Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush Saga, Book 1)
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A bodice-ripper for the Twilight generation. If you look beyond its uncomfortably age inappropriate start, you’ll find unwanted but undeniable chemistry, highly realistic teenage logic and page-turning mystery.

Hush, Hush is a really interesting book to review. Its plot is reminiscent of a 1970s bodice-ripper where the older, more experienced hero antagonises the virginal young heroine as much as he tempts her. Becca Fitzpatrick doesn’t let a lack of sex (this is teen fiction, after all) prevent her from having Patch Cipriano forcefully seduce Nora Grey at every opportunity. They each have other potential love interests who make the other party jealous, but the once-intimidating hero actually becomes the safer option and they are forced to team up to survive.

Rape-tacular biology in motion

There are aspects of the book that don’t present well despite Fitzpatrick’s best intentions, and I’m going to get the crap out of the way first because most of it happens in the first half of the book.

In what must be the most pedo-tastic lesson plan ever, the Biology teacher (who is also the stereotypical results-driven sports coach) introduces the topic of sex by asking Nora to tell her class what she looks for in her ideal mate. She shies away, so he asks Patch, who lists vulnerability among his preferred qualities, then shines the spotlight back onto Nora, detailing why he is attracted to her and announces that her discomfited blush means she wants him, too.

While Patch has been around for centuries and flirts like an adult, at fifteen Nora is definitely underage, so the scene read like a prelude to rape where the perpetrator is laying the groundwork for reasonable doubt and psychologically isolating his victim from support because all anyone is likely to remember is that Patch flirted with Nora and she ‘liked’ it.

What adds to the squick factor is that it stems from an inappropriate question from an adult teacher that would violate the Child Protection Act. The coach takes credit for a successful lesson, calling it ‘biology in motion’, tacitly supporting Patch’s behaviour. I’m surprised that his next lesson didn’t involve asking them for a live demonstration.

Unwilling to act on her attraction to Patch, Nora asks the coach to separate them, but has trouble explaining to herself what the problem is, so she makes no real effort to communicate it to him. And he’s so oblivious to her distress that he tells her she also has to tutor Patch for no extra credit.

Her best friend Vee Sky suggests a campaign to get the coach fired, but Nora shuts her down and Vee never speaks another word of sense again. She later gives Nora bad advice about continuing to see someone who physically threatens her because it gives Vee more opportunities to throw herself at his uninterested friend despite several public rejections.

After her father’s murder, Nora is left to raise herself while her mother travels for work. She says they have a deal where, as long as she behaves responsibly, her mother won’t have to take a lower paying job that would give her time to supervise Nora. In other words, Nora is made responsible for her mother’s ability to keep the family home as well as her own upbringing. Forcing her mother to be her parent would actually be a failure on Nora’s part. Nora is forced to be capable of looking after herself, but events in this book highlight the reasonable need a teenager has for someone to take care of her. She develops a habit of handling things herself without it ever occurring to her to ask for help when she needs it. She even pushes help away without any apparent consciousness that she is in over her head.

Nora has a nervous tic of popping enough iron pills to ensure she never has another bowel movement in this lifetime, but despite her attachment to this security blanket, she is willing to give them up for the remainder of the school day to stalk Patch. I wondered if her anaemia was a sign that Nora was more than human, but it was dropped partway through the book.

Why did I finish the book?

One reason I kept going was to see just how bad it could get, figuring that a negative review would be quick to write. It would have been easy to dismiss Fitzpatrick as a bad writer, but there’s more to the story and it actually gets a lot better. Yes, she creates an extreme situation in Nora’s lack of support system, but she captures the awkwardness of teenage years where a ‘smart’ girl is overlooked through neglect and her own inability to see she’s in an unhealthy situation.

Vee is loud and sometimes annoying, but Fitzpatrick quietly shows that her confidence is a defence mechanism. What Nora describes as ‘voluptuous’, others brand as ‘fat’, and Vee unsuccessfully tries fad diet after fad diet. She reminds me of Lula from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series with her lack of subtlety and ability to rationalise the irrational to get her own way.

Nora and Vee definitely both make stupid choices, but the reasons why are clear. I could reasonably see an insecure teen making mistakes out of a belief they need to be independent or a desire to be more than they are perceived. What some readers might consider flaws are a well-portrayed part of the teenage condition and it resonated within me because while I wasn’t either of those characters, I had some of those qualities when I was their age.

I’m not a fan of bodice-rippers, but like one that haunted me long after I read it, Hush, Hush had a magnetic quality that kept me turning the pages. Except for the inappropriate classroom scene, I enjoyed watching Patch make Nora squirm while she goes back for more because she doesn’t want him to keep besting her.

