In the first part of the thirteenth chapter, Dairine has a revelation; Nita has an uncomfortable but necessary conversation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For talk of abuse, homophobia, and sex.
Oh, Merhnaz. If Dairine’s theory is correct—and it seems pretty believable to me—then Mehrnaz has some serious shit to work out with her family before she’ll be able to truly succeed. It almost doesn’t matter how talented she is; her greatest roadblock is due to whatever is actually happening between her and her loved ones. I can relate, though it’s in an entirely different context. I understand self-sabotage out of fear, especially since I reacted in similar ways to the abuse I experienced as a teenager. But I didn’t become cognizant of how I was sabotaging myself until my mid 20s, and that’s when I realized the hard way that I was unconsciously destroying any possible relationship with a guy I liked. Y’all, this was truly some “It’s not you, it’s me!” bullshit, and it’s almost comical how obvious it seems in hindsight. If someone got close to me and I started having genuine feelings, I would come up with bizarre and nonsensical reasons to push them away. EVERY. TIME.
And so, reading through the opening of chapter thirteen, that’s why I was able to pick up on the possibility that Mehrnaz was deliberately making this process more difficult, all so that she wouldn’t have to face the ramifications of making it through the semis. But recognizing this isn’t enough to change it for Dairine, and I agree with how Duane wrote this. Mehrnaz is simply not going to react well to a direct confrontation. However, I don’t know how Dairine can get Mehrnaz confront what’s happening to her! It’s such a delicate situation, first of all, but it’s made even worse because they’re all under a time crunch. How do you resolve a lifetime of possible abuse (or, at the very least, an uncomfortable and painful dynamic in this family) in just a few days?
I DON’T HAVE THE ANSWER, FYI.
The Birds and the Bees
I’m always fascinated by the stories I hear of how people’s parents gave them This Talk. I’ll be real honest with y’all: I did not have one. Any mention of sex was never in the context of being sat down and having a conversation about sex. It was all pronouncements and judgements. We weren’t supposed to have sex at all, and if we did before marriage, we’d go to hell. On top of that, my mother was a big fan of talking about how gross and sinful gay sex was, so THAT CERTAINLY DIDN’T HELP ME AT ALL. She even tried to get us out of having sex education in elementary school and junior high, though she eventually relented after learning that the curriculum was abstinence-only.
I learned about sex—and I used “learned” in a very loose sense—from regulated health classes that were awkward and unhelpful, and the rest I learned from my peers. I’m sure it’s not at all surprising that the bulk of information that I got wasn’t true, meaningful, or applicable to a queer, brown teenager who was in the closet. I know I spoke of this before, but I’m certain that a great deal of the poor decisions I made after coming out and pursuing sex were because I had no fucking idea what I was doing. I followed urges because… well, what else were you supposed to do? How was I to know what gay/queer sex looked like? Felt like?
Look, I’m very close to the end of the Young Wizards series, and I don’t imagine that this is going to change, but: the relationship between Nita and Dairine and their parents is one of the most spectacular things in this series. And I say that as someone who views all of this through the lens of a fantasy. I did not have parents like this; I did not have this experience. It’s an idealized version of something I could have had. (Or, really, wanted to have.) But I admire it for another reason. It gives teens a roadmap for how to talk to their parents. In the end, that’s what is most important to me. As kidlit authors, our responsibilities should most firmly lay in telling the truth. In showing the youth what the world is like, even if we’re writing within fantastical universe. It doesn’t mean that every book should have some super serious message! This scene in particular works because it feels so ordinary. It feels real.
Y’all, how the hell are either of these mentees going to make it through semis??? Mehrnaz is struggling with a complicated (and largely unspoken) family dynamic, and Penn has ramped up being THE ACTUAL WORST. My god, is this truly his superpower? WHAT IS HE DOING??? The judges are going to devour him if he treats him as he plans to. THIS CAN’T END WELL.
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