Bird Cages

Photograph #2 by Pelin Guven

 

I’m surrounded but alone

Trapped in a free space

Permitted to roam anywhere within my bars

 

I exist only for aesthetics

My screams for help dismissed as insignificant chirps

I feel so pathetic

 

Looking around, all I see are broken wings and lifeless eyes

Screeching out the same damaged cries

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The Goldfinch

Theodore Decker’s mother was killed in a terrorist bombing in a museum. She was someone Theo always adored, as did most people in Manhattan.

“I loved the sandalwood perfume she wore, rough and unexpected, and I loved the rustle of her starched shirt when she swooped down to kiss me on the forehead. And her laugh was enough to make you want to kick over what you were doing and follow her down the street. Wherever she went, men looked at her out of the corner of their eyes, and sometimes they used to look at her in a way that bothered me a little.” (Tartt, 9)

At this same bombing, a dying man told Theo to steal one of the paintings, The Goldfinch, which remained untouched from the bombing damage. It also happened to be the first painting Theo’s mother fell in love with, which she explained to him almost immediately before the attack.

This painting followed Theodore from the age of 13 to 26. When Theo was able to finally turn the painting in, it was a great signal of character growth. Though a lot happens in The Goldfinch, it’s essentially a coming of age story with action. From the beginning, you can tell that Theo is quite mature and deeply understands many things about life.

“Most people seemed satisfied with the thin decorative glaze and the artful stage lighting that, sometimes, made the bedrock atrocity of the human predicament look somewhat more mysterious or less abhorrent.” (487)

However, he also happens to be quite stoic. He didn’t show an ounce of weakness or emotional vulnerability at school when his mother died, at just 13 years of age.

But inside, Theo has always blamed her death on himself.

That’s why I think he held on to The Goldfinch for so long, even when it served no purpose to him; he was afraid to let go of the fact that his mother really was gone and couldn’t move on with his life. To me, The Goldfinch was a metaphor for Theodore’s troubled past and thoughts clouded with his mother’s death.

I drew both a young and current version of Theo, walking away from The Goldfinch, looking rather happy. I wanted it to symbolize finally redeeming and avenging the lost childhood Theo never had after his mother was killed, and that he was finally going to leave the past behind.

It’s clear that after The Goldfinch was returned, Theo did have a change of character. A great chunk of the last part of the book is full of lengthy reflections and setting wrong things right.

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7 Years; The American Revolution Through a Soldier’s Eyes

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What did the American Revolution Change?

Revolutions happen because they call for change. Whether the people are unhappy with their finances, hospitality, food, or social status, you can expect change after a revolution. If it weren’t for the American Revolution, the United States would still be the property of the United Kingdom. However, there will still be continuity in certain things, as well as change.
Before the revolution, America was governed by the UK, with state governments keeping everything in line. Now that they were free, the United States were left to choose their own form of government, and a monarchy was not what they wanted. This meant that poor, ordinary men from lower classes could rise up and be leaders. People were able to express their political ideas, as the United States gradually became the democratic country it is today. The new leader of the country would be called “Mr. President”, rather than the traditional monarch addresses. This role would be served for a maximum time of 2 terms, 4 years being 1 term, before the president would step down and allow others to run for the position. Britain’s reputation had been brought down greatly, since they, a powerful global force, were defeated by a young nation of immigrants. The colonial loyalists left America in defeat.
Many of the reasons why people immigrated to America in the first place was to have religious freedom, and the revolution definitely granted some. However, it wasn’t ensured until much later.
While there was a lot of change, more stayed the same than probably expected. Everyone still lived British based lifestyles, just without the rule of the British. They drank tea, wore their clothes, built their houses, and used British education. The country was still dominated and led by rich white men. Women still generally had no political power, including the rights to vote, nevertheless take on a role of leadership. Many oppressed groups such as slaves, blacks, Native Americans, and lower class citizens still had the same rights as they did before the revolution. It would not be decades or centuries until these groups got the treatment they deserve.

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Cath Avery; the Fan and the Girl

Cath is all sorts of things. From the beginning, we can immediately get an overview of her personality. Shy, introverted, intelligent, anxious— your typical nerd, basically.