I think that’s part of what makes their connection so interesting. Any relationship between Nora and Patch was never going to be one between equals because of his preternatural abilities and centuries of experience. But he got under her skin and seduced her into actively pursuing him. I’m drawn to the conflict between hero and heroine as long as the connection is there, especially when it’s inconvenient or unwanted like it is in Hush, Hush. Sadly, the classroom scene is the only insight given to Patch’s interest in Nora, but hopefully we’ll see this become more fleshed out in later books.

The book opens centuries ago with an exchange where an angel demands an annual fortnight of service from a young duke and it made me wonder which one was Patch and what this has to do with the present day. Setting aside the question of what kind of teenager loans out their car, how could Nora hit someone with Vee’s car and write it off, only for any signs of collision to disappear? How is this connected to a girl’s murder at another school and how is Patch always there when Nora needs help? Since I’m not in the habit of killing fairies, I just had to keep reading.

Yay or Nay?

Hush, Hush is a bodice-ripper for the Twilight generation. If you look beyond its uncomfortably age inappropriate start, you’ll find unwanted but undeniable chemistry, highly realistic teenage logic and page-turning mystery. I have to hand it to Fitzpatrick—she knows how to dole out the crumbs.

Who might enjoy this book: Fans of bodice-rippers, Lauren Kate’s Fallen series and the Twilight saga

Who might not enjoy this book: Readers who hated Twilight, like gentlemanly heroes and expect their heroines to be strong, well-defined, independent and kick-arse

Becca Fitzpatrick will be in Australia in December at The Black Hand Ball, hosted by Simon & Schuster. Click here for details and bookings.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush Saga, Book 1)Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush Saga, Book 1) - C format

Title: Hush, Hush (excerpt)
Series: Hush, Hush Saga, Book 1
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Hardback: 9781847386946 (11/2009)
C format: 9781847386953 (11/2009)
B format: 9781847386960 (9/2010)
Ebook: 9781847389169 (11/2009)

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Decadence's fascination with vampires can be blamed on Anne Rice and although she reads urban fantasy, historical romance, romantica and crime, her first and undying love is paranormal romance. She works in a bookstore and gets no sympathy for the sheer volume of work she brings home, not to mention the TBR mountain that will never be surmounted. Her guilty pleasures include (in no particular order) chocolate, pizza, sleeping in and Alexander Skarsgard and she is a final assessment away from holding a full pistol licence.

6 comments

  1. Enid says:

    You may be right that, yes, they are prone to these mistakes and invoke a lot of feelings that reminds people of their teen counterparts. But that doesn’t change the fact that in the end, these girls still don’t know that their choices are wrong and dangerous. Nora, in the end, still believes that her attempted sacrifice for Patch was worth it, even though all he really did for her was make her feel really uncomfortable and almost have her killed a couple of times. Yes, our heroes can screw up, but when they don’t learn from them and come to terms with why they’re screwing up, you’ve got yourself a flat, and failed, character.

  2. Ash says:

    Ok yes i understand why you would think that it is a little inapproriate for the teens that read it but im a teen and i read it when i was 14 and you may say ohh but you dont understand the whole sexual story, but i do and its really not that bad we know that Patch is centries older than Nora but you dont figure that ouot until later in the book so to the readers its just one guy flirting with another girl and there is nothing wrong with that!!

  3. Decadence says:

    I’m definitely not saying that a 14 year old wouldn’t understand the sexual aspect to the story. When I was 15, I’d read stuff that makes Fifty Shades look tame and when I was in primary school around 11 or 12 years old, I’d already heard about a girl in my class whose boyfriend dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. This was just before we were all teenagers! And sex has a much stronger presence today, so I’m not under any illusions that all teens are necessarily ignorant and innocent. Whether or not teens choose to participate will vary widely I’m sure, (and I’m not here to judge that anyway) but the vast, vast majority will have at least a working knowledge of what happens. So I’m sure you and most teenagers your age understand what’s going on in the story and can handle it.
     
    I’ll tell you something I learned at the Black Hand Ball: Hush, Hush started with that scene in the classroom. Becca took a writing class and wrote about humiliation, specifically her humiliation when her teacher asked her that same question about what she looks for in a mate. She said her book had been criticised frequently by people who said that question would never have been asked, but it obviously could be asked because it really had been asked. Of her, no less. So she took this real life moment and built her book around it. She wanted to create the ultimate bad boy in Patch. Then she starts building all the angel stuff onto him around that. So my perception is that ultimately Patch and Nora in the finished product are a long way from the Becca/Nora humiliation scene. Some of the decisions she made in her writing make more sense, but without this background information when reading it for the first time, I had a much different experience than what it now looks like she intended.
     
    What my problem with that scene was that whether or not the question was realistic, it was completely inappropriate for a teacher or any adult to ask a minor something so personal. It was even worse for Nora’s sexuality to be put on display for the rest of her class when I feel it’s something she should get to protect or share to whatever degree she chooses. Let’s not kid ourselves here, he wasn’t asking about what she looks for in a date to the movies. A mate has primal, primitive connotations, it’s a raw, intimate and deep-seated connection and fulfilment. So again, that scene represents the forcible public stripping of the layers of a person’s character.
     
