Friday, May 22, 2015

Braden's Story by Mason Dodd

Title: Braden's Story
Author: Mason Dodd
Publisher: Amazon
Rating: WORTHY!

Braden is thirteen and being hit with the growing realization that he's gay. His family, highly religious and very fundamentalist, isn't going to like this one bit. This story details how Braden comes to terms with his true nature and his feelings, and how he copes or fails to do so, with the reactions of others. I started out liking the story, but quickly grew tired of the writing style and the endless grammatical and spelling errors, some of which I list on my blog. No matter how much I might want to support books like this one, I cannot in good faith recommend this particular story.

The errors, in what is a story badly in need of an editor, were numerous. In addition, there were other issues, such as the fact that these are very religious folk, yet the language the younger ones employ seems highly unlikely at best, and their disrespect for adults isn't believable given their background. Just be warned that if you're tempted to pick this up thinking it's a religious or spiritual book, it's really not!

Some of these problems with this book could have been caught with a good spell-checker while others, such as the use of 'alter' in place of 'altar', and 'apart' in place of 'a part', can only be caught by a good editor or better beta readers.

"...But is there someone your are interested in, or...?
"...felt that I was apart of something important" should be "...felt that I was a part of something important"
"... wedding alter..." should be "... wedding altar..." or preferably just "altar".
"... get those handless stuck on..." should be "... get those handles stuck on..."
"But is there someone your are interested in, or." Should be " But is there someone you are interested in, or.". I didn't get the hanging 'or' at the end, but after reading this form of speech used frequently, I decided that this was simply a figure of speech.
"Okay, you weren't listing in Mr. Miller's class at all." should be "Okay, you weren't listening in Mr. Miller's class at all."
" discuss the situation with Tom and is acceptance of gays..."
"...Mum was cooking in the kitchen when I got home..." Unintentionally humorous - Braden's family are cannibals - and incestuous ones, too!
" does that fit inline with..." should be " does that fit in line with..." (the lack of a space in "inline" changes the meaning)

Here's one example of the inconsistent use of bad language:

His goddamn smile, it was so cute and had this effect on me. I know, I know, it was only a goshdang smile...

This was a thought expressed by the narrator, who has been raised in a highly religious family, so it's hardly likely he would say "goddamn" and just plain weird that he says that and immediately follows it with "goshdang" so it didn't sound authentic to me at all. I know that even religious people cuss, and this isn't confined to adults, but the language felt unnatural for the context, and it was way overdone, as though the author was using it purely for its shock value rather than because it was the natural argot of these characters.

I don't care if people cuss in stories, because they cuss in real life, so in general terms it's inauthentic not to have them use bad language from time to time, but it needs to be authentic to the situation in which it's used, or to the people into whose mouths these words are placed.

There really are people who come down hard on gays and gay marriage, acting under the religious delusion that being gay is a sinful choice which calls for a cure. They're morons. Throughout history, human attempts at "curing" nature have been consistently disastrous, and this one will be too. People who delight in having anal sex with their wife or girlfriend irrationally think there is something wrong with two guys enjoying the same thing with each other. People who preach 'love thy neighbor' out of one side of their mouth have no problem stirring up resentment and hatred against people who only want to be allowed to love and marry one another. It's not only hypocritical, it's sick.

The problem for the big three monotheistic religions in accommodating this however, lies in the ignorant words of old men who specifically prohibited homosexual relations in the Old (men) Testament - only between men, however! The OT has nothing to say about lesbianism! People mistakenly think that Queen Victoria did not believe that lesbianism existed, which is why it never was made illegal in England, but this belief is a myth. It was never mentioned in Victorian statutes for the same reason it was never mentioned in the OT. Old white men couldn't have cared tuppence about women's sexuality. It wasn't even considered that they had any. Only male homosexuality threatened these geezers, and why on Earth would women be attracted to each other when there were so many manly men around?!

So the problem for those who adhere to these religions is that the Bible does expressly prohibit it. This means they either have to dispense with the blind edicts of ignorant old men, or they have to dispense with homosexuals, and they're far too cowardly and insecure to do the former, so it's gays who suffer.

Some of the other things which these young teens were depicted as saying were bizarre too. At one point for example, Mia, who is Braden's best friend, says to him "Gimme a break, Bray Bray" which sounded so babyish that it brought me right out of suspension of disbelief. These teens are also using bad language in church when they're sitting close-by grown-ups, which struck me as stupid and unrealistic.

I didn't have a problem with the religious people cussing, but for kids to use such bad language within earshot of their parents and family friends struck me as very unrealistic and spoke poorly of the kids' judgment. This was a bad impression to give because it fuels an argument that Braden's sexuality was also an example of poor judgment rather than his nature, which is nonsensical, but it's a serious mistake to write in a way which puts ammunition into the hands of your detractors, even if that ammo is a pile of duds.

There was a lot of texting described, too which felt way overdone to me. Invariably, depicting texts fails in YA stories. It seems like the writer is trying far too hard to be hip and 'authentically teen', and it just makes me want to skip it, especially since the bulk of it really conveys nothing of value and does little to move the story. A simple brief sentence describing the text is far more effective than a whole paragraph of text-onics.

There was a certain naiveté to this story. It felt a bit like reading fan fiction, or reading a first draft by a young author, and usually this will turn me off a story. In the case, the simplistic tone actually tended to lend it some authenticity. First person PoV stories are usually appallingly unrealistic. I am not remotely a first person fan. Far from rendering the story more immediate and accessible, it typically makes it seem irritatingly false and self-centered to me. This one wasn't, but the value of this was lost amidst all the other issues.

The novel was pretty much completely lacking in any really descriptive prose. It was mostly about movement between one place and another, and the conversations which took place between the teens - chats which were in serious danger of losing the reader because very few of the speeches were ascribed to a specific speaker. It was mostly a list of spoken text with insufficient attribution to give the reader a decent idea of who was saying what. There was almost nothing to set atmosphere or to describe the surroundings, not even sketchily. It made the story seem rootless in many ways, like it wasn't actually happening in real life but in some ghostly existence divorced from the real world, which is also a mistake for a novel of this type, which really begs to be solidly grounded in reality.

In the final analysis, I can't recommend this, but if you happen to like it, there is a companion novel titled Aaron's story. I can't say if these two are tied together in any way.

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