However, there’s a lot more than what meets the eye. I created a collage which I think delves deeper into her character, from what I learned from the book Fangirl  by Rainbow Rowell.

The word ‘fangirl’ is obviously derived from two words; fan and girl. To start off with the fan part, Cather “Cath” Avery is obviously one. She absolutely loves the Simon Snow book franchise, which is one similar to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. She’s spent years writing an elaborate fanfiction which she obtained thousands of worldwide fans and followers from.

“To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.” (Rowell, 87)

Cath Avery is also very intellectually curious. The Simon Snow books aren’t the only ones she likes, they’re just the ones that have consumed her life. Cath is very involved in pop culture— she reads, writes, and explores. Combine this with social anxiety, an introverted personality, and a undying affection for the internet, and you get a surficial stereotypical geek, and I included books, a typewriter, and computers to represent that.

“You’ve read the books?”
“I’ve seen the movies.”
Cath rolled her eyes so hard, it hurt. (Actually.) (Maybe because she was still on the edge of tears. On the edge, period.) “So you haven’t read the books.”
“I’m not really a book person.”
“That might be the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me”  (119)

But onto the ‘girl’ of fangirl.

Girls today are pressured with so many unrealistic standards. If you’re pretty, you’re probably dumb. If you’re smart, you’re ugly. If you dress revealingly, you’re “asking for it”. If you dress modestly, you’re a boring prude. If you wear makeup, you’re trying too hard. If you don’t wear makeup, you’re not making enough of an effort. There seems to be one right way to be a girl, and nobody knows what it is. However, when you have an identical twin and you’re living in her glorious, perfect shadow, the situation seems even more helpless. That was Cath’s case.

“No,” Cath said, “Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.” (298)

I tried to show this internal struggle through a handful of angsty quotes. Whether it may be with her appearance, intelligence, capability, or personality, Cath struggles with her image of her self-worth.

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Stressed, Depressed, and Fandom Obsessed

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Cath is a fangirl. A fangirl belongs in a fandom, where fangirls and fanboys feel normal amidst their obsessive chaos. They drown themselves in fan-art, theories, fan-videos, updates, and of course; fanfiction, which Cath is fairly familiar with. Cath She’s a world-wide known fanfiction author for the Simon Snow series. However, she doesn’t do so well in the real world. Her dad is frail and sensitive, her mom abandoned her family at a young age, and Wren, her glorified twin, is practically Cath’s only friend. At college, Cath was forced to meet new people and develop more as Wren branched out and left Cath for fresh experiences.

It’s quite clear from the beginning that Cath is socially anxious; she’d rather live on protein bars in her room than even step into the dining hall. This plays a significant role in the rising action and climax of this story; as college progresses, so does her mental health and academic status. While this social anxiety is a huge contributor to the story’s plot, to me it feels as though Cath was only made a “fangirl” as an excuse for her social awkwardness, which I’m not exactly for.

You see, fangirls are often seen as squealing, uncontrollable messes that have lost almost all touch with reality. They’re always furiously typing away, their noses deep in a book, or crying hysterically in a corner. As an actual fangirl myself, I feel like this book only perpetuates that stereotype. While there is a partial truth to the stereotype, fangirls/fanboys should not be portrayed with such little depth.

Although she’d rather be left alone, Cath’s roommate Reagan is constantly bringing over her boyfriend, Levi. Cath already finds it difficult enough to write fanfiction in a new environment—now add unfamiliar people and it’s on the edge of unbearable. For the first couple of chapters, it seems as if Cath would never escape this awkward relationship between her roommate, but after Reagan finds her stash of protein bars and forces Cath down to the dining hall, some sort of friendship begins to blossom.

The only thing Cath finds enjoyable about college so far is her fiction writing classes, which is relatively easy for her considering the amount of fanfiction she’s written and the number of readers it has.

