The Secret Circle Volume 3: The Power by L.J. Smith

The Secret Circle, Volume 3: The Power by L.J. Smith (1992)

First of all: the cover is upcoming! I need to scan the cover of my personal copy, so you can see how beat up and well-read it is.

Yes, I read this book as a senior in high school, after I’d read Smith’s Vampire Diaries series of four books. I actually discovered the fourth Vampire Diaries book (Dark Renion) in the adult-level horror paperback section of the public library. The library did not own the rest of the series. I ended up buying all of them to read, and then ended up buying The Secret Circle trilogy, as well. Anyway, I loved all of these books. My favorite of all of the books I’ve read by L. J. Smith is The Power. These are “teen” books, but even as a senior in high school, I loved all the magical powers in these books. I’ve always wanted powers. I still love the third book of The Secret Circle, because of the main character, Cassie. Cassie, at the beginning is rather shy and meek, which are traits I have always thought I’ve had (though not quite so much anymore. . . I feel I am less meek, anyway), and by the end, she discovers not only the magical witch powers she has had all along, but the just the strength and abilities for leadership she’s had all along without recognizing them. I always want to BE her. That is the power books can have.

The Secret Circle Trilogy is supposed to be released as an omnibus this fall. I think that means just a big book with all three books included. I think I would almost like another book with the characters. Actually, what I’ve always wished for, since the characters in the book were about my age (in high school when I was in high school), and I am now in my 30s, I would like a book more on the adult level and seeing what happened with Cassie, Adam, Diana, Faye and all the rest in the time since 1992 or so. Did they go to college? What happened with all their magic? Did any of them actually marry each other (since too much intermarriage really doesn’t work out well genetically in the long run, although maybe it’s different for witches, etc)? Any children/little witches running around?

That’s what’s fun about these books, too. . . the changes in what’s popular, technology, etc. Walkmans are mentioned a lot in these books. . . now it would be iods, of course. Beepers are involved, but no cell phones. Cell phones were still very – large – and expensive in the early 90s. (It was until maybe two or three years after this that my mom got a cell phone for her car. It was phone with a whole cord and console. I wish I had a picture!) No internet! No IMing! I am glad these things are not there . . . really, one of the themes of the book(s) is the friendship and camraderie of the group, coming together to solve problems.

As a teen, though, I really loved Cassie and Adam getting together in the end. The romantic side of me, dreaming of just such an occurance for myself, thought this was just wonderful. I did kind of feel sorry for Diana, just a little, but also felt like eventually she would find her own guy with a silver cord. That everything would turn out fine.

Title: Locked in Time

Locked in Time by Lois Duncan, copyright 1985

Nore has an “uncanny” sense of time. She doesn’t need an alarm clock to wake her in the morning, and always knows what time it is. (Of course, this is prior to cell phones, which might make this point moot. On the other hand, it could come in handy if you just know when you wake up in the morning exactly what time it is without a clock around. . .)

Her father has just gotten remarried, much to Nore’s surprise. Her father and mother loved each other very much until her mother died just the year before. Suddenly her father, a somewhat famous writer, is in love with this woman who is so unlike Nore’s mother, and lives in the bayou in Louisiana on an old plantation. Nore immediately perceives that Lisette, her new step-mother, does not like her and sees her as threat. A threat to what? That’s the question. And then there is Nore’s new step-siblings, Gabe (who is quite handsome in a teenage sort of way) and Josie, who is 13 and in “that awkward stage”. It is Josie who says things that don’t always make sense. . . like about the circus fire in 1941 and that she was there. How could she have been there? Why has Nore found 100-year-old pictures of people who looked exactly like Lisette, Josie and Gabe? Not just similar, but exactly. Who are they, really?

I loved this book as a young teen precisely because of the “time” factor. The first time I read this book, I had to know the answers. In addition, I was fascinateds by the idea of immortality. Because I had not yet quite discovered vampire novels, this was a good book that bridged that gap between realistic fiction, time travel, and vampiric immortals in fiction.

