Chapter 7: The Jungle

Last time, I actually had some good things to say!

That won't happen again from now on, if I remember correctly.

I have also read the next book in the series, partially because I didn't want there to be a delay between this book and the next when I'm sporking them, and partially out of morbid curiosity as to what happens next.

It's, uh, not good.  Buckle in now because there is a specific chapter in the next book where things go from bad to batshit.

But that's far in the future.  Without further ado:

Chapter Seven: The Jungle

Last chapter ended with a cliffhanger: the truck that Mr. Kadam hired for Kelsey left her alone in a village in a country that she's never been to, and she can't speak the language without consulting a (sometimes a bit incorrect) dictionary.  Mr. Kadam is either woefully negligent or kind of a dick.

(It's both but we'll get to that later.)

Kelsey understandably panics a bit.  "I ran out to the gas pump and looked both ways down the dirt road.  Nothing.  No dust cloud.  No people.  Nothing."

Um, the truck literally just left while you went inside to pay your bill, which took a really short amount of time.  There would definitely still be a dust cloud hanging around.  Maybe I'm just overestimating how dust works?  I grew up in Arizona so maybe humidity affects dust clouds differently.

Kelsey sees that her luggage is lying next to the road, and nothing seems to be missing from it, which means that the driver didn't steal anything except for maybe the truck.

She hears a noise and sees Ren sitting by the side of the road.  Why a giant white tiger wasn't the first thing she noticed is completely beyond me.  He's wagging his tail like a dog, which is weird, since he isn't a dog.

All thoughts of seeing two weird people outside of the truck immediately before it disappeared (one of whom looked suspiciously like Mr. Kadam), Kelsey concludes that the driver stole the truck and let Ren out before he left.  For some reason, that seems like it isn't super likely.  Especially considering the fact that tigers are extremely valuable, so why would the driver steal the truck but not the valuable cargo inside the truck?

Kelsey tries to quickly tally up the pros and cons of the situation.

First, I still had all my clothes. Second, I had my traveling papers and a bag full of money. That was the good news.  The bad news, of course, was that my ride was gone and a tiger was on the loose!

Did I say "tally up pros and cons"?  I meant "summarize the last page for no reason because we've been reading the book this whole time."

She goes into the store and gets some jerky and a rope to try to tie him up, but when she goes to tie it to his collar (?) he starts to walk off into the jungle.  Kelsey is worried that he won't be able to survive in the jungle alone, because of poachers and the fact that he's been in captivity for so long, so she follows him.  Instead of maybe asking the people in the store for a phone so she can call Mr. Kadam, or her foster parents, or anyone, really.  Makes sense.

At least she acknowledges that it's kind of a dumb decision while she's doing it.

So, the two of them head off into the jungle.  Ren seems to know where he's going, and keeps waiting for Kelsey to catch up to him.  Sort of.  Most of the time he's completely ignoring her while she's shouting at him, which I guess is kind of funny.

I don't think it's supposed to be funny, though.

Kelsey stops suddenly and he finally joins her.

I realized, with great despair, that I'd lost all sense of direction...A choking fear settled inside of me, and I felt a wave of icy, nibbling cold slither slowly down my spine.  It shot wintry streams down my arms and legs and poked out my skin in spiky goose bumps.

Uh, points for showing and not telling?  And immediate revocation of said points because of how weird the description is.

It's getting dark and storm clouds are gathering overhead. I appreciate the attempt to establish a tone here, even if it's a pretty cliche image.

After about an hour or two, Kelsey looks for some water in the bag Mr. Kadam packed for her.  No  mention of how weird it is that Mr. Kadam seems to have prepared her for a trek through the jungle, what with the map and several days worth of food and water and all.  She also finds a flashlight.

This flashlight was not included in the extensive list of items in the bag Mr. Kadam gave her last chapter.  Why Houck didn't just go back and add in a flashlight there, instead of just saying "screw it" and giving her one out of no where, is anyone's guess.  Seriously.  It isn't hard.

