Natalie Monroe is currently studying for a B.A in English for the oldest reason in the book: she loves to read. When not fangirling over various books, she can be found watching cartoons, bugging cats who want to be left alone and spreading sarcasm. She also writes YA with fantastical elements because she believes we all need a touch of magic in our lives.
The Collector is sort of a hit-or-miss book. You’re either going to love it and worship Victoria Scott to the high heavens or you’re going to hate it and burn the pieces. I am proud to say that I belong to the former and am now officially Team
Dante Walker Victoria.
It has a fantastic protagonist (I’ll talk more about Dante later), plenty of snark and best of all, a disabled heroine.
A lot of readers ask for more diversity in YA, such as PoC or queer characters and I completely agree with that. But I hardly ever see people complaining about handicapped characters, or the lack thereof, in YA. And I’m not talking your issue-driven contemporaries where the whole plot is focused on his or her disability. I’m talking facing down fey armies, battling evil wizards or saving the world — and I want them to do it from a wheelchair or with another disability.
I am disabled. I suffer from a nifty little thing called Myopathy and I limped (and tripped) around for three years until my doctors suggested I use a wheelchair to prevent a self-induced concussion.
I get that it’s hard for authors because there are a lot of limitations if your characters are disabled. You can’t have them charge screaming down the steps to battle vampires. You have to build them a ramp or have them shuffle slowly downstairs, preferably with someone else holding onto that heavy sword. They might even refuse to show up for battle altogether because they’re uncomfortable around large groups of people or because their broccoli touched their carrots again.
So when I saw that a paranormal romance (or urban fantasy) featured a disabled heroine, I flipped out. I was excited, proud, yet terrified that Victoria Scott would butcher Charlie and her limp.
And my verdict?
Give yourself a hand, Victoria, because you did a fantastic job. Charlie is never defined by her disability and is instead, portrayed as an adorkable and good-hearted person. She does charity work, hangs out with her friends and makes out with Dante. Her limp is completely overshadowed by day-to-day normalcy (as normal as it can get anyway, with Dante under your roof), but there are subtle hints throughout the book reminding us. In short, Charlie Cooper is your average, down-to-earth girl—who happens to be disabled.
But occasionally, this normalcy backfires. Like this scene for instance:
[Charlie] keeps walking, pumping her short little legs to outpace mine. Seriously? I’ve got half a foot on this girl.
Um…yeah, that’s not really possible. A person with a limp cannot walk that fast. Seriously, I limp and I have friends who limp. We move like shuffling zombies with an iron ball attached to our ankles. There is no way Charlie can walk faster than Dante. And there’s this scene where Charlie jumps on the bed with Dante, which is really cute and all, but illogical too. Charlie has a bad hip. She can maybe bounce up and down a few times if she’s lucky, but then her leg’s going to give out and if this were a manga/anime…yeah, we all know what’s going to go down.
Another thing that irked me was how Charlie’s limp was used as a plot point. She fulfills the soul contract by wishing away her limp. My bone wasn’t with how her limp ‘magically disappears’ (Marieke Nijkamp has a marvelous post on this issue). It was with the sad truth that the author hadn’t set out to create a disability for the heroine just for the heck of it, but as a means to advance the plot. It’s like the issue-driven thing all over again. I don’t want a reason for a disability, I just want it to be.
But those are minor things and Charlie is a super sweet and competent heroine, so I’ll let it go.
Plus, we all know who the star of the show is—one Dante Walker.
“I came as Awesome Sauce,” I say. “You probably wouldn’t recognize it.”
I can tell you right now if you don’t like Dante, you’re not going to like this book. The guy is cocky, selfish and an all-round jackass in the beginning. And he admits it.
But there are times when his badass exterior slips and you see he’s actually a nice guy underneath. And as the story goes on, you see more and more of these moments, like Dante helping Charlie’s grandma and that scene with him comforting a little girl on the airplane. Plus, he actually sounds like an authentic guy and comes with his own, personal brand of sarcastic, witty banter. And I love me some snark.
The part I didn’t like about Dante was him calling Charlie “baby”. I hate guys who call girls “baby”, even as an endearment. It’s like they can’t even be bothered to remember their names. At least Dante only does it twice (yes, I counted).
The world-building is wonderful and I love the whole unique spin on the Heaven/Hell dynamic. Secondary characters are also very well-done. I see so many
props BFFS shunted aside once the hot guy/girl shows up and it’s nice to see characters that aren’t there just for the sake of making the heroine/hero look good. Is it wrong that I was sorta, kinda rooting for Blue to end with Charlie? I know Dante has to end up with her (hell, the whole plot would be obsolete if that didn’t happen), but come on, the guy loved her before Dante did. And she wasn’t even beautiful then!
Sadly, the plot fell a little flat for me; there weren’t any ohmygod plot twists, but it was layered enough for entertainment value. And honestly, Dante makes up for a lot of it, even if the latter-half him is a tad cheesy.
The romance is nice enough, but if you really think about, it’s a tad insta-love. Took the boy eight days to go from:
My eyes widen at the sight of her. This is the girl Boss Man is after? She looks like a porcelain doll… beat three times with an ugly stick.
I will protect this girl with everything I have, because if something happens to her, I will lose myself. I will cease to exist.
And I will take everyone with me.
But I do appreciate the point Victoria was trying to make: we’re awesome and beautiful no matter what we look like. And don’t let anyone, even a hot dude with smouldering eyes, tell you different.
All in all, The Collector is a fantastic and humorous read and I highly recommend it. And if anyone out there writes a kick-ass disabled character along the lines of Susannah from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, tell me because I would so read the crap out of it.