“’Working on your final project?’ He slipped into the chair beside her and tried to open the computer. She laid her arm on top of it. ‘Have you settled in a direction yet?’ he asked. ‘Yep,’ Cath said. ‘Lots of them.’ He frowned for a second, then shook his head. ‘I’m not worried about you. You can write ten thousand words in your sleep.’ She practically could. She’d written ten thousand words of Carry On in one night before. “ (Rowell, 208)

I may be an amateur when it comes to writing fanfiction, but I know it’s definitely not something that just spills out of your head endlessly. You’ll pound your head on the table in frustration, you’ll have to search up and fact-check the most ridiculous of things, and you might spend hours writing a couple of sentences. To be able to write 10,000 words in one night, to update chapters daily, to write without stopping— it’s all way too unrealistic. As far as I’m concerned, most fanfiction authors upload new chapters weekly, if not less. Keep in mind that Cath is still balancing this fanfiction writing with maintaining academics and worrying about her family.

There’s a lot more to being a fangirl than just writing fanfiction. You totally immerse yourself in the world of whatever you’re obsessing over. This includes hours on end spent on Tumblr, sleep lost from reading cute headcanons, and obsessive fangirl thoughts completely dominating your work ethic during everyday activities.

To be completely honest, Rainbow Rowell clearly has never fangirled over anything. You don’t just write fanfiction, post it, and look at your feedback. Frankly, if something means enough to you to spend 2 years writing a fanfic about it, I think Cath would spend a bit more time thinking about Simon Snow than occasionally finding the time to write about it.

One thing Rainbow Rowell did do well in Fangirl was the depiction of college life and teenage mental health. A lot of the feelings Cath felt are actual thoughts that I know myself and many other students run through on a daily basis. “No,” Cath said, “Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.” (324) Rowell also does a good job of showing internal struggles, and we can see this through Wren’s drinking problems, which develops throughout the book. Even the glorified twin; the beautiful one, the elegant one, the productive one, could struggle in such a way no one would expect.

A series of unfortunate and/or confusing incidents happen throughout the story, each one leaving Cath more and more distraught as she struggles to deal with them.

The first major incident was when Levi came to visit Cath, and she ended up reading The Outsiders to him until they fell asleep with a lazy kiss. This led Cath to realize that she’d fallen for Levi. The fandom obsessed, writing 24/7 geek was suddenly burdened with an infatuation she didn’t want. This was a huge change for Cath. Her previous relationship was hardly a relationship— they never called, they never went on dates; they didn’t even like each other.

“Then she set out a picture from prom, of her and Abel. Cath was wearing a shimmering green dress, and Abel had a matching cummerbund. It was a good picture of Cath, even though her face looked naked and flat without her glasses. And it was a good picture of Abel, even though he looked bored. He always looked kind of bored.” (10) Abel, her previous boyfriend, is predictable, which is what Cath liked. When she realized she had a genuine interest in Levi, it was a feeling Cath was uncomfortable with.

At this point, she’s struggling with keeping up her interest in fiction writing after her teacher rejected an incredible piece of fanfiction she submitted as an assignment. She claims that fanfiction was not true fiction, regardless of the actual quality of the writing. This was a setback for Cath, since fanfiction was all she knew. Meanwhile, her father is battling bipolar disorder while still trying to take care of his family. He was relocated to a mental hospital after an outburst, and Wren had developed a drinking problem.

None of this makes Cath trying to finish her fanfic, maintaining her grades, taking care of both herself and her family, and dealing with her feelings for Levi any easier.

All this tension building up; the mental health, the family issues, the academic struggle— it leads to what I’d call the climax of Fangirl, which is Cath’s character development, where Cath eventually learns to healthily deal with her problems. She finds closure to her mother leaving the family. She discovers that she’s made some very loyal friends since college started. She accepts her feelings for Levi. She finally finishes Carry On, Simon. Eventually, everything works out. Cath ends up in a healthy relationship with Levi and manages to leave behind the fictional world for good. (Which actually never happens in reality—once you join a fandom you can only fall deeper. There’s no climbing out.)

 

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We Have a Choice

“Every human body has its optimum weight and contour, which only health and efficiency can establish. Whenever we treat women’s bodies as aesthetic objects without function we deform them.” (89)

The main message that I took out from Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch is that we all have a choice. Or rather, we should.

