After reading Cinnamon, I can’t say that my expectations for the Shooting Stars mini-series were heightened any more than they were going in, but alas, considering that I got four of the five books in the series at the same thrift store (score!) for 50 cents a book, I basically have to commit. Ice is the second book in the series. Will it be any better? Let’s find out!
ICE WISHES SHE COULD JUST BECOME INVISIBLE…
Ice hides from the world behind a shield of silence. And this is what her mother hates about her. All she wants is a normal daughter who wears makeup and sexy clothes to attract boys. But Ice gets her chance to shine when she reveals her beautiful singing voice. And her extraordinary gift may become her saving grace when tragedy and deception almost destroy her dreams…
About the Book
If I’ve done my research right, I can tell you that Ice (we’ll get to the name later) is V.C. Andrews’ second black character (after Rain of the Hudson series). This post from The Complete Annotated V.C. Andrews Blog-O-Rama does a great job of illustrating Andrews’ troubles with diversifying her characters but the post doesn’t mention anything about Ice.
Most of the issues cited in the aforementioned blog post relate to the protagonist’s racial status always being a part of her character’s struggle. While race does contribute to a lot of struggles for many in real life, it doesn’t always mean it’s gonna produce great fiction. It’s frustrating when race is used as a plot device. I do just want to say that I struggle with white privilege, even as a bi-racial person. Like I’d be pissed if every novel with a half-Filipino woman always had a plot where she was pestered by white dudes who are weirdly obsessed with Filipinos.
I’m pretty sure the same person owned all the copies of my Shooting Stars books (with the exception of the Falling Stars finale). My copy of Ice looks pretty similar in condition to my copy of Cinnamon, creased spine, worn corners and all. The bottom portion of the binding is in really rough shape, however. The first 50 pages of the book are splitting away from the glue from normal reading, which makes me wonder if the publishers decided to flake on quality.
Capitalism is one frustrating beast, indeed.
I can’t say that I had higher hopes for this book but I did expect it to be better than Cinnamon. Its premise promised some tragedy and deception, so let’s find out just how much of it there is.
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
The main character quirk with Ice (other than her ridiculous name) is that she’s an elective mute. She’s shy and quiet and “only speaks when she needs to”. The book’s prologue pretty much smacks you in the face with this information, and early scenes of the book (with the teacher and some classmates) do suggest this. Honestly, though, Ice seems to speak just as much as any other V.C. Andrews protagonist, so her whole character quirk gets thrown out the window.
Yes, she’s pretty. Yes, she’s talented, and thankfully her talent (singing, in this case) is woven through the narrative. Her skills evolve throughout the novel as they should, considering that this series is supposed to focus on girls with real creative talent and Cinnamon was just really good in an effing high school play and somehow made it into this very prestigious arts school. Ice, however, painstakingly records a demo and practices a song to death before her audition. She doesn’t have a professional music background, but she does at least make a real attempt to hone in her skills.
One pro about Ice is that people actually mention the weirdness of her name over and over and over, AS THEY SHOULD. Ice’s mother frequently brags or criticizes Ice for her name, which makes for a bit of an interesting character (though we’ll get to her later). At the very least, for a girl with a weird-ass name, she gets the right response.
A Tragic Death
A Rags to Riches Plot
Surprisingly, the Goodman family (which start poor) does not go on to earn riches, though at one point the dad gets shot and, this being the United States, somehow manages?
A Vivid Gothic Setting
This entire novel takes place in an urban setting in Philadelphia. Ice’s dwelling is the Garden Apartments complex, which is pretty run-down and full of other low-income individuals. It’s all quite urban. No large mansion. No scenic grounds. Just a city, school, and an apartment that Ice’s horrendous mother wants to get out of.
A Beloved Doting Paternal Figure
We finally hit one V.C. Andrews staple with Ice’s father, Cameron. He’s a security guard who works late shifts and is way too easy-going. He forgives his wife for every vain aspect of her personality, BUT he does have a good relationship with Ice. They both have a love for jazz music, which is a stereotype, yes, unfortunatelyThankfully, Ice’s father doesn’t speak to Ice with all that hyper-saturated Daddy-like sweetness that other V.C. Andrews daddies do. He actually seems like a great well-to-do guy.
Even when Ice’s mother sets Ice up on a blind date with an older military man, Ice’s father actually trusts Ice’s judgement instead of going all shotgun dad about the situation.
OF COURSE, however, Ice still calls him “Daddy”.
A Hostile Maternal Figure (+ Bonus Mean Girl!)
Ice’s mother, Lena, isn’t exactly “hostile” in the way a normal V.C. Andrews maternal figure would be. She’s bossy and has to have her way, but she’s not overbearing. Literally all she cares about is vanity, looks, attracting the opposite sex. The first half of the book is cluttered with her ramblings, and I honestly think that Andrew Neiderman just watched a couple 90’s R&B videos and picked a backup dancer with the question, “What if she became a mom?” and that’s how Ice’s mother was created.
Ice’s mother is also a bit of a drunk and very irresponsible, the traits of which were actually represented well. Her main goal in this book is to get Ice laid, so she sets up her daughter with a friend’s son and gets her a makeover and a new outfit and forces her out into the world.
