In the second half of the seventh chapter of Wizard’s Holiday, I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M READING A BOOK ABOUT ALIENS IN A MALL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Do you know about malls in the United States? I’m gonna talk about malls, especially after last summer where I met some folks who were completely confused by the notion that American teens specifically hung out in shopping centers during their time out of school. Now, I can’t claim to have spent a TON of time outside the United States, but even then, this isn’t exactly a ludicrous idea in a general sense. I saw plenty of teens at shopping centers across Europe and the UK!
Malls, however, are their own special brand of American weirdness, especially if you live in the suburbs or in smaller towns. Malls are these huge structures that become events for people who don’t live in major metropolises, and that was the case for me. When my family was going to the mall, it was a BIG DEAL. In a city like the one where I lived, you went to malls because you didn’t have many other choices. For those in rural America, malls and massive shopping centers are the only way you can do shopping at all.
Now, I lived nearly four miles from the mall in my hometown, so if I didn’t have a ride, it wasn’t an easy place to get to. I never made it a social hangout spot, but the vast majority of the friends I had or the kids I knew loved it. They wouldn’t go to spend any money, except maybe to get some Orange Julius (which was super, super popular in the late 90s and early 2000s) or ice cream or FROZEN YOGURT because it also started to get popular then. Oh shit, now I’m remembering when boba became a thing and I learned I could spit boba balls out of those wide straws with stunning accuracy, and that’s apparently my only superpower.
Anyway, by virtue of my upbringing and who I was friends with in the last two years of high school, I never was a part of the whole mall culture thing. However, then I got a job at Hot Topic, and I got to see this every fucking day. Most of it was innocuous; we had a fairly similar group of kids who came into my store just after school was out to peruse (and never buy) the stuff on the walls. In that context, though, Hot Topic specifically represented a safe haven. It was for the weirdos and the gay kids and the punk kids, and they studiously avoided pretty much every other store except for Warehouse Music, since they had a larger selection than we did.
In a more general sense, though, the mall would flood with teenagers just after 2:30pm. Every day, Monday through Friday, and then it would be packed on weekends. Just like Duane describes here, there’d be packs of cliques who roamed the mall during Spring Break, too. Some of them would point and laugh at the kids in my store as well! I saw the same meanness in other kids. (It was always fun to stand in the front of the store and look tough, because let me tell you: I can appear very intimidating if I want.) In short? Pretty much everything Duane described here felt very real to me.
That’s why the absurdity of what unfolds here is so grounded. Duane takes the idea of aliens trying to hide in plain site of humanity, but sticks it inside something so utterly normal that it works… to a point. The whole physical contact thing was something to worry about, as was the chance that Dairine would be recognized by someone from school. Other than that, though, there’s nothing weird about a motley group of teenagers walking through the mall. Thus, Dairine is able to show them her world – at least one tiny part of it – without having to freak out every waking second. And my gods, what a journey that is! I agree with Duane here, in that this made me rethink mundane things I take for granted. How would I describe my world to someone who had never been here? Oh god, how would I explain my job?
Of course, I also suspected that this couldn’t unfold smoothly. Once the group started fracturing – either due to exhaustion, hunger, a wandering attention, or a combination of the three – it became a matter of time. I figured that Sker’ret, in their quest for food, would probably make a mistake. But Dairine’s own wandering attention is what got Filif in trouble in the dressing room of a sporting goods store, AND THE SCENE IS SO FUNNY AND WEIRD. Seriously, I remain thankful that some of the exchange wizards are non-humanoid; it makes this a billion times more fun and challenging. I’m not surprised, though, because Duane’s been doing that since the first book in this series.
I CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE.
I am thrilled to confirm that I will be a Guest at CrossingsCon 2017! Badges are now available, so COME HANG OUT WITH ME THIS SUMMER.
Mark Links Stuff
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