While the book is about women’s rights and feminism, I believe that this applies to everyone. Gender equality is so much more than just rallying for women to vote; it’s changing the way we perceive others purely because of their sex. It’s respecting the decision to say “yes” or “no” to practically anything. It’s understanding that your sex doesn’t determine a certain way you should live.

The moment we’re born into this world, society starts telling you what to be with gender roles. Female babies are labeled with pink caps, while male babies are labeled with blue caps. Girls grow their hair out, while guys keep theirs trimmed. We shift the girls away from the t-shirts and redirect them to the dresses. We laugh at boys for wearing dresses, because it’s apparently degrading to be “feminine”. Imagine yourself without all this influence. Would you still keep your hair the way it is? Would you be comfortable in what you’re wearing now?

It’s hard, right?

That’s where choice comes in.

“It is agreed that ‘girls take more bringing up’ than boys: what that really means is that girls must be more relentlessly supervised and repressed if the desired result is to ensue.” (243)

It’s called feminism because females face more oppression than males. Whatever problems men face, generally, its harsher for females. This includes body image. It’s everywhere, and it’s unavoidable. You will almost always see an impossibly curvy or ridiculously toned woman while you scroll through your Instagram feed. Everyone’s seen fat/skinny shaming posts. Everywhere you go, you will hear the mutters of what people find attractive in women.

And you have a choice.

You do not exist to aesthetically satisfy everyone around you. You can choose to work towards that if it’s what you want. If it’s not what you want, ignore it. Don’t buy that belly-flushing tea just because you think you should look like the model that used it. Buy it because it’s truly what you want to help you reach your goal. We have a choice.

 

image source: http://rookiemag.tumblr.com/post/49375130223/when-we-were-young-aprils-background-image

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Misshaped

“Sexuality is quite falsely thought to be an animal characteristic, despite the obvious fact that man is the most sexually active of the animals, and the only one who has sex independently of the instinctual reproductive drive.” (Greer, 43) Germaine Greer’s international bestseller, The Female Eunuch, had me crying out “PREACH.” throughout various points in the entire book, as I myself am an avid feminist. The book is divided into 4 main components; body, soul, love, and hate. However, the first two components spoke to me on a more personal level.

It ultimately talks about (and passive aggressively mocks) the stereotype that women should and shouldn’t be, and how these stereotypes differ from men’s. Women should be small and petite, women should have curves, women should have long luxuriously flowing hair, women should be modest and unaware of their sexuality, women should effortlessly and unknowingly menstruate, women should work on being sexual objects for men, and so on. While the book is nearly 5 decades old now, I remember struggling- and still struggle with many of the stereotypes.

As someone who has never fit in with other girls from a young age, it was easy to see what I should’ve been but never was. Greer’s description of the stereotypical woman brings flashbacks of dressing up as Tigger among Cinderella’s, Belle’s, and fairies during Halloween.  “In the mysterious dimension where the body meets the soul the stereotype is born and has her being. She is more body than soul, more soul than mind. To her belongs all that is beautiful, even the very word beauty itself. All that exists is to beautify her. The sun shines only to burnish her skin and gild her hair; the sea strives to bathe her; flowers die gladly so that her skin may luxuriate in their essence.” (63) I was quite the tomboy growing up; I wore tattered overalls and old sneakers while other girls skipped in their skirts. I would climb trees and catch crickets instead of hosting tea parties. My mother would reprimand me with words like “Why can’t you be pretty like those other girls?” or “Aren’t you ashamed of how unladylike you seem?”. Being perfectly happy with my behavior, I longed to have been born a boy, because being a girl meant fitting into such a tight mold that I would never be happy inside.

In one of the chapters in Body, Germaine Greer talks about bones. Bones leave behind no genital or hormonal distinction between male and female, so how do archaeologists tell which gender a skeleton once was? “The little girls look so pretty doing their eurhythmics, and the boys so manly when they chin themselves. The same assumptions extend into our suppositions about male and female skeletons: a small-handed skeleton ought to be female, small feet are feminine too, but the fact remains that either sex may exhibit disproportion.” (36) Hearing this unfair assumption coming from someone else eased the body issues that I’ve had for nearly as far as my memory goes. I’m a fairly athletic person, and have been so since childhood. With softball, gymnastics, dance, track, volleyball, basketball, and swimming, my shoulders have widened and my muscles have developed to an extent that may seem masculine to many. The fact that I’m genetically thick-boned does not help. While I will probably never be happy with the fact that I can’t be petite framed, Greer’s words are liberating to read as a break from our society’s impossible standards.

