Vicious Little Darlings

Katherine Easer, May 2011. Psychotic besties – one of my favorite types of conflict!  In this rather melodramatic psychological thriller, Sarah starts her freshman year at Wetherly College and discovers that her beautiful roommate Maddy is obsessed with death.  Maddy’s best friend Agnes is obsessed with, well, Maddy, in creepy and manipulative ways that Agnes gets away with for reasons Sarah can’t understand.  Soon the three girls have moved off-campus, where their isolation from anyone besides each other deepens the weird behavior Sarah sees.  She knows Maddy and Agnes are lying to her, but she has secrets of her own that she wants to keep buried, so she gets in deeper and deeper.  The end is tragic in a sort of operatic way.  There’s not much substance here, but it’s totally fun and a page-turner.

The gay part is that Agnes seems to have a crush on Maddy, although she denies it, but…well, it’s layered, like everything about these characters’ relationships.  You’ll see.

This entry was posted in 2011, asexual, bisexual, college, Katherine Easton, lesbian, secondary queer character. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Vicious Little Darlings

  1. An Asexual says:

    You tagged this review with “asexual”, but this book actually contains harmful stereotypes about asexuals and it seems that the author is trying to say that asexuals don’t exist. The character who identifies as asexual in the book is said to just be “repressed.” This is one of the most common attacks experienced by asexual people, and is usually not true.

    Most asexuals have gone through a long journey of self discovery and exploring identity before coming to identify as asexual. Nobody would choose to identify as an orientation that is so unknown and so unlikely to be taken seriously without being sure that it fit them. Many asexuals try out sexual activities and some even have had hormone tests done (only to discover that their levels are normal), as society tells people there is something wrong with them if they never experience sexual attraction, before taking on asexual as an identity (though neither of these things should be seen as necessary for someone to know they are asexual, just as a gay person doesn’t need to have straight sex to no positive effect to know they are gay.)

    The “asexual” character in this book is also portrayed as mentally unstable and an all-around negative character. She is portrayed as lying about being asexual (common stereotype) and actually being repressed (stereotype), which is a direct denial of asexual identities on the part of the author.

    When there are almost no asexual characters anywhere in fiction or the entertainment industry (or they are portrayed as lying, medically or mentally ill, or are full of stereotypes), such that I only have ever seen one actual asexual character in all of YA fiction (a side character in Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey… and OH have I looked for them), this book was like a slap in the face rather than anything positive.

    At this rate I’ll just have to write my own positive asexual character. I’ll give you three guesses as to whether any literary agent would pick it up, even if it was well written. *pause for effect* In a world where people in the entertainment industry either don’t know what asexuality is, say it is too boring for anyone to want to see onscreen (Steven Moffat on asexuality – look it up), or when asexuals are portrayed as lying or have something wrong with them (see the recent episode of House), and when asexuals on the internet who just want to say that they exist are harassed or told to shut up because nobody cares about them (believe me, I’ve seen a lot of this, just look up SwankIvy’s videos on Youtube), I’m beginning to lose hope.

  2. Daisy says:

    Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you want me to remove the “asexual” category from this book because the character in question is treated negatively by other characters in the book. In fact this happens quite a bit in queer YA fiction to characters anywhere on the queer spectrum; homophobia and transphobia are quite common in fiction just as they are in real life. So the way that a queer character is treated by other characters, or indeed by the author, doesn’t have any bearing on my categories; I’m just noting that the book has an asexual (or trans, or lesbian, etc.) character.

    As for other books about asexuals, the only one I can think of offhand is My Invented Life. The character in question calls herself “no-sexual,” which is interesting; seems like she’s never heard the term “asexual” since she doesn’t reject it.

  3. An Asexual says:

    It’s not just that the character is treated badly. The character is vilified with lots of harmful stereotypes. And the fact is, they are not actually asexual according to the author. The author’s denial of asexuality as a valid identity is entirely negative. Including it here is similar to including a book with a character who says they are bisexual and are portrayed with harmful stereotypes about bisexuality before being revealed to be straight in a way that denies bisexuality as a valid identity. Or including a conservative Christian book with a gay stereotype (such as that they are trying to recruit straight people to a “sinful” lifestyle) who decides that he is actually straight and that being gay is a choice and sinful and not a valid identity. Including such a book just because there is a gay character is counter-intuitive.

    I take that you are writing these reviews so lgbtq+ teens can find books about other people like themselves and issues that are close to them. However, just as a gay teen would be horrified to read a book like the one I described if it were included just because there is a gay character, no asexual teen is going to find anything positive about reading this book. Such things can even be seriously triggering of panic attacks, depression, and worse. And if other teens read this book and it is their first introduction to asexuality, it will propagate stereotypes (such as that asexuals are all lying or repressed or mentally ill, all included in this book) that can cause HARM and harassment (yes, I have seen this) to actual asexual teens.

    Sorry if this sounds confrontational, but there is a difference between a character who undergoes struggles for their sexual orientation in a manner that ultimately affirms their identity (the actions of those who harass them are portrayed as negative) and a character who is included solely to attack the validity of a sexual orientation and say that it doesn’t exist or that people who claim it are sick, lying or confused.

  4. Daisy says:

    I hear you. And yes, I would tag a book as having a gay character even if the book were merely a religious fable like you say above. I agree with you that there is a difference between these characters; it’s simply that my category system doesn’t recognize that difference. I try to illustrate problems like the one you mentioned in the body of my review. In this case, asexuality was a very small part of the book, and it didn’t make it into the review text.

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