Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Siren, Rewritten and Re-released

I’m sure you’ve heard about this (because I can’t shut up about it), but one of my favorite YA authors, Kiera Cass, released a rewrite of her first novel, The Siren. This is a pretty big deal for her. She self-published The Siren six years ago, and since then, she’s had a ton of success with her series, The Selection. It completely makes sense that she should re-release The Siren with her publisher. It even makes a little sense why it might undergo a bit of editing or revising.

What doesn’t make sense is why she changed everything so that it’s barely recognizable.

I’ve read a couple reviews (and an interview with Cass) that say you simply have to treat it as a separate novel. I have two problems with that. First, if that were true, she should have changed the characters’ names and the title of the novel. Second, I’m infatuated with the first novel, so I cannot objectively read it without first filtering it through that lens. I recognize my bias, and I accept it. However, in order to try to maintain a facade of objectivity, I will not list anything as “good” or “bad”; I will simply explain what was kept and what was lost as a result of the rewrite.

What we kept

  • The characters’ names. Kahlen and Akinli are still there, as well as Ben, Julie, Aisling, Miaka, and Elizabeth. 
  • Most of the characters’ backstories. We actually gain more of Kahlen’s backstory. I didn’t mind seeing how her journey as a siren began, although the way it happened was definitely different. Miaka’s story is still there, and Ifama’s is told in memory, not as if we were witnessing it with Kahlen. Same with Marilyn. She’s never actually in the book, just mentioned as a memory. 
  • Kahlen and Akinli’s love for each other. It felt underdeveloped this time around, but you could still see how deeply their hearts were knit together. 
  • The sirens’ job description. Their role in serving the Ocean didn’t change. 
What we gained
  • A new siren. Padma is a brand-new character with her own backstory, and her story drives part of the plot. 
  • Akinli’s man bun. I can’t help you process this. 
  • A more concise novel. There was more action and few lapses with mere description. This was both a good and a bad thing. But I cannot deny that it was pared down. 
  • A completely different ending. The climax and resolution are based around an event that never went down in the first book. 
  • The Ocean’s own words. She never speaks in the first book; we only know her thoughts by what Kahlen relays. It was interesting to read her own dialogue. 
What we lost
  • The central relationship of the story. In the original, the love between Kahlen and the Ocean was the driving force behind every decision. In the rewrite, the Ocean comes across as clueless at best and vengeful at worst. We never see why the Ocean has a special affection for Kahlen, and we miss out on the years Kahlen spent at the Ocean’s side alone. 
  • Aisling’s sacrifice. The secret of Aisling’s past is revealed immediately in the rewrite. There is no climax where she is able to step in and save Kahlen. 
  • Character development. Miaka and Elizabeth seem hard and unfriendly in the rewrite. There is no time to know them and understand why Kahlen loves them. Likewise, we have almost no time with Julie and Ben. 
  • Akinli’s past relationship. I’m okay with this loss. I don’t think knowing about his past relationship in the original helped the story. 
  • Jillian and Kahlen's work as a teacher for the deaf. It was perhaps extraneous in the original novel, but this relationship and plot point helped us understand Kahlen's depths of feelings more, but it was left out because it wasn't needed to drive Kahlen to Akinli.
  • The Giving Tree. In the acknowledgements of the original novel, Cass writes, “Thanks to Shel Silverstein for writing a book that made me decide to become best friends with a tree in the first grade.” This explained so much about befriending the Ocean, but this book has no mention in the rewrite. 
  • The decision between judgment and mercy. Like I said earlier, the climax is completely different. There is no battle to see grace given or judgment doled out. 
  • The beautiful descriptions in writing. The first novel is so filled with amazing words that I have copious pages highlighted in my nook. For example, Cass describes the Ocean as “a shade of blue I’d never encountered. It was the color of ice and honey and sky and rain mixed together into a sheet of flawless glass with broken frothy edges that tickled my feet at the shoreline.” 
I first read The Siren in a time when I felt far from God. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Him; I did, and I was faithfully following Him. But I struggled to depend on Him alone. I couldn’t imagine that He could love me as much as the Bible said He did.

And then I read this book. Kahlen’s words so mirrored my own. She hated being alone, and she ached to be loved. When she finally gives herself over to the Ocean, she realizes the depths of Her love, and she says, “I sat then and wept openly in Her arms. She let Her waves rush over me, and for the first time they didn’t feel like chains. It truly felt like an embrace.”

I read that, and I cried out to God to feel that way with Him. I had my earbuds in, and the first song that came up on iTunes radio was a new song I had never heard before called “Oceans” by Hillsong. I blogged about that night soon after. 

The original cover

You see why this book felt so special to me. My daughter Kaelyn was so named because of this Kahlen. I wanted her name to have a special meaning of one who “trusts without borders” like Kahlen learned how to do in The Siren.

The original book isn’t readily available. It’s going for lots of money on ebay, it seems. I only have a digital copy, and I’m kicking myself for that now. But I’ll continue to read it, year after year, and lose myself in Kahlen’s world.

The rewrite? I’m going to pretend it never happened.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, this was rough. It feels like a bubble-gum, cotton candy copy of the original. Disappointing for sure.