Nov 20, 2019
The real 5 books Riverdale fans should read
I was talking to one of my friends about Riverdale, and he was like, “Oh yeah, the show that feels like a cross between Archie comics and Twin Peaks.”
No, that’s a lie we’ve been fed by entertainment articles that want to trick people who are excited for the Twin Peaks reboot into watching this shitty CW show. There are no campy supernatural elements in Riverdale yet, despite promises that Sabrina the Teenage Witch will eventually show up. As it is now, this show is Pretty Little Liars set in the Archie universe. You want to see Archie and his friends deal with supernatural shit that rivals the Black and White Lodges and an Asian lady getting stuck in a wooden doorknob?
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I suppose I should be grateful that Riverdale is attracting a sizable audience, considering that we stop recapping shows if there’s no reader interest, but I’m very annoyed at all the praise being heaped on it. LaToya Ferguson over at A.V. Club gave last week’s episode an A- rating. For comparison, the pilot episode of Mad Men got an A-. Riverdale is no Mad Men, and even grading on a curve here, last week did not deserve that high of a grade. If I was grading this show, I’d give it a B- at best, and that’s only because Barb from Stranger Things was on it and I follow Shannon Purser on Instagram and so should you.
Anyway, let’s talk books. So Entertainment Weekly published an article (presented as a slideshow for no reason) recommending 5 books for fans of Riverdale. Because everyone is acting like Riverdale is the second coming of Beyonce, they provided book recommendations that, in my opinion, did not truly capture the spirit of the show. Here are my own recommendations.
1. If you like earnest but clumsily delivered feminist messages:
I do appreciate that Riverdale is trying to strengthen the friendship between Betty and Veronica (and perhaps set up a lesbian romance down the line?), and used last week’s episode to take a stand about slut-shaming. But the whole setup was extremely contrived, and Veronica’s “I am woman, hear me roar” speech was a clunky soundbite desperately hoping to go viral rather than a real teenage girl raging against the high school machine. But if you believe in “A for effort”, you might enjoy a book by a fourth wave feminist who thinks she’s more enlightening than she actually is.
EW’s recommendation: The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin.
My recommendation: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. If anyone embodies the phrase “two steps forward, one step back”, it’s Lena Dunham. She’s a proud supporter of Planned Parenthood, but then made an awkward comment claiming that she wishes she’d had an abortion just to know what other women who’d had abortions went through, even though sympathy is a thing. She’s proud of her body as it is, but then complains that Odell Beckham Jr. must have ignored her at the Met Ball because he thought she was a “dog.”
2. If you like a good murder mystery with confusing clues:
Riverdale‘s mystery is still unfolding, so we won’t know if by season’s end the “whoddunnit” plotline surround Jason Blossom’s death will be a good mystery along the lines of season 1 of Veronica Mars, or a bad mystery along the lines of every season of Quantico so far.
EW’s recommendation: The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
My recommendation: It by Stephen King. Derry is the ultimate small town with a sinister underbelly, and unlike Riverdale, it’s got some actual supernatural forces at work, and the redheaded kids are cool instead of washed out ginger Edward Cullens and baby Jessica Chastains without the acting range.
3. If you like bad girls with dark pasts, however cliché they may be:
Cheryl is the resident bad girl on Rivderdale, despite the fact we haven’t seen her be bad on screen. We’re told she brutally bullied Betty and everyone is afraid of her, but I think they’re all just uncomfortable with her obsession with pep rallies and her brother, and that gets mistaken for fear. But she wears red lipstick and looks like a young Jessica Chastain, so that makes her alluring enough to be admired. If you’re attracted to hot messes, both literally and figuratively, you’ll enjoy a tell-all memoir full of bad decisions.
EW’s recommendation: Dare Me by Megan Abbott.
My recommendation: How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell. Like Cheryl, Cat Marnell is so beautiful that her bad decisions are regularly excused. When Marnell worked as a beauty writer at xoJane, she was a barely functioning addict and proud of it, regularly informing readers of the drug cocktail she was on at the moment. Marnell’s outrageousness was lauded before everyone remembered that it’s not a wise idea to enable a drug addict. Marnell’s memoir matches Cheryl’s beautiful mess.
4. If you think student-teacher romances are totally sexy and not all morally wrong:
The writers said on Twitter that the Ms. Grundy/Archie “romance” is not what it seems, and the previews for episode 4 seem to indicate that young Ms. Grundy is a fake who stole the identity of an older woman.
Unless Fake!Ms. Grundy turns out to be a very mature looking seventeen year old, it’s still wrong for her to have sex with an underage student, and it’s wrong for the show to give their sex scene the old “handprint on the steamy glass” treatment because it perpetuates the idea that it’s okay for adults to have sex with minors, especially female adults. But if you were always hot for teacher, there’s a book for you.
EW’s recommendation: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson.
My recommendation: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Most people miss the point that Lolita is a tragic tale about a man who takes advantage of a minor, and think it’s a tragic love story about a man who couldn’t make society understand that age is just a number.
5. If you don’t mind the somewhat pretentious musings of a teenage boy:
Jughead’s narration is terrible, and presumably the true crime novel he’s writing about Jason’s death will be too, but if you can stand to listen to him wax poetic about dark and light, and ominously foreshadow vague dangers ahead, you’ll enjoy a YA novel that captures the cringe-worthy beauty of teenage angst.
Entertainment Weekly’s recommendation: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
My recommendation: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I loved this book when I was in high school, but whenever I try to re-read it again, I wind up cringing at the prose and I have to put it down. It perfectly captures the feelings I have towards Jughead’s narration.
Happy reading, and tune in soon for this week’s Riverdale recap!