More evidence for my "the editor was asleep that day" theory.

When it's too dark for them to continue, they stop to get some sleep under a tree.

"Well, I guess that means this is where we sleep for the night."  I shrugged out of my backpack while grousing, "Great.  No, really.  It's a lovely choice.  I'd give it four stars if it included a mint."

So much for the "choking fear" she'd been feeling this entire time.

It's funny, when Sam complains about sleeping on the ground in Fellowship of the Ring (the movie) I don't mind.  Maybe it's because I like Sam.  I don't like Kelsey.  Pointing out that she's bitching about things doesn't change the fact that she's bitching about things.  It's still annoying.

Kelsey pulls out some energy bars and water bottles, shares them with Ren, and lights a fire.  I think Houck realized that it's kind of unrealistic for a teenage girl to be able to light a fire with zero explanation, so now Kelsey was a Girl Scout when she was little.

Hey, so was I, but I was never allowed to light the fires when we went camping.

Suddenly, they hear a howl nearby and Ren runs off into the darkness.  There's some growling and then Ren comes back.  At first I looked up to see if wolves even lived in India, but then I remembered The Jungle Book and the fact that Mowgli was raised by wolves.  I still looked it up, and I learned that the grey wolf (of which the Indian grey wolf is a subspecies) has a range that includes North America, Europe, and Asia, which is a lot bigger than I thought!  I looked up some stuff about the Indian grey wolf as part of a Wikipedia rabbit hole, and it turns out that Indian grey wolves are only rarely known to howl.  So, while it is possible, it's highly unlikely that a wolf would howl randomly just to let them know that it's there.

Ren starts rubbing up against the trees nearby, which Kelsey thinks is him scratching an itch.  Look, I don't even have to look that one up, because he's obviously leaving scent markings on the trees.  I have no idea why Kelsey doesn't know this.

I also think Houck doesn't quite know how tigers leave scent markings because they scratch bark with their claws (they have scent glands between their toes) and spray urine (rather forcefully, I might add) on trees to mark territory.  They also have scent glands in their butts, which they rub on trees to leave scent imprints.

Guess that isn't sexy enough for a romance, though.

It's really cold, and while Kelsey is trying to get comfortable, Ren walks back over and lies down next to her, purring. Even though, as I have already established, tigers can't purr.

The next morning, Kelsey has to shove him off of her leg because it's asleep.  Har har, comedy.  "He finally blinked open his eyes, yawned a giant, toothy tiger yawn, and then rolled off my leg and onto his side."  As opposed to a toothy monkey yawn, or a toothy human yawn.  Also, "blinked open," what?

Kelsey complains some more:

"Just so you know, I hate camping," I complained loudly.  "I'm not so much appreciating that there's no bathroom out here.  'Nature calls' while walking in the jungle is on my list of least favorite things.  You tigers, and men in general, have it so much easier than us girls."

Wait, if you hate camping so much, why do you know how to light a campfire?  And I thought you were a Girl Scout?  "I'm not so much appreciating" is such a weird non-human way of phrasing that, too.  Also, if I was lost in a random jungle I don't think my "least favorite thing" would be the fact that I have to pee outside.  Speaking as a girl, it's annoying but not the worst thing ever.

At least she cleans up her trash when they leave.

The next page is just description of the jungle while they're walking through it.  It's different from the forests in Oregon.  Yeah, good job, Kelsey, a temperate forest is different from a tropical rainforest.  I'm probably being a little hard on this section.  It's not actually that bad, but it is kind of boring.

Kelsey sees Ren drinking from a stream but decides that she probably shouldn't drink the same water because she wouldn't be able to handle it as well as him.  For one thing, her camping experience keeps coming and going depending on the scene, which is kind of annoying.  For another, Ren has also been in captivity for a really long time, so he likely wouldn't be able to handle it very well, either.

