5 stars · Book Reviews · Books · gina marinello-sweeney · Reviews · Uncategorized · YA Literature

The Rose and the Sword {Book Review}

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Anna’s rating: 5 stars

Rebecca Veritas is excited to be beginning her psychology internship. She’s made a few new friends and found a delightful bookstore. However, not all is butterflies and sunshine – an old dear friend seems to be drifting away and Dr. Yin, the psychologist Rebecca is studying under, uses many methods that make Rebecca uneasy. As time passes, a growing sense of unease quickly transitions into more disturbing events that make her question if all is as it seems. When circumstances take an eerie turn, Rebecca will find herself a player on a larger scale than she had ever anticipated, a scale that could cause one to pay the ultimate price.

I was so excited to hear that my friend Gina had published her second book of the Veritas Chronicles!  And while I thought I Thirst was amazing, I was absolutely blown away by The Rose and the Sword. (Those who follow me on tumblr will attest to this – I was live blogging about this book all night.) I finished the entire 373 pages in a few hours – I didn’t even know I could read that fast?? I guess it’s just because I was just so captivated and had to find out what happened next. Some of my thoughts that I sent out last night…

“The scene when the boy agrees with his sister she doesn’t need a man but she still needs the love interest is probably my favourite scene out of any book.”
“The Peter & Adriana brotp is so pure. Pure gold.”
“The relationships in this book are so good omg you all need to read this book okay???? A+++”
“This book is almost done but is turning into a murder mystery???”

Okay. Maybe I should be a little more coherent.

The Characters

The characters were all so loveable and relatable?? (My English teacher would murder me if she saw me using the word ‘relatable.’) Rebecca is a characters I relate to quite deeply, but the crazy, quirky Adriana also speaks to me on a spiritual level. Peter is quiet, but such a fun guy. While I loved the play-within-the-story in I Thirst, I fell in love with all the different patients Rebecca worked with. Gina wove in their stories so effortlessly – it was seamless and they all became their own people so quickly. An old man with PTSD, two sisters with emotional problems, a woman who lost her child, a man who was beaten as a child and now believes he is Tybalt from Romeo and Juliet, and a woman who thinks she is ugly and worthless and has grown terrified of mirrors… they are all so near and dear to me, just as much as the main character herself.

The Plot

While I Thirst reminds me of hot summer days and waves lazily lapping against the beach, The Rose and the Sword is as busy and bustling as Los Angeles itself. (I mean, I’ve never been there, but I assume it is busy and bustling.) In other words, it’s faster-paced. Rebecca rushes to get on time to her internship work (and almost cannot find her notebook – queue a humourous scene in which she invokes St. Anthony, patron saint of lost objects, for his help). She dashes over to save her friend’s little sister from a man with a gun. Rebecca and her friend Adriana run for their lives after being kidnapped. Seriously, there’s a lot of running involved. Of course, time slows down for some important moments and deep philosophical thoughts. I just think this novel is such a perfect combination of both the fast-paced and the philosophical.

I love how many of the chapters end with a poem, one of the chapters’ prose even fading into poetry as it ended. Gina is such a talented writer – she has such a way with words that makes this girl who hates a dictionary suddenly fall in love with sophisticated, colourful words. In fact, even the prose sounds like poetry to my ears.

Some Meta-Like Thoughts

I don’t want to go a whole lot into detail, but there was a scene or two I wanted to discuss because it seemed very important to me. This part will probably make more sense to those who have already read the book.

For those who are following along with their copies of the book (Anna the Professor *cough*), I’m looking at p. 139 for the first part I wanted to examine. It is the American Psychological Association’s walk-a-thon. Dr. Yin is running with her patients and Rebecca ovehears two women praising what a ‘sweet’ woman Dr. Yin is. The psychologist is keeping up an act of kindness and warmth, Rebecca knows – but as Dr. Yin passes her, “her eyes flickered in my direction, holding mine for a moment with a truth.” The section ends with a quote from Jesus on the cross – They know not what they do.

This scene really struck me. By this point, Rebecca is more than just a little uneasy about how Dr. Yin has been treating her patients. In fact, she appears to be creating fears, not helping relieve them. As all the people around her praise Dr. Yin as a top psychologist in her field, Rebecca is the only one who knows the truth. But then why would Gina end with, “They know not what they do,” I thought to myself? Does Dr. Yin not realize what she is doing? That seems highly unlikely. That means that it is the people who know not what they do – they hold Dr. Yin in high esteem. But, as I realized, as long as Dr. Yin holds a place of authority in the eyes of the public, she will keep her position. As long as she remains a practicing psychologist, she will continue to mistreat her patients. Therefore, the public are unknowingly crucifying Dr. Yin’s clients. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And that is a very bold statement to make, and one that could easily apply to politics and multinational corporations today – that even though we do not know the evils that are going on in our society, we are still made complicit in such crimes by supporting the people or organizations in any way. Ignorance and silence do not show innocence – rather, the opposite. Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.

The second piece I wanted to look at was pages 145-47: two scenes which are broken in the middle by a poem. However, at a closer glance, I realized that the three parts of this section are actually seamlessly melded together. In the first scene, Rebecca has been confronted by Dr. Yin. The psychologist tells Rebecca that she is too “weak” (145) – that she is “a weak girl” (145) and needs to be strong… like her, apparently. What is strength, then, but cruelty, Cruelty that views all kindness as weakness.

The poem following this scene is a triumphant action against Cruelty Incarnate – the last scene was a “final act of a pageantry / In which [Rebecca] never knew I had a role” (146). Rebecca realizes that Dr. Yin wishes to turn her sunshiney kind nature into “mechanical cold” – she “struggle[s] against the transformation.” What really struck me, however, was the line “My heart is torn apart in whispers.” Dr. Yin’s voice, then, even though it is commanding, comes out in a whisper. Whispers are not strong, but rather the opposite. Therefore, neither is cruelty. Rebecca finally realizes that she has strength to defeat this – “I will not be your toy.” However, this poem all seems to happen in the subconscious because in the next scene, when Rebecca speaks with her mother, she is not ready to stand up to Dr. Yin yet.

“Rebeca, I thought you were going to report Dr. Yin to the American Psychological Association.”

“Yes, I am. But now that I have more control over the situation during takeover, I decided to wait” (147).

And yet, Rebecca will soon find that she has even less control over the sessions – Dr. Yin is sitting there the whole time, berating and reprimanding her with every facial expression and afterwards, verbally. I found this one simple statement – “now that I have more control” to be eerily chilling. Poor, dear Rebecca doesn’t realize she is being manipulated the whole time – of course, she does realize partially, for she is a very intelligent young woman … but she doesn’t know the nightmares she is going to have afterwards, the hold Dr. Yin has on her even now, ever-tightening.

These are just two sections of the book, but I think it is sufficient to show the masterful writing that goes on in The Rose and the Sword – the foreshadowing, the wordplay… It makes me very happy because I love a book that makes me think.

Anna’s Book Notes

This is where I give some of my favourite quotes or certain things I found very interesting.

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