It’s time to talk about Carve the Mark. I’ve debated with myself whether or not I should, because of all the controversy surrounding the book. Sometimes it feels like a better idea not to get involved, but then I realised that the only thing holding me back from speaking my mind, was fear. And we can never have that – everything should be open to debate, and everyone’s opinion should be honored, so mine too. And I must say that I did not see racism in this book, nor did I think that Veronica Roth was glorifying self-mutilation or chronic pain. I have not seen the interview that everyone is falling over, so I cannot comment on anything that isn’t directly in the book itself.
I felt guilty for this opinion, because I am a white girl who tries really hard to see the world from myriad perspectives. But as such, I re-examined what I read and I still don’t see it. The book is based on two peoples living on one world. Usually the gentler society that is native to place will be usurped by the more agressive people moving in on their land. It was very much to my surprise when halfway through the book it was revealed that the gentle society is actually the one with all the acknowledgment of power and government, who are the only ones receiving political aid, medical relief and other such perks.
That reminded me far more of the Palestinian-Israëli conflict than anything else. Also, it is said multiple times that the Shotet people are being actively kept from information. Their newscasts are edited and blatantly translated with a different message. They get none of the luxuries that the leaders get. This reminded me far more of communist Russia than it did in the struggle between black and white. I’m not saying that there aren’t similarities, just that I find the similarities I mentioned far more powerful.
I can’t comment much on the chronic pain and self-mutilation, because I have very little knowledge on either subject. But there were accusations of Veronica Roth glorifying the violence and the pain. What I read was something different. I saw a people that have a harsh and cruel-looking custom (the cutting), which is actually revealed to be something sacred and very spiritual. Lines drawn for lives taken, the way a kill can be nullified, the personal message people take from their own scars. As for the chronic pain – Citra has to learn to live with it, there is no way for her to be without it. Veronica Roth has said she has chronic pain herself. Her interpretation of her pain through Citra may not be how you experience your chronic pain, but that doesn’t mean Veronica Roth’s way isn’t valid.
Citra does not get rid of this pain. She has to live with it and manage it. Some days she is a total wreck, and she has little tricks to take her mind off the pain to prevent her snapping under the strain of it. Citra feels, as is also explicitly mentioned in the book, that she deserves this pain and others deserve to feel this pain through her. When you have lived with it all your life, I can imagine you starting to think you deserved it. That you were a bad person growing up, and you are being punished. When you are forced to hurt others, I can imagine you believing they deserve it because you must find a way to look at yourself in the damned mirror every morning. That is the survival of one girl. Not a blanket judgment for all people. This is a novel that puts the protagonist in a very specific situation, namely, on the wrong side.
Well, I guess this isn’t much of a review as it is an explanation of why I felt I did need to address these issues. Because they are bothering me, and I wish it could be a more open debate than just people pointedly rejecting something straightaway. I may be unaware of some cultural references that I just don’t know very much about, but I wanted to add my own voice to the discussion just because I feel that the more diversely we hear, the better we form our own opinions.
Leaving all these issues aside, I really enjoyed this book. I thought that it was nicely paced – fast, a lot happening, but not so fast it felt rushed. I liked how you saw Akos’ captivity through the eyes of his captor, Citra. There was a role reversal in her being the strong and agile fighter, coming from the violent culture. I liked how they only very slowly grew towards one another, and how Citra kept feeling guilty for her part in what had happened to Akos. How she feared that she was taking advantage of him, and how he betrayed her when he got the chance to save his brother, without a moment’s thought.
I enjoyed this story. I don’t think it should be longer than a duology, which I am glad to hear it won’t be. I thought it was well written, and that Veronica Roth had put a lot of thought in how her two cultures were meant to interact with one another, how they were co-habiting on the same planet. I liked how they were both very different, but that there was something beautiful and harsh to find in each. In Citra’s culture there are redeemable people, just as Akos’ mother is quite a selfish woman who put preserving herself as oracle before the lives of her family. I really liked reading it, and I although I found that there were some things that could have been better laid out, I found it unique enough to be refreshing. I wish that more people could have had the experience I had with it.