Al & Rollu

Al & Rollu: Part 1. Out of body (Battle for the Astral)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

This is a short book about a girl who can travel to the Astral when she sleeps and a boy who can heal people. In reality, not too much happens in this first book. She goes to an apartment in another country. She meets her love interest on Facebook and there’s some bad guys hanging around but they don’t do a lot. That’s mostly it.

In the very beginning Rollu is on a plane next to a man. His major sin is being unattractive. The narration goes out of its way to describe him to make him unlikable (“…bloated, sweaty and not particularly attractive…”), and insinuates that he’s he’s oggling her (although she’s also wearing something shining on her chest, so that might attract the eye). However, if you read their conversation without all of this stuff added to make the reader dislike him:

(Guy) “Do you want a coffee?”
(Rollu) “No thanks.”
(Guy) “What are you reading?”
(Rollu) “Curonian tales.”
(Guy) “Curonia – strange name for a country. I’ve never heard of it!”
(Rollu) “That would be because there’s no such country. The Curonians were a tribe that lived on the Baltic coast a long time ago.”
(Guy) “Well, well! You learn something new every day, huh? By the way, let me introduce myself – I’m Robert.”
(Rollu) “Rollu.”
(Guy) “Rollu? What an unusual name!”
(Rollu) “Yes, very rare.” – etc

When you take out the physical traits that tell us that we should hate him because he’s sweaty and likes a girl, he’s being perfectly nice, and she hasn’t said anything about not feeling like talking. This exact same conversation could be used to describe meeting the love of her life. So his major sin is that she doesn’t think he’s hot.

In a way, this first conversation wants to put him in a bad light, but it puts her in a bad light. I immediately got the impression that she was haughty. Not because she didn’t want to talk to him, because she isn’t obligated to talk to anyone, but because of the way she handled it and thought about it. See the conversation above? Here are things she thinks during it:

…she had no desire to get to know her persistent admirers. She couldn’t work out what was more annoying – their cliched compliments or shameless glances.
tedious guy
restless neighbor
tedious leech
Robert beamed at her in a way that he probably thought was charming.
clingy admirer
Robert’s insistent, dumb questions were irritating Rollu.
…Rollu said, hoping to blindside the leech…
She glanced at Robert’s chestnut bangs with hostility.

She had the perfect excuse not to talk in her hands – she was busy reading a book. She doesn’t even try asking not to be bothered and instead sits around thinking degrading thoughts not just about him, but all of her admirers (she models, too). She doesn’t come off as a nice person. She comes off as someone who turns her nose up at other people. Can guys annoy women? Yes, sure. But they’re not doing something wrong every time they introduce themselves. This guy didn’t whistle or make lewd remarks. He asked if she wanted a drink and look how negative her thoughts are.

Instead of asking if she could have quiet so she could read her book, she thrusts out her chest, talks about how she’s going to pose for an erotic magazine and the thong she’s going to wear for it, crosses her legs to purposely be suggestive, and then talks about how she goes into the Astral. It’s a very unusual way to try and discourage a guy from talking to her. I would have tried, “Sorry, I’m not really in the mood for conversation,” before talking about posing in thongs. It also didn’t jive well when not much later the narrative talks about how shy she is.

When writing sometimes you need to choose your words carefully or you might give off an impression that you didn’t mean to. By the time this next part happened, I already thought Rollu was full of herself because the story had revolved around how she “was an awakened one” and a motorcycle racer and super model material – you can have a good character with all of those traits, but those traits seemed to be about all there was to the character. The entirety of the material felt like it was saying, “Isn’t she so much better than the people around her because she’s hot and rides motorcycles?”

Then it got to her sitting alone in an apartment. This part definitely reads like it’s written by a man, where she’s gracefully going around in lingerie. A real woman would probably have traveller’s diarrhea or something. Then she goes on Facebook, and there are many ways to say that no one she knew was on, but it was put this way:

Rollu scanned through the list of her so-called friends on Facebook but couldn’t find a single worthwhile person to chat with…

It starts off by implying that they aren’t really friends, which could be a fine if she friended a lot of people she didn’t know. But, instead of simply saying she doesn’t know anyone, they’re “not worthwhile”. This goes along with the rest of the book that makes it seem like no one else is ‘worth’ her time.

The book shouldn’t jump through hoops chastizing male characters for looking at her body and then do the same thing.

And although this stunner loved posing for fashion photographers…

…except that she now looked even more stunning…

This incorporeal beauty…

It was a shame no one was there to admire her slim figure…

…looking every inch the natural beauty she was.

There’s something authors should know when they’re writing. I think it’s okay to use descriptions like “beautiful” here and there, but people vary in their definition of what “beautiful” is. It’s better to describe a character and let the reader decide what they think of those looks. What concrete description I got of her, I mostly shrugged.

It’s also a bad idea to constantly criticize male characters for gazing at her and then not only obsesses about her body but goes as far as to mention what a shame it is that there aren’t people there to stare at her.

I honestly didn’t like the way it handled this subject, either. It made it seem like men are wrong for showing interest in her based off looks. There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to someone. If she was attracted to someone it wouldn’t treat her the same way (because she’s super hot and everyone in the world wants her, so it’s okay for her to find other people attractive).

It shouldn’t treat men as wrong for finding someone pretty. It should treat them wrong when they take the wrong approach. To put it simply, if you approach a woman because you find her attractive, don’t turn around and expect her to react to you in any way besides judging if she finds you attractive in return. You can’t call her shallow and expect her to judge your inner being when the only thing you cared about was her looks.