    And there seems to be some sort of mindset within Nora where she won’t speak up when something is wrong. I think she tries to convince herself that she’s still in control even when she’s over her head as a coping mechanism. That scene was a breeding ground for victimisation where Nora herself tacitly supports her abusers even though she wasn’t happy with what happened and would be well within her rights to demand action be taken against them. She doesn’t seem to have much sense of her own power.
     
    Which brings me around to the quality Patch noted in her: vulnerability. Defenselessness. Patch took the question that answering would have stripped her of power, but used his answer to maintain a similar sort of power and detachment shown by the teacher in exposing Nora. He’s not just the ultimate bad boy Becca wanted to create, he is an adult and Nora is inexperienced and, dare I say it, vulnerable. Patch exploited their inequality. It’s one thing if it was a power exchange, where one freely gives it to the other party, but that’s not what I saw here. And Nora seemed unable to say no or even have any awareness that it was even an option. That was what disturbed me when I read it.
     
    One positive aspect of fiction is that it gives us a chance to explore potentially dangerous elements in relative safety. It’s beneficial for us that Nora doesn’t put a stop to certain events because we get to vicariously go there without her lack of control, and I didn’t really object to the ‘forceful seduction’ scenes, but the school setting with two adults basically colluding to sexually harass a minor just felt wrong to me.
     
    But just because I felt it was wrong doesn’t mean I’m going to say it’s wrong for everyone. A review is an opinion and this is mine.

  4. ash says:

    Ok so first thanx for replying this is going to sound weird but i kinda was hoping you would reply i im trying to get into a journlism course for uni and i was hoping to see what kind of response i would get anyway losing track of things…..

    Do you think that Nora is to young to be getting into this stuff with Patch?

    Like i understand that in the Hush Hush book Nora and Patch go to a motel together she is also only wearing a towel and that, yes is very inappropriate i think that Becca should have made the characters a bit older maybe 16 and like nearly 17 so by the time the ast book comes out she is 18 dont you think?

    I watch a video with Becca talking about her idea for the book and the scene of the classroom being her first thought for the series was from her own experience but i do belive she emphasis the whole the scene because i do belive that, that probably didnt happen.
    I am starting to understand why you said that.

    Also i think the reason Nora is vulnerable is because she has feelings for him but that is also abit unlikely due to they didnt know each other for that long i think she i was in love with the idea of love…..

  5. Decadence says:

    It was well after I posted my response that I equated fallen angel Patch posing as a high school student to someone carrying a loaded gun. Doing a concealed carry doesn’t mean they’re not armed just because you’re not aware that they’re packing.
     
    I think that when Nora knows she’s ready to be with Patch, then she’s old enough, as long as it’s not too far below the age of consent, which she’s passed. It’s not a spoiler, but in Silence, Patch suggests they spend the night together doing as little or as much as she wants and she acknowledged to herself that there was so much going on and they’d only just resolved their feelings for each other that it wasn’t the right time to complicate their relationship with a greater level of intimacy. It’s not so much the age, but how well developed their senses of self-awareness and overall readiness are.
     
    Nora would have needed a damn good reason to go to a hotel alone with Patch and when you’re stranded in the rain, cold and wet, a shower sounds like heaven. Not only would getting back into her wet clothes be unpleasant and maybe make her more susceptible to catching a cold, but it would also counteract the benefits of the shower. She was in a situation of enforced intimacy and limited options, so maybe the towel wasn’t so inappropriate. Interestingly enough, for such a bad boy, Patch wasn’t sleazy about the whole situation. I reckon a lot of guys would have pushed harder to take advantage of the opportunity. I suspect part of that was because he wanted her to trust him and also his own conflicted feelings towards her.
     
    I think part of the reason Nora was vulnerable is because she wants to at least believe she is in control and Patch constantly yanked the rug out from under her. He got under her skin and I had the impression that very few (if any) guys before Patch had done that. So she was in unfamiliar territory trying to hold her own against someone more experienced. I think Nora feels the need to be more than she is, which is why she takes advanced classes, takes on the task of raising herself and letting Vee talk her into doing crazy stuff. So she can get out of her depth and that makes her vulnerable. Patch called her on that partly because it was true, but also because he knew it would rattle her. At the end of Silence, there’s a scene told from Patch’s POV that sheds some light on those early interactions. He didn’t want to like her, but he did. He enjoyed needling her, so he kept doing it.
     
    Since your comment, I reread the series and have a better appreciation for the overall arc and some of the motivations are much clearer the second time around. I still think the coach’s question was inappropriate in any circumstance, though.

What do you think?