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
So let’s keep talking about Ice’s mother because she’s pretty much where all the misogyny in this book comes from. Considering this book takes place in the late90s/early ’00s (it was published in 2001), Ice’s mother def missed out on of that great female positive hip hop in the day. Where’s Missy Elliot at?
Like, I’m pretty sure feminism was a little more evolved than this:
“Men tell you they don’t want other men gawking at you, but believe me, Ice, that’s exactly what they want. It’s like everything else they own. They want to drive a fancy car so everyone will look at them and be jealous. They want expensive watches and rings to draw green eyes. It’s the same with their women.”
And she’s not telling Ice this info in order to get her to fight the patriarchy. No, she’s making Ice up so she can live by these standards. Somebody get this woman some Beyonce. Even Destiny’s Child-era Beyonce was better than this.
Also, I can’t help but mention Andrew Neidermen’s double fucking standard when it comes to any gestures involving the chest area between males and females. We all know at this point just how obsessed he and plenty of other male authors specifically reference BREASTS.
In this passage, Ice mentions what the music she and Balwin share means to her:
“Balwin feels it like I do. When we’re doing a song together, we’re connected. We touch each other more deeply. In here,” I said with my hand over my breast, “and here,” I added, pointing to my temple.
And then I shit you not, FIVE PAGES LATER, Balwin does the same thing, but it’s referenced differently:
“The song was the only way I could tell you how I felt about you,” he said softly. “I feel it all here,” he added, placing his hand over his heart.
None! Nada! I’m getting bored!
Some Really Bad Writing
Fortunately, Ice focuses more on herself and her talent than she does in self-misery, so there isn’t the same breadth of melodrama spewing from her narrative. Her mental process is actually quite rational, albeit boring to read in a V.C. Andrews tale.
Here’s a passage where’s she’s talking about how her elective muteness benefits her IRL. This entire paragraph could have been like two sentences max, but hey, it’s V.C. Andrews:
I didn’t know any other person who paid as much attention to the symphony of the Garden Apartments as I did. They were too busy making their own noises to listen to anyone else’s and rarely did an hour pass in their homes when silence wasn’t broken. Silence, I learned early on, frightens people, or at least makes them feel very uncomfortable. The worst punishment imposed on my school friends seemed to be keeping them in detention, forcing them to be still and shutting them off from any communication. They squirmed, grimaced, put their head down and waited as if spiders had been released inside them and were crawling up and down their stomachs and under their chests.
The over-writing knows no bounds, like in this scene where Ice waits in the hospital for news about her recently-shot father:
The silences I did see and hear were the silence in the eys of the worried wives, mothers, husbands, brothers, sisters and friends who lingered in corridors, quietly comforting each other, holding each other, standing in the shadows and gazing absently at the floors or walls or looking out the windows at nothing, just waiting in a world where all the time seemed to have stopped, where everything said or done seemed so far off reverberating into the darkness.
At this point, Ice has already spoken plenty and her entire character quirk of not speaking has rather worn off.
Fantastic Psychological Horror
Things don’t exactly get good and messed up with the Goodman family, BUT there’s some pretty bad fat-shaming that happens after Ice starts hanging out with this dude, Balwin, who is a fellow music-lover and gifted piano player who befriends Ice and tries to record a demo with her in his fancy recording studio basement. Balwin’s a great guy, but his father HATES the fact that he’s vaguely overweight. Ice thinks to herself that he could lose a few pounds, but every other character make it seem as though he’s ready for casting in My 600lb Life.
Balwin’s father is some rich pretentious dude who loathes that his son is overweight and eventually attempts to bribe Ice into getting Balwind to lose some poundage. He even has a whole payment plan per pound system in the works. Ice, adamant that she doesn’t like Balwin in that way, refuses to participate, but because Balwin’s head over heels in love with Ice, he loses the weight so he can be with her. Of course, Ice eventually bangs up his fresh new bod, but then Balwin’s dad makes payment on her deal right in front of Balwin. Things break down in their relationship for like two pages before this entire elaborate body-shaming plot point resolves for nothing.
I mean, there’s def some psychological damage going on within Balwin’s family but it’s not exactly done for horror’s sake.
My Final Rating
To be honest, there were some things that I appreciated about this one. I like that Ice has a bit of a head on her shoulders. Bad things keep happening to her but she doesn’t exactly have a “woe is me” kind of attitude and instead continues to go to Balwin’s house to record her demo. She has a few setbacks but Balwin and her father encourage her to fight for her passion. In the end, it’s her passion that helps her succeed.
So no, it wasn’t a “good” book but it was a decent twist on the V.C. Andrews formula, and I don’t feel that Ice’s race was her character’s primary quirk. That said, I’d love to hear your perspective on this, so feel free to discuss in the comments.
ICE (Shooting Stars #2)
- People mock Ice's name.
- Ice is a decent protagonist to follow.
- Ice's dad is kinda okay.
- Ice's mom is pretty much only good at being a somewhat convincing drunk.
- Half this novel is literally just Ice preparing for and going on for a date.