tw: misogyny, slut shaming, abuse, miscarriage, and I'm probably forgetting 15 other things
This book is everything that's wrong with YA: slut-shaming, girl-on-girl hate, hypersexualization of everything girls do even when it's not even remotely sexual, a verbally and emotionally abusive love interest who kisses the protagonist while she's drugged, weak worldbuilding, boring stereotypical characters, an attempt at a love triangle, absurd dialogue, girls only realizing their worth if a boy points it out. I could go on and on.
Let's start with our protagonist: Zelia.
She spends the entire book slut shaming other girls. Most disturbing of all, slut shaming her little 13 year old sister. She's 17 years old, why is she always comparing herlself and demeaning her kid sister for liking perfume, make-up, doing her hair, boys? She seriously cannot go for a single page without putting her sister down, it's so sickening...
There is such insidious misogyny throughout this book, and the author is aware of this because she makes Dylia, the sister, remark upon it:
“You look nice without makeup,” I say between the regimented breaths of my necklace.
“Please, Zel. No lectures,” she says, combing her damp hair with her fingertips.
“I’m not lecturing you.”
“It’s a sneaky lecture. You’re an expert in those.”
Zelia also suffers from a severe case of "I'm Not Like Other Girls":
I’m a total embarrassment. My refusal to wear makeup, nice shoes, or tight clothes. My penchant for getting excited over CellTech News, my favorite holo channel. My endless nagging about her flashy dresses and too-shiny lipstick.
Because, as everyone knows, in YA if there's a girl who likes science this automatically means that'll be her entire personality. It defines her. There is no time for liking boys (or girls), fashion, or make-up! Because she likes science, so she's a social pariah.
Even so, Zelia falls into the clutches of her love interest. I suppose it's meant to be romantic, or something? I'm sorry but I don't find verbally abusive men to be appropriate love interests in anything, but even less so in YA.
Ladies, if a guy has something like this to say about you:
He spits on the floor again. “She’s damaged goods.”
I didn’t come here to discuss societal rejects.
RUN THE OTHER WAY, HE IS NOT BOYFRIEND MATERIAL!
Not Zelia, though...
“If I hear another but or can’t or don’t today, I will unleash the hellfire of all things female and bitchy and you won’t recover for a millennium. Okay?”
Yes! Amusing "threats" of stereotypical female "bitchiness" in response to emotionally manipulative controlling behaviour! That's so much healthier than cutting that asshole out of your life because you deserve better! Great message!
But on to the plot, Zelia and Dylia are constantly on the move with their abusive and controlling (not that this is explicitly condemned, instead, it's justified because he's just ~trying to protect them~, because he ~loves them so much~) Doctor dad, when they get into a car accident and are each taken into a different faction of mutants. Sounds familiar? It's because it's X-Men without any of the social commentary. I'm not even a big fan of X-Men, not because I don't find graphic novels to be a legitimate medium or because I don't like the stories, it's just that it bothers me that it's more acceptable to create a bunch of genetic mutants and illustrate how society marginalizes and mistreats them, while ignoring the struggles of actual minorities. But I digress, so back to the point: there is nothing even remotely original about Control.
Zelia meets her new mutant family: an all-knowing (in this case all-scenting) figure of authority, a guy with four arms, a guy with two heads, Poison Ivy (she goes by another name, but it's her), and the aforementioned psychopath with whom Zel will fall "in love". Perhaps I'm forgetting someone, I don't know, that's how unforgettable they all are.
Only two girls in the house, I'm thinking bff! And I'm thinking wrong. Vera immediately dislikes Zelia because she is a "female and [she] exist[s]. Probably an alpha female thing, like wolves or rats".
Not that Zelia is exactly the type of girl you'd want as a friend:
I’m not shocked by the fact she’s wearing the latest fashion from Hookers-R-Us.
And I shouldn't be shocked at all the slut shaming at this point, yet... here I am.
Add to all this the fact that the writing is the most eye-roll inducing thing printed in recent times:
He sits in the center of a round desk and computer screen that almost completely encircle him. On a happier day, I’d joke that he’s got a bad Saturn complex.
I hate it when people call me a lady. I’m anything but, so it feels like an insult.
That’s by legal fusion.” Hardly anyone calls it marriage anymore.
I’ve just lost everything I’ve ever known and she’s getting all hydrochloric acid on me.
The tiniest hint of a smile. It warms his slate eyes just a touch, like cold butter that softens after landing on warm toast.
I can feel it in my neurons.
But then Zelia says something that made me stop and really think:
"My heart. It hurts."
This was familiar in its histrionic absurdity, and it made me like her for some reason... Why? Where had I seen those words before? Where? And then... it hit me.
Don't be fooled, though. Comparing Zelia to Lumpy Space Princess is an insult to LSP.