While Perfect Ruin is very much like Lois Lowry’s The Giver in many ways, it has a lot of unique elements to it that makes it special. With colorful poetry in each word, DeStefano paints a world accessible only through a dream. You will wonder how it will be to be living a simple life afloat in the sky. You will find yourself jealous of what innocence those characters who haven’t been to the “edge” exude, while deeply feeling the quiet bitterness of “jumpers”, through Lex, whose ability to see life from a positive direction was disabled just by being curious and called by something hypnotically wondrous. You will hope that betrothals exist in our world and wish to experience that young, untraceable fondness for someone that can eventually turn into true love.
I recommend this book to those who would like to dream, daydream, experience love, loss, and utter curiosity about things that are beyond wonder, and most of all, to those who dare to “jump” into adventures, even when everyone disapproves.
The Maze Runner is promising and has a very intriguing foundation. I feel intimidated by the plot, scared for the boys and what awaits them, and the more I learned about what happens in the Maze and the Glade, the more thrilled I have become to get out and see what is outside.
Having finished reading the book, I can say that I truly liked the plot, but on the other hand, I fell that the story-telling could use a little fine-tuning. The beginning is dark and foreboding, and has sent trickles down my spine which I loved. Compared with other stories I’ve read in the Dystopian genre, the book has a something special to offer although it could do better with simplicity and less details that do not support the story very strongly.
The protagonist (Thomas) has a mysterious persona, which has kept me awake up until the middle, but the twist in his real personality is not as grand and it has had me expecting. His confusion does not seem to match his actions. There is no very distinct characterization. Save from their individual slangs and speech mannerisms, it often feels like every character is the same – who they are, how they act at certain situations, what makes them motivated or mad. The likeness in their characters makes them shallow and predictable. The boys who turn out to be antagonists do not seem to have deep and relatable causes to justify the course of the actions they took, even looking from the younger minds’ perspective.
Furthermore, what I do not like so much is that the humor is often off and out of timing. There are times when a serious situation is being portrayed but then one of the characters would throw in sarcasm and it ruins the mood, makes supposedly substantial events look trivial. I find the reveal of the big plot contrived and a little too drastic compared to how delicately the pace has run from its onset. I enjoyed the shroud of darkness and uncertainty covering the story at the beginning up to the the 3rd quarter of the story but my amusement was somehow disrupted by the unraveling of the truth behind the boys’ predicament that can be more subtle.
Overall, in spite of the few imperfections I found, The Maze Runner is a decent young adult novel, in my opinion. It is remarkable to me how pictures of the claustrophobic Glade, the Grievers and their unique mechanical monstrosity, the eerie Box where kids are transported into the Glade, the devilish Maze and its snaking ropes of ivy, and other elements of the setting were painted vividly in my imagination. The author is successful in his imagery. He gave the world he created some realness to it. It gives me chills remembering how the walls move nightly, their screeching sound against the floor echoing in my ears. I cringed at how excruciating Changing is, and felt nauseous about how deep a jump the Cliff might have been.
The story might not be perfect for my taste but it aptly got me interested. I am certainly buying the next book to find out what happens next.
If you have read the book, feel free to share your thoughts.
He took a small folder from his backpack and, from it, he took out sheets of gray paper cut lengthwise. He handed one sheet with a smile to a fellow jeepney passenger, an old lady with a faintly worried face in deep contemplation. The lady took the sheet of paper he handed and squinted on the bold print.
“How to Build a Happy Family?” she muttered.
“Yes,“ he immediately said back, thrilled with the slight interest the lady took in his leaflet, keeping his smile sweet.
“It’s a campaign by our church to help open up each family member’s eyes to the key to having a happy family,” he continued. The lady was focused on him. “Which is the church’s teachings,” he couldn’t help but giggle. His heart was full of excitement.
The lady let out an “uh, huh.”
“Oh, our church has a website too! It’s written at the back.”
“I don’t do computers, but thank you so much, boy.”
And the lady hailed the jeepney to stop and she disembarked. He was quite pleased with himself about making a conversation with someone about his church service. He peeked into his folder and roughly counted the thick heap of leaflets left to give away. He enjoyed volunteering for their church’s cause, and this month’s campaign was about building families and binding them with the infinite love of God through the church’s teachings. Tomorrow, he would gladly give the leaflets away to those needful people and create awareness about building a happy family. He loved changing people’s lives.