Kelsey finally remembers, oh yeah, she has a map and compass, courtesy of Mr. Kadam!  Maybe she should try to figure out where they are!  Oh, she lists the ever-changing contents of the backpack again.  Now it has a first aid kit, bug spray, a candle, and a pocketknife, none of which were mentioned before when she went through the backpack when Mr. Kadam gave it to her.  Also, the lighter seems to have poofed out of existence.  Her cell phone is missing, too, which is the first I've heard of it.

Strange.  Could Mr. Kadam have known that I would end up in the jungle?  I thought about the man who looked like Mr. Kadam standing by the truck right before it was stolen and wondered aloud, "Did he want me to get lost out here?"

Nooooooooo, of course not.  Why did it take her this long to even consider this?

"No," I said, looking into the animal's blue eyes.  "That doesn't make any sense either.  What reason could he possible have for flying me all the way to India just to get me lost in the jungle?  He couldn't have known you would lead me in here or that I'd follow you.  He's not the type to deceive anyway."... "I guess Mr. Kadam is just a really well-prepared Boy Scout."

Yes, that's the best explanation she can come up with.

Also, remember that he didn't even ask her to come, Matt's dad did.

This is something that Houck has forgotten about long ago, but I am unable to let this go.

Kelsey applies the magical trans-dimensional bug spray that appeared out of thin air while she wasn't looking, which makes Ren sneeze "a big tiger sneeze."  Again, as a tiger, he is physically incapable of sneezing in another way.

The only thing Kelsey can figure out with the compass is that they're heading east.  No word about her even attempting to use the map in combination with the compass, so I think the map may have disappeared with the lighter the last time Kelsey opened up the backpack.

Suddenly they come across a clearing with a hut in the middle.  It looks like someone lives there, since there's a full clothesline and a garden.  Kelsey ties Ren to a tree before she goes to knock on the door, and he seems annoyed.  Comedy, maybe?  It's hard to tell, sometimes.

"I'm sorry, Ren, but we can't have you loose.  It would scare the family.  I promise I'll be back as soon as I can."

Sorry, what family? When did we establish that Kelsey knows who lives here?  (As it turns out, there isn't even a family who lives here, since it's one guy.)

She turns around, heading over to the hut, and she hears "a quiet male voice behind [her] say, "Is this really necessary?"

Oooh, who could this possibly be?  Is it time??

I'm going to include the entire description of the guy because it reveals so much about why this book is (somehow) popular:

Turning around slowly, I saw a handsome young man standing directly behind me.  He looked young, in his early twenties.  He was taller than me by a head and had a strong, well-developed trim body that was clothed in loose white cotton garments.  His long-sleeved shirt was untucked and carelessly buttoned, revealing a smooth, well-built golden-bronze chest.  His lightweight pants were rolled at the ankles, emphasizing his bare feet [wat].  Glossy black hair swept away from his face and curled slightly at the nape of his neck.

He's hawt.  But who could this be????

His eyes were what riveted me the most.  They were my tiger's eyes, the same deep cobalt blue.

Reaching out a hand, he spoke.  "Hello, Kelsey.  It's me, Ren."

According to my Kindle, eight separate people before me have highlighted this section.

But holy shit plot twist!!  Except not because the back of the book gave away the twist and the narration before this has made it painfully obvious!!!!

And here's the major turning point of the novel.  We've left the real world behind, and now we're strictly in fantasy territory.  With a hot were-tiger.  Get ready, because you'll miss this section.  I miss it already.

Closing Thoughts

Well, we've finally met Ren the human.  He's honestly much more enjoyable as a tiger because he doesn't get to talk very much, which forces Houck to tell the story through action rather than "banter" between him and Kelsey.

He's also like, super duper hot.  Just once, couldn't the male love interest not be a hulking Adonis? It would be a nice change of pace, at least.

Next time, Chapter 8: An Explanation!  And we get to meet the real Ren, who I absolutely cannot stand.

But hey, seven chapters in and the real story finally gets to start!!!

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