In the twenty-first chapter of Deep Secret, Nick surprises Rupert, and Rupert sits alone in the dark and is sad and it’s the most gut-wrenching thing in this whole goddamn book, I swear. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Deep Secret.
Trigger Warning: Just in case, there will be a discussion of depression/self-esteem towards the end of this in regards to Rupert’s final scene.
- Wow, THIS CHAPTER IS SO GOOD. Multiple plot twists, new character directions for Nick and Rob, AND RUPERT’S INTROSPECTIVE SADNESS. I’m so into this, y’all, and as much as I’d love to see precisely what’s in Babylon, I’m so happy we got this.
- Can we just take a moment to talk about how every character here is like, “Well, Janine is his mom, and you can’t do anything about that. We’re stuck!” Part of me was like GO CHASE AFTER THEM. The other part of me was all PROPS TO Y’ALL FOR RESPECTING THE AUTHORITY OF A MOTHER OVER HER CHILD. Most of me was JESUS CHRIST, GET THAT BOY AWAY FROM HIS MURDEROUS MOTHER, though.
- On the first page of this chapter, I was convinced that this was all a set-up so that Rupert could go after Maree herself. Honestly, it wasn’t that out of the question. Jones had hinted at it, hadn’t she? How many times in recent chapters had she written Rupert admitting his affinity towards Maree? How often had he said he wanted her back and safe? But Jones moves the story away from this being about Rupert rescuing Maree, and I think that’s super bold. Instead, the moment is given to Robbios, who now has a chance to begin to redeem himself for his part in Gramos’s plan. I honestly haven’t read many stories ever where the heroic quest is given to two secondary characters instead of the main protagonist.
- Moment of acknowledgment of Rupert consistently describing Rob as beautiful. Bless this book for having super hot centaur men in it.
- “Do try to come back, Rob. You’re too stunning to lose.” Zinka, speaking the real truths in this novel.
- I ABSOLUTELY ADORE THAT NICK SIMPLY TELLS HIS MOTHER HE’S GOING TO BED AND DITCHES HER. THAT IS HILARIOUS.
- So Rob and Nick head down the road to Babylon together, caring the elements of life, all so they can help Maree get back her other half. This is after Zinka ambiguously “takes care of” Gram White, which… oh god, what did she do? I think she Disappointed Mother’d him to death or something. Holy shit, that part was incredible.
- Not incredible: Janine Mallory, who had a SLAVE SPELL cast in her son’s room. Wow, she is unrepentantly awful.
- After Will goes asleep, Zinka goes off to a party, and Nick and Rob are deep within Babylon, doing whatever it is that they’re doing, Jones brings the narrative down a notch, and I was totally blown away by what she does here. I can’t imagine it’s easy to turn a critical lens on to your protagonist within the very book they’re in, but that’s part of what happens here. At the same time, it was very hard for me not to see something that’s been a common occurrence in my life since I was young. I imagine that this section hit some of you fairly hard, too.
- “I was by that time thoroughly enmeshed in the kind of thoughts I had been warning myself to not think, and it helped to have the noise. It reminded me there was life beyond my room.” And honestly, the nights where my own self-doubt and self-hatred have kept me awake felt like this: like there wasn’t a world outside of the room that I was in. My depression has always had an isolating affect on me, and I can’t control when it arrives. When it does, it’s as if the rest of the universe has been erased, which is a strange feeling because I’m also judging myself harshly based on the standards the rest of the world values. (I never said my depression made much sense.)
- And as Rupert thinks about the qualities that make Nick and Rob susceptible to failure or giving up, he eventually turns on himself: “I wished I dared hope there were things [Maree] had come to like about me. But I couldn’t think of any.”
- OH, RUPERT. RUPERT. My immediate reaction was to sweep him up and hug him and tell him OH GOD NO THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT YOU LIKE HOW YOU ARE SO DETERMINED TO DO GOOD AND HOW YOU’RE ABLE TO BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND CRITICIZE YOURSELF. It wasn’t long until I realized just how often I felt the same way. And I can’t control the fluctuations in my self-esteem! At least for me, I have no way to really stop a depressive episode when it starts. I just have to buckle in for the ride. And during that ride, I think a lot of things like this.
- Of course, this sort of thinking is complicated for Rupert because he realizes that he unknowingly set this whole caper in motion. Back in the beginning of the book, he’d contacted Janine about Maree’s “legacy,” and Janine, who could easily spot a Magid, thought she had put two and two together. She thought that Rupert was coming to make Maree the Emperor.
- Sigh. There are no coincidences. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.
- I’m hoping that there’s some room for growth here. I want to believe that this is all going to be a catalyst for Rupert to resist the idea that he should do what was Intended of him. If that’s the case, then Them Up There made him complicit in the murder of three children and all the countless people killed in the explosion Gramos set off. It’s bad enough that Rupert feels personally responsible for so much of this due to the mistakes he’s made along the way. But should he feel so bad if it was Intended? Had Them Up There influenced things to happen this way all along?
- It’s a monstrous idea, one that deeply upsets Rupert, especially when he realizes that the children from the colony were all deprived of the chance to truly experience life, and they were killed right on the cusp of freedom. It’s absolutely horrifying, and my heart broke all over again when Rupert started crying.
- “I hoped her life would be better now. I ached to let her have something better. I wanted her to come back more than I have ever wanted anything. Ever.” Oh, Rupert. You destroy me.
The original text contains the word “mad.”
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