Something The Female Eunuch really emphasizes is the perverted need for women to be sexual objects. Nonetheless, women must do this effortlessly, oblivious of their alluring seduction. Just look at practically every women’s Halloween costume to ever exist. “The stereotype is the Eternal Feminine. She is the Sexual Object sought by all men, and by all women. She is of neither sex, for she has herself no sex at all. Her value is solely attested by the demand she excites in others. All she must contribute is her existence. She need achieve nothing, for she is the reward of achievement.” (67) While my life has not quite come to the appalling stage where everyone wants me to be a sexual object, I do have experience with being seen as one. Every time I wear shorts, my parents will comment on how boys will stare. When my bra strap shows, my mom would call me dirty. Even some of my close friends will yell out “Put on some clothes!” if the slightest bit of my midsection shows. If I wear sweatpants and loose clothes, people will assume that it’s because I care too little. Why? Because to everyone, I am an object of sex. When I wear shorts, show my bra strap, show my midriff, everyone assumes that I’m putting my “sexual assets” to use. If I dress comfortably, then everyone will assume that I’ve lost hope in my “purpose”. This perverted expectation of women has a much greater effect than just offense. Our society often justifies rape with what the victim was wearing. This angers me to an unbelievable degree, because again, it’s the belief that women are sexual objects. Rape has no cause other than rapists. Again, Germaine Greer’s excellent indirect sass towards this belief points out all its flaws without straightforwardly stating them.

I’ve long realized that instead of wanting to be a boy to avoid the stereotypes of women, I should fight to help people break through these molds. Instead of being dissatisfied with appearing too strong or masculine, I should define my own femininity because there’s no wrong way to be a woman. Instead of hiding my body, everyone else needs to start minding their own business. Reading The Female Eunuch, personally, drew out a variety of thoughts. Many were in agreement, but some passages seemed controversial or outdated in thought. Generally, it was empowering and refreshing to see such developed insights coming from a relatively early time in feminism. Although I already had it established in my mind, this book reinforced my reluctance to conform to societal standards of women.

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Artsy Fartsy Insights on Afterworlds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Responsibility might just be one of the world’s most terrifying realities. However, all of us need to take on this burden at some point. This means budgeting, paying rents, thinking ahead, and abandoning unnecessary luxuries.

In Scott Westerfield’s Afterworlds, most of Darcy Patel’s narrative takes place in New York City, which means skyscrapers, partying, and lots to explore. It’s evident that Darcy is unaccustomed to brutality of responsibility. She bought a needlessly large apartment, ate extravagantly every day, and often left her progress on editing her novel (which is literally why she came to New York in the first place) on hold.

“The best way to know a city is to eat it.” (103, Westerfield)

Food is a constant presence in Afterworlds. Whether its discussing literature over a bowl of ramen, or warming themselves with a cup of coffee, Darcy and her girlfriend Imogen are perpetually treating themselves to indulgences.

The setting in Afterworlds is generally very comfortable. For Darcy, there was always something to do. She could work on her novel, eat, read, meet more YA authors, go on tour, hang out with Imogen, or explore the endless wonders of New York. However, as a result, she lost her apartment months before she intended to.

The freedom of NYC and slowly oncoming responsibility sets the setting really well, because that’s ultimately what the book is about. How will Darcy do in this city, which practically flooding with opportunity and new experiences, especially having never been alone with this much responsibility before? Will the immensity of New York be Darcy’s downfall or rise to the top? Afterworlds has no strict plot, with a set climax or anything; it relies on the suspense and conflict, which relies on the setting.

PHOTO SOURCES

(Collage was made with PicCollage)

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Adulthood Sucks

Do you remember your childhood dream? Take a moment to recall it. You might’ve fantasized about helping the world as a police officer, or discovering fascinating breakthroughs as a scientist.