He got off the jeepney, hurried past the stop lights with only three seconds to go.
He walked through a street paving their neighborhood. He was immediately greeted by the foul smell emanating from the nearby estero. People were in their usual routines; mothers were intimately huddled, arms crossed to their chest, some are talking in hushed voices, some are laughing their guts out. Men were at their usual low tables, topless and loudly making love with bottles of cheap liquor. Many had the product they sold laid on tables and carts, mostly hastily prepared snacks, or used clothing sold typically at twenty to fifty pesos each. The noise made by raucous children on the street annoyed him as he passed through a scatter of them playing volleyball. At the background, you could hear the sound of someone pouring their heart out on karaoke.
He went in their house, the rusty hinges sang their screechy weeping as he passed through the half-beaten door. On the nearby table he found a plate of what seemed like delicious food if not for its foul smell. It must have been sitting for at least two days. The house was dark, empty, and the smell of molds and spoiled stuff. He heaved out the leaflet folder from his bag and placed it on the table.
He went in front of a small table where an image of the dark Sto. Niño stood. After lighting a candle, he touched holy child’s face and made the sign of the cross. He said a silent prayer for about a minute, lifted his head, and blew the candle off.
Where is mother? He suddenly remembered to ask.
He walked slowly into the room, though a thin white curtain and turned the light on. He found a figure, sitting at one corner of the room. He slowly approached the figure and whispered, “mother”.
He bent down to pull her up but she would not move. He resolved to bracing his arms around her thin frame.
His mother turned to him, her face, covered with inexplicably dark green and purple patches. Her nose was broken; dried blood the color of earth ran down to her upper lip.
He delicately observed how grave it was this time.
He was suddenly startled by a series of knocks that hit the door. He could tell he was drunk again. His chest throbbed incredibly fast but he remained calm.
“Open the door, you fucking useless whore!”
A thin smirk appeared on his face. He listened intently to the angry rhythm of the knocks like it was music to his ears. He looked into his mother’s blank eyes and said in a hushed voice,
“Kaunting tiis nalang.”
He stood up and walked out of the room and to the kitchen. He took out something from a cupboard. He held it carefully to his back and slowly made for the door, his face, firm and focused. The knocks had gone louder, more violent. For a moment, he thought the door was going to fly in. He tried not to stir.
“What the fuck is taking you so long? Open the goddamned door!”
He opened the door, light peeked, washing over his face.
He stood by door, his hands tightly holding a knife.
In the morning, he would pray for his father’s soul in front of Sto. Niño’s knowing face.
You have to take that to Aling Miriam.
She flashed Jamie an irritated look. How many times had she brought up that subject? Pulling her arm off from Jamie’s hands, unrolling her sleeves down, she walked ahead and heaved out a deep sigh. She stopped for a second and looked up as if in search for relief. Dark clouds. They’d been there since yesterday.
Jamie caught up. I’m sorry. But I’m your only friend. If I didn’t know what’s best for you, I don’t know who does.
Thanks for constantly reminding me that.
And she continued walking. Away and fast.
The air was musty. It’s extremely humid and claustrophobic. There was scarcely a source of light. No windows but a small hole on the wall, not even two inches wide. That’s her only gateway view to what’s outside. Not that she’s eager to see’s what’s out there. Or that she wanted to be seen.
She’s accustomed to sweating. That’s one of the things she mastered ever since she could remember. She did not understand comfort. Or perhaps one would not understand what they did not come to know.
She’s looking back at the girl standing in front of her. Her eyes were piercing she wanted to look away. But her figure was one nobody could stray away from. It was not the first instance she came across her. Her eyes bore the exact sadness she saw the first couple of times she saw her. She was naked. Her body’s a work of a thousand unspoken words. She could tell she was beautiful at one point in her life. Misery has worn her down. She’s marred in every way. Body and soul. Mirrors never lied.
Why wouldn’t you love me back?
Because I can’t. Stop this, please. You won’t understand.
Why not? I need to know, please tell me.
I just don’t love you. I can’t.
And she walked away. He was left on his knees, waiting for the clouds to start pouring.
