I hate the ‘bad boy’ trope. No, seriously. I cannot stand the idea of them. I look back on the days in which I fell for Edward Cullen and other mysterious, dangerous boys in books. If I ever find the parts for my TARDIS (it unfortunately broke down a few months ago, and do you know how hard it is to find a mechanic who can read technical notes in Circular Gallifreyan?), I’d probably go back to 14 year old Nessa, slap Twilight out of her hands, and give her a long speech whilst shaking her by the shoulders. My Bad YA Deluge of 2012 also had me crawling up the walls from all the supposedly dark and enigmatic guys with a rough attitude that the heroines may or may not end up with, that I was supposed to fall for, because usually the narrators are just blank slates for the reader to project themselves on to.
TL;DR – I really hate ‘bad boys’.
Nenia Campbell seeks to subvert this idea, by having her heroine falling for a bad boy, who, it turns out, is scarily obsessed with her. Val lives in a world where good guys are viewed as insipid, and bad boys are the romantic ideal. After meeting the mysterious Gavin Mecozzi in a pet shop and discovering he is going to be her partner in Art this year, Val starts getting creepy e-mails and messages on her social networking sites. She’s too scared to simply hit the block button, and she can’t help but feel that Gavin (who seems to be a nice guy) and her stalker are linked.
Val is at times a very dull character to read. Yes, she’s an everyday girl just trying to keep her head above water with high school and social drama. However, she’s quite passive and the third-person narration doesn’t really aid much in getting to know her as a character. Things happen to Val, rather than her making these things happen. Sure, there are moments where she plucks up the courage to confront Gavin on several issues, but they’re fairly few and far between. Her friends aren’t very memorable either, fun little quips and banter aside.
Gavin, on the other hand… I wouldn’t say I loved this character, because by the end he’s a despicable toad, but I did like him enough to begin with. I thought he might be an actual nice guy, and the idea of him being the stalker was just a red herring. Nope! Despite being a supposedly respectable teaching assistant and renowned chess-master, Gavin has a creepy fantasy he likes to indulge in, and Val has stirred it within him. Gavin wants to be the hunter, and for Val to be the hunted.
When the book gets towards its ending, with a fairly nail-biting and creepy scene during a simple chess game that left me quite scared for Val, it really gets going. Gavin leaves out his diary for Val to read, and it contains some rather disturbing, in-depth looks into his psyche. I won’t detail them here, but Christ on a bike, son, get a hobby. It hasn’t just innocently escalated from a crush into stalker behaviour. Nope, it’s as twisted and repulsive as it gets.
Of course, one might question the logic of leaving your diary out in the open like that, considering how his plan to discredit Val when she tries to tell the authorities. I certainly would have torn out a couple of pages as evidence.
But still, what an absolute bastard Gavin was by the end. I won’t spoil it, but Val is turned into a nervous wreck and the way he manipulates her is disgusting. If I met him in real life, I’d deck him across the face. I swear to me ma. In fact, Gavin is only incarcerated after crafting a scheme to get Val out of sight of somebody who could keep her safe, just to antagonise her further. I say lock him up and throw away the key.
Early on, like I mentioned earlier, I was wondering why Gavin was going to be the stalker at all. Not in a “No, really, why him?”, but in a “Seriously, the stalker ought to be somebody else, in a shocking twist, perhaps.” Thankfully, little hints are dropped every now and again to make sure you know that something isn’t quite right with Gavin from day one. Plus, his speech patterns are so similar to the threats the stalker sends to Val that I eventually gave up on my idea of Gavin being a red herring. The messages started to be sent right around the time Val met him, so you’d think putting two and two together would be a rather simple thing. It’s not like Val never figures out who her stalker is, though. Also, speaking of that court case towards the end of the novel – print screen everything, Val! Don’t just freak out and delete your messages, archive them and keep the evidence! Even if you don’t want to testify in court, you can hand in your evidence to the defence attorney. I’m sure there would be a consistency between the syntax in Gavin’s journal entries and the sinister e-mails.
Even though I was often annoyed with Val for going to confront Gavin, it was more so in a “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHY DON’T YOU JUST KEEP THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM!?” I will say though, that some of Gavin’s behaviours are a bit transparent – he has a habit of becoming a bit wistful with his musings from time to time, and really dropping the hints of what he wants to do with Val.
I wasn’t one hundred percent sure on the idea of Val living in an era of bad boys being idolised in comparison to ‘good’ guys. Apparently the time Val and company live in is one which prefers bad boys… which I didn’t really see, or feel much of in the story. It just seemed like a regular high school, with the same kind of relationship drama you’d see anywhere. Nobody looked down on the good guys, really. Nobody really looked up to the bad boys/weird guys either, as Val’s friends tell her they think he’s creepy early on. I guess it’s supposed to be like our world in that some girls swoon over bad boys in various forms of media, but it just didn’t feel developed enough.
So, all in all, what did I think? I was enjoying Fearscape enough to breeze through most of it, despite the snags. The part near the end when Gavin reveals his true nature was unputdownable. (Oh man, how I hate that word.) Gavin is awful, and if I were Val’s friend, I would punch him for her whilst collecting up evidence to get this repugnant pustule as far away from her as possible. 3/5.