Now, imagine achieving this at age 18.

That’s exactly what Darcy Patel did. She decided to blow off college and head to New York by herself to join the city of YA publishing, and this big step reveals a lot of Darcy’s character. Darcy Patel, from the novel Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield, is young, unsure, and a bit anxious, which results in a few questionable decisions. She tries to “pretend” her way through adulthood, hoping that eventually it’ll become habit.

After writing a draft of her first book Afterworlds in a month while maintaining diligent grades, Darcy Patel decided to send it to an agent, who relayed it to a publisher. The next thing she knew, Darcy was in a contract to publish Afterworlds. Holding up her grades as she wrote her first book nearly killed her, so she decided to take the big step of moving to New York to focus on rewrites of Afterworlds and starting a sequel.While Darcy knew this was the best thing to do for her career, New York City was overwhelming; for the first time in her life, she was alone. It was Darcy’s first taste of adulthood, and it was like a sweater that never fit quite right. “‘Sometimes it’s like I’m only pretending to be an adult.’ Carla smiled. ‘I think that’s how it works. You pretend for a while, and eventually it’s real.’ ‘Like playing sick to get out of school,’ Sagan said. ‘You wind up with a stomach-ache.’ ‘Then I’m all set. I’m great at pretending.’” (236)

Darcy’s anxiety is especially prominent in chapter 7, where she went to YA Drinks Night. From worrying about being too dressed up to being insecure of her age, there was always something that made Patel feel disconnected from the crowd. The fact that she was surrounded by famous authors and intellects did not help. “She wondered how long before someone figured out she was an imposter and asked her to leave. Sitting here, she felt as though her little black dress didn’t fit anymore. It felt too big on her, as if Darcy were a child playing dress-up in her mother’s clothes.” (55) Although Darcy feels insecure about her abilities and may suffer from imposter syndrome, she is perfectly capable of everything she thinks she isn’t. She’s likeable, speaks with insight, and managed to get famous YA authors Oscar Lassiter and Kiralee to blurb Afterworlds.

Darcy’s struggles in New York can also be depicted in her actions; many of which were reckless and unfathomable. This is connected to the fact that her life had been relatively untroubled and free of responsibility in the past, and the adjustment to adulthood had come too abruptly. Imogen, Darcy’s girlfriend whom she’d met at YA Drinks Night thinks that Darcy was published to young; that she wasn’t ready for the pressure and burden of being an author. “‘I think you got published too young.’ ‘Oh,’ Darcy said softly. Her heart had just broken. ‘Not because your writing isn’t ready, but because you aren’t.’” (521) Anyone that knows Darcy either overlooks or respects her mostly because of her age; sometimes both. Respect, because not many can publish a book at age 18. Overlook, because Darcy is still young and rash. (e.g.) When she first came to New York, she was offered to reside at her agent’s apartment for a week. During this time, Darcy looked for one herself. She absolutely needed one that would inspire her to write, and she ended up finding the perfect apartment for a pricey fee. This could’ve worked out if she stuck to her little sister Nisha’s budget plan which would’ve lasted her at least 2 and a half years, but she completely disregarded this and as a result, was kicked out of her apartment way before planned.

When Darcy planned on deferring her acceptance into Oberlin for New York City, she missed the deadline for the deferment and planned on just “applying again next year”. This shows that Darcy tends not to think ahead, which has consequences that could be substantial. Money is not something to be played around with, especially if it’s something you’re tight with. It’s essentially what gets everyone through life. Money is what gets you food, water, and shelter in this world, and Darcy is evidently too accustomed to not worrying about such things. Setting aside college for a career is logical, but completely abandoning an acceptance to Oberlin College is just ignorant negligence.

Scott Westerfield has managed to create a very human and realistic character, who’s insecure and a little bit reckless, but nonetheless brilliant. Anxiety and insecurities are something that most people experience, and quite often too. However, Patel is a reminder that these small boulders shouldn’t stand in the way of your dreams. Darcy Patel isn’t the perfect protagonist, but her mistakes and downfalls only make her triumphs all the more rewarding.

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