She pulled her dress up and turned from the mirror. She mingled with the dimness of the room, avoiding the thin ray of light passing through the tiny hole on her wall as she walked to one corner and sat down. Tear drops fell to the floor.
Now why would you let a perfectly caring and handsome guy out there in the rain? Not only was that soap opera-dramatic but gravely insane. Have you gone completely crazy? Jamie’s words echoed in the hallway.
You know I can’t involve myself in another relationship. You perfectly know what happened in the past.
You’re scared of what you don’t know. I’d say, go out there, take risks, forget about your past, be happy.
I know what I’m doing.
You don’t believe that.
The sky. Clear, magical. The stars danced with the sound of silence; the trees, grasses, at the slow swoosh of the wind. The moon was at the center, shading everything underneath with its light.
She was thirsty. I have to go find water.
She found herself by a stream, fighting her gasps as she drank dry from the palms of her hands. How she found the stream, she considered instinct. An impulse. Something inside her voiced she’d been there sometime before. Not a very long time ago. Her chest relaxed, her body was relieved of the tremble. The nauseating feeling was gone and she felt she could breathe again.
Clouds passed along the moon, elegantly letting through streaks of glorious light. And she remembered why she was there.
Something was approaching. She could tell it by the low-toned noise from afar. It’s nearing her direction. She trusted her impulse. And her impulse said run.
Now she could hear the growl. And she’s more afraid than tired. She stopped minding her toes wounded and strained. She realized she was barefoot and for probably hours. She tried to keep herself from looking back, but she needed to know how faster she should run.
Then something grabbed her by the neck.
She was pulled back, unable to use her limbs to resist the force. The hands were rough and strong. She could feel her neck being crashed and she was too weak to do something about it. She felt her back cracked when she landed on the ground. Now she’s being held tight by the hands and it made it harder for her to move, let alone fight. Then a voice spoke to her face, the breath was putrid. She opened her eyes and she was terrified as hell.
You’re with me, once again. Thanks for coming back.
She screamed at the top of her lungs. Sweating, she reached for something at her side. She dropped an uncapped bottle and spilled the water from her lamp desk. She’s down on her knees at the foot of her bed. The clock ticked 3:00 AM.
She stood up, undressed herself and faced the mirror. And she could never be more terrified to see herself. She’d never be able to see her body again.
Wash them with soap and clean water. Apply this twice a day. It’s mashed wild leaves and lamb fat. Don’t skip.
She cringed at the pain as the old woman was putting on a greenish concoction over her neck wounds. Her skin turned numb after a while. Her whole body was.
Alright, turn your back to me please.
It was the old woman’s turn to cringe.
Her back was no better story. Bruises, cuts, wounds swelling on every surface.
She cried tears. She couldn’t hold it longer.
I do not know what to do. It keeps doing these horrible things to me in my dreams. I think it wants me to kill myself to save him the trouble. I fear that no one would ever take me because of these.
Aling Miriam let her cry for a moment.
You have every right to be terrified. It’s an angry demon. A very wild beast. Killing it will not be easy.
When the old woman was done treating her wounds, she poured them cups of tea.
Drink this, to make your nerves relax. It’s not easy, what you’re going through.
She took a sip.
Aling Miriam had to ask, How long has it been going around for you?
It started appearing in my dreams. I was so scared. Alone. I thought at first they were just dreams. but wounds started to appear on my body. I need to get away from it, whatever it is.
Did you not ask for any help? Where are your parents? Do they know?
My mother died when I was born.
And your dad?
I do not want to talk about him.
Then there was silence. The two women sipped their cups of tea quietly.
Tonight, you must face your fear. Demons are dangerous. They’re forceful, greedy creatures that will kill to get what they want. Lustful ones go for women your kind. Scared. Weak. They feed on innocence and pleasure themselves with helplessness. They have their own needs after all. Tonight you must face it.
She could never feel more sorry for what had become of her but she did not want another tear to fall. Before she let herself out of the door, the old lady said,
Some demons need to be faced. All it takes is courage to accept yourself for who you have become, regardless. We all are scarred in many, different ways but we must move forth. Forge that dagger. Sharpen it. Kill the demon and set yourself free.
