These books are awful. Don’t read them.
*Slight spoilers throughout*
Listen, I’m really doing you a favor here. I was looking for a new book late one night on my phone (I read 95% of my Kindle-acquired literature on my phone) when I came across the first of these books in the Top 100 sellers list. It was free, and to be honest, the concept hit home: after moving to Colorado, I was a pretty soft target for bullies. Plastered on the pages for every one of Christopher Smith’s books is a quote from Stephen King in which he claims Chris is a ‘cultural genius’. Well, no. Smith had gotten some coverage lately for his success in gaming the set-your-own-price scheme afforded to self-publishers of Kindle books. I can’t blame him though, it’s a great idea. Now, these are supposed to be ‘Children’s Books’ per categorization, but there are multiple problems:
– There’s a ton of mature content here.
– The books are stupid.
Glancing at the reviews on Amazon, they appear to be a literary godsend (I suppose the Twilight books are the same way) so there’s obviously some positive audience for them. I’m warning you now though, don’t be tempted like I was. It’s not worth the small amount of money to buy them.
We follow one Seth Moore, who is – of course – in the worst possible situation ever. He lives in a trailer, his parents are worthless – his father in particular is a nasty drunk, and he’s constantly being picked on and shoved around in school. The teachers stand idly by as all this happens. His face is coated in acne, his frame is scrawny and weak, a tooth was knocked out when his intoxicated dad slugged him, and he has absolutely no friends. Most of this stuff is supposed to be based on Smith’s own life, but depending on the percentage, it really just indicates he had absolutely no confidence growing up. Some of the people he describes have been bugging him since his earliest elementary school years and so in those eleven-plus years, he has done absolutely nothing to fight back or confront them. Nothing. He just takes it like a punk.
I mentioned I had a hard time when I moved out to Colorado – and there were some people I definitely wanted to destroy – but almost of these issues resolved themselves within a year or two. People who’d make fun of me in seventh grade were often good acquaintances by high school. The street goes both ways: taking the abuse sucks, but putting up a defense and fighting for your right to party is another. People change. By the time I got to senior year of high school, which is Seth in these books, bullying was a thing long gone. Everyone realized it was time to move on, the actual real world was coming. So, Smith props up Seth as this pathetic figure in the absolute worst possible scenario and we’re supposed to feel sorry for him.
It’s not far into the first novella (these really should just be chapters, each can be read in just south of two hours) that we shift from pity party to revenge fantasy when his strange trailer-borne friend, ‘creepy’ Jim, hands him an amulet. It’s a chunk of bone attached to a string. “You work it with your heart and your mind,” Jim says (it’s actually said seven times in the first book alone, in case you were lost) and it allows you to do, well, anything really. Seth wishes away all his physical ailments, gets super strong, flies, does all kinds of blah-de-blah, etc. It’s at this point, the character becomes absolutely unlikable. He uses this prop to summon the courage he should’ve had years ago. Now imbued with super powers, he just becomes a jerk. None of this is helped by the fact that his parents are murdered by a gang of eight when they set his trailer on fire in the middle of the night. This comes at the end of the first book after a bittersweet ‘we’re becoming a family again’ segment where they play Killzone(R) 3 on his new PlayStation(TM) 3. (I’m not making this up.)
Ugh, these books…
As we watch Seth eliminate his foes one by one, he doubts his motives slightly enough to suggest the author thought of them, but he then carries on with his parade of terror. He condemns each to fates that are worse than death for killing his parents, rather than round them up and just turn them into the police with an overwhelming amount of evidence. These foes are naturally powerless against him, either. He can control their minds, their habits, their physical tendencies, forever. After he condemns a girl to an eternity of spitting out random gibberish, we get this gem of a line (the spelling error, among many throughout the books, is the author’s):
“I think you might have Turrets, kiddo.”
All of his discussions with the school faculty made me want to throw my phone against the wall in disgust. Take a snippet like this after his teacher peppers him with questions in Witch:
“Is there anything more, Mrs. Branson? Any other way that I can prove to you that I’ve read the book and done my homework like a good boy? Or are you going to continue to single me out and hammer away at me because we all know that you can’t stand me?”
“It’s pretty obvious that you can’t and it’s been obvious for years. I’m just trailer trash to you—or at least I was when there still was a trailer around. You think no one can see that you treat me differently? That you have these giant chips on your massive shoulder pads with my name on them?”
Imagine that, times a lot, across the course of the three book in the series so far. Not only can we not feel bad for Seth, but the point is he has to turn the teachers, much like the rest of his characters, into paper-thin constructs to make Seth out to be some kind of flawless, heroic beacon of freedom, the Savior of the Oppressed. He acquires his only friends in the first pages of the first book, Alex and Jennifer, but they’re also just ego servants for Seth. When he shows them footage of his life of torment, they don’t say “dude, no one gives a damn what some guy did to you in first grade, stop being a pussy,” they nod and say ‘oh, Seth, I didn’t know about your pathetically sad life, please keep being a dick to everyone.’ Seth doesn’t even need much justification to do so, either:
Linda Price asked the question. She was a year ahead of me and while she certainly had enjoyed taking her share of pot shots at me over the years, some of them cutting, she never had been as vicious as the others. Still, I didn’t like her because I didn’t deserve any amount of abuse. Period.
Also, something about supernatural junk
So that amulet? Well, it’s part of a set of five. And witches are going to be after him to get it. The power multiplies with each one you get, so y’know, gotta catch ’em all! He gets into supernatural fights of fire and flare with the witch and… I just can’t stop shaking my head at this stupid thing.
None of these characters grow or learn from their mistakes. Seth himself doesn’t indicate much sadness toward the tragic death of his parents, but rather uses it as a springboard to prove how wrong those bullies were! Look, I’ve warned you enough, don’t buy these things. Don’t buy them for yourself or your nephew “who might be into that”. This is just a sad reflection on a sad childhood.