On the other hand, if she’s into motorcycles, and you’re also into motorcycles, you’re showing more interest in her as a person if you talk to her about that. She still has no obligation to be interested in you or even talk to you (and in that case, leave her alone), but you’re giving her a lot more to react positively to.

There are other problems as well. The book used so many exclamation points that I decided to count them on one of the pages. 15. The next page had 11. 26 exclamation points in the span of two pages. I’m okay with exclamation points being used sometimes – some characters are the type to be very exciteable – but they should be especially used sparingly outside of speech.

Beyond that, there’s even more that makes the text difficult to read.

Albert was now seriously mad. He clicked the cursor onto the search bard and crashed out an entry: YOU GODDAMN LAGGING RELIC! I’M GONNA SMASH YOU TO DEATH! Having yelled these words so loudly that the neighbors probably heard, Al hit the return key, almost breaking the keyboard…

I started that paragraph with, “okay, he’s typing it”. Then, “Wait, was he supposed to be shouting it?” Then it goes back to him having typed it. Was he typing it, then shouted it aloud?

The text is full of characters’ thoughts, too, which isn’t separated by italics or quotes or anything. It got even worse when they were chatting on the computer.

Al began tapping away on the keyboard. I’m called Albert, or just Al. I’m a student – a sophomore. Well, almost a Junior actually. I’m at the state medical uni – in the sports medicine faculty. But I guess you’ve already seen all that info on my page. Nice to e-meet you 🙂 – Al added a smiley to show his goodwill.
Well then, Al, I’ll answer your question. Yes, I’m interested in death. But that doesn’t mean I like it. Do you get the difference. Rollu wrote. Even in the emotionless medium of Facebook chat it was clear she was ticked-off. She continued: I don’t understand people like you who just toss that word around mindlessly. Oh, and by the way, there hasn’t been much nice about meeting you yet.
I saw “death” on the list of your interests, and then pictures of corpses in your albums, so that’s why I thought that you liked talking about death. It was dumb of me – I’m sorry, Al replied apologetically.

That’s how it’s written and it keeps going. There’s nothing separating texts, thoughts, narrative, etc. On another point, look at how she talks again. If you thought maybe I was over-stating it on the first part of the story, she’s being negative and hostile again the second someone sends her a message – a message about something that she has all over her Facebook page. I don’t know why anyone would want to talk to her. She’s an angry jerk who looks for opportunities to take shots at people.

Rollu and Al end up deciding to meet the next day. There’s some sort of prophecy about Rollu’s betrothed having white hair, and Al has white hair and is naturally betrothed. Things that Rollu starts calling Al the first day they’ve met: hon, darling, sweetie. They walk around, some kid gets shot, and Al heals the kid’s bullet wound. But healing wounds passes the pain onto him. Rollu takes him back to her apartment in a taxi while he’s barely able to do anything.

My betrothed, my darling, my beloved. Could she say those words one day to this guy she hardly knew…

She’s already said he was her betrothed, and called him darling, so the only one she hadn’t said yet was ‘beloved’. So, yes. She then calls him “my dear” and “sweetheart” in the next paragraph.

The bad guys were at the scene of the shooting (though one was the target of the shooting, not the shooter) and have followed her to where he apartment is. At this point, one spies on her for a while and thinks about how he wants her. Then he leaves and gets mad that he was kicked out of the Astral plane before, and that pretty much what’s in this book.

I’m not going to lie, this book needs a lot of help. The way it’s written with character’s thoughts everywhere without anything separating thoughts from the narrative is distracting and confusing at times. Rollu is oddly negative and hostile, and her actions don’t match the personality she’s described to have. The romance is two people knowing each other for about a day.

If I gave advice to the author, I think the best way to approach this would be to find a female writer who would be willing to read it over and help re-write it. The book goes very far out of its way to criticize men for objectifying Rollu, and then the book objectifies her without seeming to realize it. It even has the “girl has to be a shy virgin” trope. I think the author could learn a lot if he’s willing to listen to a woman’s perspective.

I give it a 3/10.

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2 thoughts on “Al & Rollu

  1. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like a very well-crafted book, but I enjoyed reading your analysis of it and liked the way you broke down approaches to writing and describing a character, and creating interactions between male and female characters–or any two characters. (It sounds like you’d make a great beta reader for some aspiring and/or self-publishing authors, if they’re comfortable with taking a little harsh advice and possibly gutting their story to improve it.)

    I’m looking forward to checking out more of your reviews here, especially for books that are stronger than this one was.

    • Thank you very much for your input.

      I have beta read for a few friends, and when they publish their books I’ll certainly be happy to post about those. As of yet, I haven’t needed to say anything like this to anyone I’ve beta read for, but I do try to give them my personal reaction and how I interpreted things. I don’t know how good I am at it, but I try to help. 🙂

      These type of reviews are probably some of the most difficult to write. The previous one I didn’t have too much to say because I thought the book was written pretty well, and even the things I didn’t get into were personal preferences. This one, on the other hand… I know how hard it can be to write a book, which is why I don’t like going the route of trying to say people shouldn’t write so much as trying to say what I think might help improve a book. It can be hard to criticize when you know it’s probably going to hurt an author, and with a book like this that only had a couple reviews, this is its first bad review which will effect it’s rating a lot. It can feel pretty bad to be the one to do that.

      I do think honesty is important, though, and I’ve received a bad review myself before on one of my books. It’s something that comes with the territory, so I just hope that the authors who do get lower reviews from me are able to take something from them and continue on.

      Thank you for coming to my site and I hope you enjoy 🙂

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