The old woman’s words echoed in her head. Tonight, she must bravely face her fear once and for all. To put an end to it. She willed herself to sleep with not much ease and it took her long before she found herself lying by the stream once again. It was the same stream she’d been many times in the past. The moon was at the exact position as she remembered. At the background, an eerie silence.
Then a voice spoke beside her.
It’s been a while since you’ve been here purposefully.
She didn’t speak back. She’s afraid, but was trying to conceal it. He was lying next to her, naked.
I waited for so long. Why were you hiding from me?
She remained silent and focused of what she planned to go there for. He stood up in front of her. His silhouette, masking the light from the moon.
Then he advanced on top of her. He kissed her ears gently.
I have you now my baby girl. Everything’s alright. Ssshh.
Then his hand landed heavily on her face. It was all so sudden. Dizziness danced inside her head, she couldn’t make out anything. She felt his hands wildly run through every part of her body.
He was squeezing her breasts so hard she felt they were being crushed. His smell was suffocating. The grease all over his body was sticky and seemed to be binding them together so she couldn’t move.
She let out a faint cry when she felt him inside her.
You’re mine now. Completely mine. You will never go back. Not to the men you fantasize you’d have. You’re one silly whore. I’ll get inside of you to till you become mine.
It was long process of pain and lustful longing. Blood and dust. Sweat and everything mixed with the humid air of the night; the moon was the only witness to the terrible fate she succumbed to. Her whole body was painful. She’s bleeding and sweating at the same time. He kept slamming her bruised and wounded body in every direction.
He made her bend over. Her face rubbed against the soil and sharp, small rocks. She’s being held by her two arms stretched towards her back, her bones were breaking. She couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was outrageous.
He’s reaching his peak and so he continued with his thrusts. Faster and faster, he let out a loud cry.
She’s tired, almost lifeless. For one second, she thought she died.
I can’t. Not yet.
He turned her around, laid her on her back on the dirt. He looked right towards her eyes. The fright all came back to her. She recalled her purpose for letting him used her completely.
Your mom and I love you. Very much.
His mouth to her face, she could not stand the sour stench of his breath.
I will not let you feed on me again.
Lying down, she reached above her head in desperation. She caught something and took it with both her hands. In an instant, she managed to sit on top of the demon and pointed a dagger towards his neck.
I will kill you. You have inflicted me with so much pain and I couldn’t let you take control of my life, she heard herself say.
He flashed her a grin. You can’t do that. You’re too weak.
Her phone rang. She picked it up. It was her mom.
Your dad died today. Her voice couldn’t hide the sadness.
She’s quiet for almost a minute, her mom had to check if she’s still on the other end. She didn’t feel compelled to speak.
Aren’t you going to ask what happened to him? He’s still your father.
What happened to him?
He was killed in the prison by one of the guards. It was because of a little argument, it cost your father his life.
Serves him well. I often dreamed of his death.
Whatever he did to you, it doesn’t matter, not anymore. He was your father, and he’s dead. What he did to you was all your fault. Show some respect.
She had to hold her tears back.
I did not get my share of respect from him and I don’t care if you loved him, but he was sick and he deserved death and suffering more than anyone in this world.
With that, she hung up.
On the other line, her mother was devastated. She lost a daughter more than she lost a spouse.
She had to fight though his piercing look.
You cannot kill me. I am a part of you now and forever will be. You are scarred and broken and weak and nothing can ever fix you. Not even that dagger. Submit yourself to me, like you always did.
The dagger vertically thrust to the demon’s neck. She pulled it out and thrust it back. In and out, she repeated the process until the neck that connected the head from the body was almost entirely mashed. The demon laid lifelessly marinating in his own filthy blood.
Then she let go. And let herself free. She now must. All was over.
In her room, She woke up with eyes widely open. She realized she’s soaked in her own sweat. She blindly turned her lamp on and reached for a bottle of water on her side desk. She drank all that’s in it and continued running after her breath.
The nightmare was over, at last.
She stood up, undressed herself and looked at the mirror. She never thought she’d see the girl again. And this time, she bore a bit of peace in her eyes and a stance that of a woman. She brushed her hair back. She felt warmth. And finally, a bit of comfort.
Tonight was when she would never have to face her demon again. She looked down, held her belly, and whispered goodnight. A few months from then, she would give birth an angel who would completely free her from her past.