Title: The Other Side of Dark

The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon (Copyright 1986)

I read this book around 1988 at age 13. It is about a girl who wakes up one to discover that she isn’t 13 anymore, but now age 17. She was in a coma for four years. She also finds out that her mother was killed in the same home robbery attack that Stacy was injured in. Even before she leaves the hospital she’s lived in for four years, she finds that the media is completely interested in her story, calling her “Sleeping Beauty”. (Although, Stacy points out that this is incorrect – when Sleeping Beauty goes to sleep, everyone else in the castle does, too, so they really don’t lose out on anything.) For her, she went into her come before really maturing, and in four years time, suddenly lots of makeup, shrunken jeans (remember those days?), and punk styles are in. Her best friend from growing up comes around to introduce Stacy to what being a teen is all about. Stacy has no idea. She’s still just getting used to how different she looks.

If this story took place now, not only would the media be getting pictures of her, etc, but the other teens and young adults at the party she goes to would be taking pictures of her on their phones, and chatting about her via text and IM. This would have made things even worse, as the murderer is still around and he knows that Stacy might be able to remember who was there in their house that spring day.

Most of the plot of the story is about who did it – who killed Stacy’s mother and robbed Stacy of four vital years of her life. She’s very angry throughout the book. Hey, I would be, too! The killer is Jarrod Tucker. At the party, he is the one who gets her drunk. Stacy has no idea there is vodka in her pop, and it naive enough not to suspect. When I first read this book, I had more dire suspicions – perhaps Jarrod would spike her pop with some kind of poison like cyanide. In the end, when Stacy has a gun pointed at Jarrod, she does not shoot him. She had previously thought that if she had the chance to do so, she would take it, but then Jarrod tells her what her mother had told him: “It’s all right. It’s all right.” This is what spoke to Stacy: yes, he’s right, that’s what her mother would have said. Stacy didn’t have it in her any more to killed him. She says, “I didn’t really have a choice. Jarrod’s life doesn’t belong to me.”

Things I really noticed during my re-read this week:
Mid ‘80s punk: There is mention of a punk rocker “Glory Beans”. Real? I think not. I never heard of her then, and if you Google the name, you get a YouTube video with some people doing some thing Glory brand beans. I have mixed feelings about using fake musicians versus real people in fiction. Both have their negatives and positives .

Shrunken jeans: I noticed this during my youth when originally reading it, but tight jeans were really still in then, too. However, 1988/89 is when ripped jeans were also in – so tight ripped jeans. Really lovely. I never ripped my jeans on purpose, but when they ripped from regular wear and tear, that was fine with me.

The name Stacy: That is a name of my generation. I haven’t seen so much of this name in kids born in the last 18 years or so, at least. One of the Babysitter’s Club girls is named Stacy, but these books started coming out around the time this book was released, so generation-wise, it makes sense.

The name Jan: This is my middle name, so I always thought that was neat. However, even in 1988 I thought this name was untrue for a teenager at the time. I thought it was more of a name for my mom’s generation. Lately I have noticed that a lot kids are getting more old fashioned names that go back to my grandma’s generation, such as Evelyn.

Donna: Stacy’s sister is about 21, is married and expecting a baby. We hear that she has promised their dad that she will still graduate from college. It seemed to me even then that the name Donna was very old-fashioned. I equated it to The Donna Reed Show, which we’d seen on Nick at Nite, and to a book from the early 60s that my mom had (and I will discuss here on another date) – Donna Parker at Cherrydale. We never learn what the sex of the baby is that Donna (Stacy’s sister) is carrying. I always felt gypped out of never knowing what happened. I always wanted to know if the baby was a girl or a boy.

The Pasta Salad: Donna makes Stacy a chicken pasta salad. Stacy doesn’t eat it because she has no clue as to what it is. Donna makes a comment that nobody knew what they were until recently, and she’d forgotten that Stacy knew nothing of the previous four years. I always thought this was funny, because I rarely ate pasta salads either, back then. First, I did not like cold pasta. Second, they often had chicken, and back then, I hated cold chicken. Third, there was usually some kind of dressing on it, and I hated the taste of the dressing. The entire combination seemed revolting.

Jeff: He is the narcotics officer working under cover at the high school. He helps protect Stacy, and seems as if he’s making a move to be become Stacy’s boyfriend. Stacy doesn’t know what to think. He’s very evasive at times when it comes to questions about himself. It is not until the very end of the book when he takes the gun out of Stacy’s hand that he tells her the truth. It also makes for a somewhat satisfying ending when he tells Stacy he will wait for her – because he doesn’t want to be just her “first love”, but the “real thing.”

I just realized that my paperback copy of this book, like other paperbacks from the 80s, have a page listed other books by the author along with a little order form. Each paperback title is listed under $3 each. I do not believe that book companies do this anymore. People can just go online to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, find the author, read reviews, and order what they want. I don’t do that because I try the library first. I think books nowadays still have lists of other books, but not the ordering forms.

