It’s long been said amongst writers that we must “kill our darlings”. For those that are unaware, this seemingly psychopathic phrase isn’t about killing your babies or your favourite characters (although it is fun to make readers cry); it’s about cutting out elements from your novel that serve no purpose to the work as a whole, even if it’s something we adore. This was one piece of writing advice I got from my writing teacher and inspiration in middle school. The other was this:
“Whatever you do, don’t kill the dog. Killing people in fiction is mostly fine, but touch the animals and readers will hate you.”
And I mean, who hasn’t read a book or watched a movie that involves the death of a dog and cried your eyes out? If you haven’t, you’re clearly not human. Some of us still tear-up at the mention of Marley & Me — “some” including me. But when people die, especially when they go as quickly as on Game of Thrones, I find that I have to be really connected to them in order to shed a tear. But an animal? I don’t even have to know its name to cry my eyes out.
Exhibit A of this post is a new book called The Edge of Everything (if you haven’t heard of it, there’s more information down below). What’s worse than a dog dying in a book? A dog being killed in a book. And what’s even worse than that? Animal abuse. I can’t even think about it without feeling absolutely sick to my stomach. But that was what I found myself reading when I picked up The Edge of Everything. The blatant abuse of animals.
Let me set the scene for you so that you don’t have to read it for yourself. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into graphics. So a teen and her younger brother are hiding in a seemingly abandoned cabin with their two dogs to escape the blizzard conditions outside when a vehicle is seen driving towards the cabin. The dog runs outside, barking, and is hit by the on-coming car. If you think that’s bad, it gets worse. The man comes inside and he hates the remaining dog for a reason that isn’t made known to us. After the girl and her brother hide from the man with the dog, eventually the man spots the dog and drags it outside, attempting to drown it in the freezing lake outside the cabin.
Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to that dog because I refused to read on. I’d heard amazing things about The Edge of Everything and I was really excited to read it, but I simply couldn’t stomach reading about animal abuse. It was disgusting, vile, and very disturbing. I had planned to just put down the book for a day and get back to it, but that book was honestly doing me more harm than good, and I couldn’t inflict that upon myself any longer. The fact that we didn’t even know why the man in the novel was doing this made it worse, and also made it seem irrelevant to the storyline, not that an “excuse” would have made this aspect better. I mean, was this part really integral to the overall narrative? Kill your darlings, man.
I know that the animal abuse is enough to turn a lot of readers off picking up this novel, but that’s not the only problem it has. Immediately after opening the first page, I saw a jibe about vegans. As a vegan, I was insulted that the protagonist thought it was okay to make fun of the way vegans choose to live and what they decide to eat, but I thought I’d let it slide for the moment. But then came another insult. This time I couldn’t ignore it. These “jokes” were unnecessary to the storyline and serve no real purpose other than to anger or hurt vegans like myself.
Lastly, I wasn’t even that interested in the story once I started reading it. I didn’t immediately connect to the main character, which would have helped me feel as though I had to keep reading, and because of that, I didn’t really care about what would happen after the incident at the cabin. I just wanted to get out of there. There’s also talk of there being insta-love, so I’m glad I didn’t continue and thus get even more frustrated with this novel. The few pages I read were enough to put me off it for a lifetime. If you’re someone who gets emotional over the deaths of animals or simply just has a heart and doesn’t want to read about animals being abused, please pick up something else. I suggest The Unexpected Everything — a cute contemporary YA about a girl who starts working for a dog-walking company and falls in love with a boy she meets while walking an insane number of dogs.
Do you often cry in books or movies where an animal or pet dies? Have you read The Edge of Everything and did you find that part difficult to get through? How did you find the rest of the novel? If you haven’t read this one yet, do you think you’ll still pick it up? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).
But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?
The Edge of Everything – by Jeff Giles
It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.
X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future.