but Gillian.

There’s a couple of paragraphs about what’s going on in the larger world. omg you guys, did you know that there’s still a war going on and other things are happening that don’t involve Gillian??

There was starting to be some pressure on all law enforcement, mental health professionals and even mercenaries to form a cooperative to share information and start second-guessing the attacks.
….

Another article announced that a few televangelists of varying denominations were reiterating their objections to legalizing the Paramortal community in general.

Tossing out the “ugh, these crazies are crazy” thing is cheap. Yeah, televangelists are bullshitters who object to everything, so it’s easy to discredit them. But you know, they’re right to be mad. I’m shocked all humans aren’t pitchforks-and-torches irate with Aleksei et. al at this point for doing fuck-all. I really don’t know how much time has passed since the beginning of this war because spacetime is warped in these books, but other than passing mentions of poking around and that treaty that’s only been mentioned two or three times, the alleged majordomo of Eastern Europe has been content to sit around with his thumb up his ass, and apparently so has everyone else.  It brings to mind FEMA’s response (or lack thereof) to Hurricane Katrina, among other things. And these are supposed to be the good guys!

Aleksei comes to find her and we get a description of what literally everyone is wearing that lasts a whole page. This shit reminds me of what every English 101 student ever has done to pad their essay to meet length requirements: just add unnecessary meaningless details! They invite Perrin along for the ride because he needs socialization. Is this a fucking party, or is Gillian about to face a traumatic event? All my faint hope that the coming scene will pack any emotional punch has faded.

Everyone is a goddamn therapist now, peppering Gillian with questions and telling her how to relive her time with Jack. Kimber, quite reasonably, tells them to back off and let her deal with her shit, but Trocar–dammit, Trocar!–ignores her and keeps pushing. Internal dialogue from Gillian:

For the first time that she could remember, she’d acted solely by relying on others to come and save the day. That wasn’t like her.

this bitch can't be serious

Okay, well, maybe this is the first time she relied on others to save the day. I’ll credit her for that. The rest of the dozen times other people have saved her it’s because the plot said so.

She also claims Jack didn’t unnerve her. I was about to quote about half of the scene with Jack, but Trocar–thanks, Trocar!–says, “Of course, Petal, keep talking and you will convince yourself eventually.” Trocar’s role as the friend who consistently calls Gillian on her bullshit is one of those things that show me that the author does have some narrative skill, which makes the rest of the awful even more disappointing.

But then…dammit, Trocar. He keeps at it and starts outright taunting her. He toed the line with his snark already, but this is shameful. He wants her to remember that

her strength lay in her ability to use her anger productively, just as she had the night with Jack, to make judgment calls of her own accord, stand by them. Not feeling as though she had to make excuses for her actions. They owed her respect, not their mollycoddling.

You owe her some sensitivity at least, you cock. I’ll remind the reader that Jack masturbated in front of her and (I honestly didn’t catch this before) threatened to stick his knife in her vagina. Laws in the US vary about indecent exposure and sexual threats, but they’re all crimes because they’re all sexual assault. She was sexually assaulted. AGAIN. And now she’s reliving it, and the reader is being told that the way to handle this is to taunt her. Trocar is standing in for Tanis as Rape Culture Vulture in this scene and now I hate him.

What the actual fuck made Gryphon decide to handle Gillian’s trauma this way? Yes, there’s a difference between how the author would handle something and how the characters would, but this is just fucking stupid. This shit shouldn’t work. No real person says, “Thanks for being an asshole to me while I’m reliving my sexual assault, I’m all better now.”

a paper that's been marked with red pen and text saying "this is wrong! all wrong!" red pen massacre

…and now Kimber and Pavel ditch the group because Gillian is “wound up.” Doesn’t she just have the mostest excellent friends?

Gillian was wound up all right. Something cracked inside her. She was tired of having to defend her actions and choices in that situation. She was tired of thinking of Jack and how much he had bothered her. She was just plain tired and wanted everyone to leave her alone.

I CAN’T FUCKING BLAME HER. But are they going to leave her alone? Of course not.

Yet…somehow the tension in the scene just bleeds out for no reason, and everything is gravy. I need to stop thinking that surely, SURELY, this time we’ll see some Real Shit.

Gillian is over her trauma. “She would never be victimized in thought or in dreams by Jack the Ripper again.”

that's not how this works. that's not how any of this works.

Coping after a traumatic event

It takes time – weeks or months – to accept what has happened and to learn to live with it.

Everyone has a different timeline for dealing with trauma. Maybe Gillian isn’t one of those people for whom trauma results in long-term post-traumatic stress. But NO ONE can flip a switch from being filled with shame and guilt to totally over it.

denial: it's not just a river in Egypt

The “totally over it” trope in novels, especially SFF novels, pisses me right off. You don’t get to put your characters through some shit and then skip right past the hard emotional parts just because you don’t feel like dealing with them. Especially in a book about a fucking therapist!

Her “friends” spend about four pages telling her how awesome she is and how proud of her they are. For once I appreciate the affirmations, since that’s what she actually needs right now. Since she’s So Totally Over It, they all head to the bar to drink and tell stories and shit. Perrin realizes he has friends and it’s all butterflies and rainbows.

At the end of the night, Aleksei tells her to go fuck Perrin because he’s leaving soon, and Helmut jumps in to agree. Aleksei is very therapist-y about his reasoning despite Helmut actually being the therapist, because characters are assigned dialogue based on convenience rather than actual characterization. I’m fine with this, I guess. It shows Aleksei’s trust and lack of jealousy for Perrin. Again, though, this is a scene that should be at the end of the book rather than 76% in.

Gillian and Perrin go on a walk and discuss how well his therapy has gone and how he’ll be ready for “fun, friends, maybe dating . . . a few drinks, music, singing. All the things you enjoy and have become adept with, in an actual multibeing, social setting.”Well, we’ve only ever seen him with her until the last scene, but sure. She says she wishes she could have convinced him to take his Phantom of the Opera mask off because it means he’s vulnerable enough to get a girlfriend, basically.

He’s leaving soon, he says, and “There is only one thing left for me to do, one last hurdle. If you say you can take it . . . take me . . . as I truly am . . . I will indeed be a whole man.” Oh my, whatever could this mean?

I forgot they’re in the village, so he takes her to a corner that is “well secreted from the street.”

anatomical diagram of "secreted extracellular vesicles"

He waits until they’re fucking to take his mask off, which is kind of a dick move (pun intended). I mean, we know she’s going to be fine with it, but if you really want someone to accept you for who you are, maybe don’t do it when you’re balls deep in them. Basically, the masked half of his face is made of stone a la gargoyle, but predictably, she’s fine with it. It’s not a completely soulless moment, so I appreciate that.

Huh. I was all prepared to play the Bad Diction game with this sex scene, but it’s brief and surprisingly average as far as word choice goes. The next couple of pages is them talking about him leaving, which is surprisingly sweet. He asks to spend the night with her and she agrees…

…so he picks her up and slaps her ass as they go back inside. Why not. He wants to roleplay: “I think I will be the autocratic music teacher and you may be the young impetuous student.” We don’t get to see that intense awkwardness, thankfully, and the chapter ends.

Takeaways

Is Gryphon really a mental health professional? REALLY? Everything about this is a fucking travesty, and the couple of pages at the end do not come close to making up for the rest. That said, I feel like Perrin and Gillian have a more genuine connection that she and Aleksei do, but because Aleksei got his dick in her first, I guess he’s the one who gets to stay. Awesome.

punching computer monitor

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