Title: Children of the Dust

Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence. (Copyright 1985)

I read this book in early 1988. I was almost 13. I saw a classmate reading this book. (Megan, I think.) I saw the mushroom cloud on the cover. This was also around the time I had become familiar with Weird Al’s song “Christmas at Ground Zero”, and these lyrics: “We can dodge debris while we trim the tree / Underneath the mushroom cloud.” So naturally, I wanted to read it. At the time, if I remember correctly, we were nearing the end of the Cold War, but the possibility of mushroom clouds still seemed very real.

I found the book in the school library in my junior high. The Media Librarian was Mrs. Page, who was previously my fifth grade teacher. I loved her, and in jr. high, she would often save me books that she thought I’d like. However, this one I found on my own. Also, it again points out the power of peer influence, even when it comes to reading selections. Note: It was most likely this book that really gave me a taste for “disaster” fiction. I have to admit that it was already there (e.g. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder), but the disaster in Children of the Dust is man-made. This really woke me up to the idea that people could really be crazy enough to be this destructive.

Seven things about Children of the Dust:
1) The story is told in three parts – “Sarah”, “Ophelia”, and “Simon”. They are each essentially a different generation.
2) It takes place in England, in Gloucestershire. The book opens with a line about how perfect the day was: “It was such a perfect day, a promise of summer with cloudless blue skies.”
3) Sarah does not get along well with her step-mother Veronica. They get along better as the end nears for them. They work together to save Catherine, Sarah’s little sister.
4) Their dad, unbeknownst to them, survives when he is invited to an underground bunker. He pairs with another woman to conceive another child (Ophelia) to help carry on the human race. They mistakenly think that no one will survive outside.
5) Years later, when Ophelia is a teen, she, a friend, and her dad to go out to warn the people in the outside world that the men in the bunker are going to come to steal their cattle. It is then that they discover Catherine. Catherine is covered in radiation sores, but has managed to have two children who survive – they are mutants: the Children of the Dust. They have adapted to the new radiated environment. Ophelia looks so much like Sarah that Catherine thinks that Sarah survived.
6) Thirty some years later – Ophelia’s son Simon has been out with an expedition and is injured. He is taken to the healer in the local mutant settlement where he meets who turned out to be his cousin Laura (granddaughter of Catherine – also known by now as Blind Kate). Laura is a mutant, and at first he finds her repulsive, and then later beautiful as he get to know her and her people.

7) The mutants have mentals powers such as telekenesis that humans always has access to, but never used, and then forgot over time. The mutants have reclaimed these powers. Simon begins to see how the mutants and their powers, and the science that the people in the bunkers have can work together to create a wonderful new world.

Favorite lines from the book:
“They ate by candlelight – fish sticks, crinkle-cut french fries, and green beans, with thawing ice cream for dessert. . . food that Veronica had taken from the freezer and had to be used up quickly” (12).

“Sarah coughed and smiled. Bright blood flecked the back of her hand and she did not worry. Johnson was part of the plan, a man with a vision that she herself would never share. Her part was over, her purpose played out. She had lived for Catherine and now she gave Catherine to him. Finally satisfied, Sarah turned away, leaving man and child together in the rainy darkness” (61).

“From the inner room came a thin baby wail and an echo of girlish laughter, laughter that went on and one, a maniacal glee. Dwight was talking rubbish! Of course the human race was going to survive! Catherine had just given birth to a live healthy child and Ophelia was going to see. . . Gently she opened the shawl for Ophelia to see. The baby was naked, a pale little thing, completely covered in white silky hair, soft and thick as fur. Tiny fingers gripped when Ophelia touched her, and her eyes opened wide. They too were white” (11 7-18).

” ‘Government?’ said Johnson. ‘What government is this? I wasn’t aware we had a government, and I certainly didn’t vote for them. None of us did. You can’t just walk in here, Allison, and expect me to believe you represent some government I’ve never heard of.’
‘I do have credentials.’
‘Credentials don’t count,’ said Johnson” (122).

” ‘Psychic,’ said the girl, as if she had read his mind. ‘I’m a water diviner, among other things, and my name is Laura. You had no need to shoot that dog, you know. I could have controlled it. My mind is stronger than an animal’s mind. Stronger than yours, too.’
Simon sat on the crumbling edge of the windowsill.
There was a throbbing pain in his leg.
He did not believe what she told him.
Laura laughed teasingly.
‘Once people believed that nuclear holocaust would never happen,’ she said” (136-7).

If you liked this book, there is a movie from the early ’80s that you should see titled The Day After. I watched this two or three years ago after a colleague suggested it. It takes place in the US, and does not go into future generations of those who survive, but it tells a story that is very scary, and would be at least as scary as this book. I do have to admit, though, that Children of the Dust really ends very positively for the characters involved who go on to create new societies after the destruction.

Title(s): 13 is Too Young to Die (1980 & 1989) by Isaacsen-Bright

I was nine when I first saw the cover of the paperback 13 is Too Young to Die (1980 version). I was in fourth grade, and one of my classmates that I was not friends with had this book. She had probably gotten it through a school book fair. I was immediately intrigued by the title, and wanted to read that book. Badly. (I read Rebecca Jones’ Angie and Me the year before, but that book will be the subject of a future entry. And this was before I discovered Lurlene McDaniel.) The school library and the local public library branch did not have a copy of this book. This was before it was incredibly easy to just look up if any library in the system would have had it. I was too shy to ask the library staff to check at other libraries for me.

So, I kept the title in my head for nearly three years – until the school book fair at my junior high in 7th grade. It was there! Yay! I took some of my hard-earned babysitting money, and bought the book (as well as buying a Lurlene McDaniel book, but that is also the subject of another entry). Then in the early 1990s, in a used bookstore, I found what I thought was just a recent reprinting – but it wasn’t. It has the same name, author, and some of the characters’ names are the same, but the story is different in several ways. More about that later.

Let’s look at the covers first.

Here is the cover of the 1980 version:

Here is the cover of the 1989 version:

(I bought this one to the left new 20 years ago. It looks really beat up now, huh?)

In the first one, the one that intrigued me as a 9-year-old, I learned about lupus. This book also made me think that lupus is automatically fatal. Yes, I am giving away the ending. At age 12, when I finally had the chance to read it, I cried and cried. Very melodramatic! I know this book was written thirty years ago now, but all it says on page 86 is that Lupus is “a mystery disease”. Yes, from what I know, it still is somewhat of a mystery, but this book never says that it is an autoimmune disease. Surely this was known back then. I know this book was intended for pre-teens, but still, it could have been a little more specific. I can also see that this book would be a little out of date these days. There are a lot of people out there living with lupus, and I’ve known some.

Alexa is the main character, and the story is in the third person, but told from her perspective. The story opens with Alexa noticing how foggy the island she lives on is, and then her best friend informs her that the island is “like a Polaroid postcard” (page 2) it is so clear and bright.

In chapter two, her mother gets on her case for not taking care of her skin properly. If she were, Alexa wouldn’t have such an ugly rash on her face. Alexa thinks maybe she just scrubbed her face too hard. She mentions going to a dermatologist, but her mom puts her down for that idea, and insists she just must not have good habits.

Well, finally, Alexa ends up in the hospital. However, they, the doctors and her parents, will not tell her what’s going on. They keep her in the dark until she overhears her parents talking. This is how she learns she’s going to die. She still doesn’t know why. After this, the whole story becomes one question. . . will Alexa make it to her 14th birthday? Because “13 is too young to die”. She goes to her school dance, she goes to Disney World with her friends, and her dad gets her the boat he promised for her 14th birthday.

I loved this book as a 12-year-old.

Later, when I was browsing at a used book store (Old Book Barn in Forsyth, Illinois – the best used book store ever!), I found the second version. It was wasn’t just re-released. It was re-written! Again, the main character is named Alexa and the question is if she will make it to age 14. However, this Alexa is a ballet dancer. She is going to actually be in an onstage ballet! Woo-hoo! Then she starts getting dizzy. It turns out she has a brain tumor.

Really, this second version is better written than the first one. It’s not as (what I perceive as) amateurish, but there is still “wailing” and such other descriptions. ” ‘Just go away, and leave me alone,’ Alexa wailed” (68). If it were me with the brain tumor, I might want to wail, but I would not write it this way. The funny thing is, years ago, as a teen, I wanted to write a book this way – I thought I HAD to write with words other than “said” if even that. Now I know better, and know how to find one’s voice in writing.

I will have to decide soon which book or books to post about next. There are so many to choose from!