Canada Cowboy

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Canada Cowboy

Originally I wasn't going to review this story. I was perfectly happy with closure. However, I ran across this recently and realized you posted this years after the original ended. You ended up making a change that didn't make this story better, and left everything else making this story worse. And given you told me you didn't want to change anything, then I think I get to comment on how this story went downhill.

I'll start with the first half of the story, which I had very little involvement with. Frankly, the first 9 chapters were all word salad that could have been avoided had you given any of these characters more than 3 brain cells. Why does the entire school hate Link when it was an accident, where a witness (Aryll) was present? Didn't Aryll call Link out for hazing Colin, only to be rebuffed? And when they fell off the tower, shouldn't Aryll call an ambulance? And even if Aryll is angry at Link, why didn't she clarify the situation? Shouldn't she at least stand up for what's right, regardless of her feelings about Link? And even if Link is unable to talk, why can't he communicate in writing or something else? Whispering requires no use of the vocal chords, so why can't he grab someone like Mikau, who helped him in Chapter 1, and whisper the truth into his ear? You could have gone back to revise this between the years, but clearly didn't.

Which leads to the other issues in the first 9 chapters, which is a lot of moping and not a lot of acting. Link has a lot of self-hate, which I recognized when I helped you back then. However, nothing excuses the fact that for months, he could have apologized to Colin but didn't. He could have done anything to show his remorse, but instead chose to sit at home. Even after Zelda called him out, insisting he apologized even if Rusl hated him, he still took days before he did it. Again, how does that justify the fact that he made a change when he spent 9 chapters moping? This could have been revised to something so much better, but again, you clearly didn't do that.

Chapter 10 is when I started getting involved, and I told you from the start I had mixed feelings about this. You kept Talo's sexuality from me, claiming it was a spoiler. But looking at it, there is no use for it in this story other than a dramatic ruse that painted people questioning their sexuality in a bad light. Why is Link so worried about Talo's sexuality, to the point where he forgets that Rusl just threatened to sue him? And even then, where in this story did it say Talo is a bad guy who happens to be gay? You didn't flush out someone lashing out due to them questioning their sexuality versus someone who is downright nasty to others. You made it sound like it's natural for a person questioning their sexuality to bully others as an outlet. I know you said in the past that you wanted this to play a bigger role in the fic, but then turned around and refused to use it in fear of being cliched and too perfect. If that's the case, then why bother keeping this in the new version of the fic? Maybe you should check out the Avatar/Korra franchise on how to write sexuality in a healthy way before posting this.

For Chapter 11, the main flaw is with how Link approached the entire apology situation with his therapist. You made it sound like that Colin and Uli suing Link is the only reason he is turning himself in. You had Link claim that he knew from early on that Colin would take legal action, and that Uli wanted to do this because "money is nice but justice is sweeter." So Link doing the right thing and apologizing upfront isn't an option for him? Shouldn't he apologize because it's the right thing to do, and that he should have done it from the beginning, rather than apologizing because of legal action? As the famous magician Penn Jillette (also a well known atheist) will say, "Doing something for reward or punishment is not morality." Having Link focus so much on apologizing due to the threat of legal action suggests he is not a moral person, and that he's not sorry for hazing Colin, but just sorry he got caught and now has to face consequences.

Chapter 12 only gets worse, as it includes the one scene that I told you I absolutely disliked. You had Link and Zelda confront the team, using Mikau as the medium. Mikau then says the most selfish line in the entire story, where he tries to talk Link out of this by appealing to scholarships and university. Again, isn't that a repeat of Chapter 11, where Mikau is just doing this because of fear of punishment? I recall asking you before if Mikau had a leadership role on this team (ex: captain), but you never answered. But leadership or not, how is Mikau a nice guy who made a bad choice when he can't even wrap his head around simple morality (ex: not hazing someone because it's wrong)? I think any attempt you have to portray the team positively is now gone, and any claim you had, then or now, about Link not wanting to hate the team or cut ties with them is shot.

Chapter 13 is so bad that I have to split it into 2 parts, because there's so much wrong that you failed to correct. You first had Link talk about the police investigation, and how the team was disqualified and members were punished. Mikau admitted that he go with Link to the police, and now he wants to form a club to show his remorse. Not only is this Penn Jillette's line about morality, but isn't this just a fake act to get back in people's good graces? An apology is a realization that a wrong was done and change is required to right the wrong. But here, it sounds like Mikau is just doing this to get the team out of trouble, and everyone bought it hook, line, and sinker. I know I told you in the past that doing this may lessen the punishment, but where's the context of forming this club? This sounds more like Mikau and the team knowing what they did was wrong, but now they hope everyone will overlook it because they don't want Colin to sue. And yet, despite this, Link still only "resent him a bit" and just chose not to go to the meetings. Given Link is supposed to shed his skin and be a better person, shouldn't he already decide to cut ties then and there?

Then there's the other awful part of Chapter 13, which is the party itself. Like before, I'm glad Aryll changed her ways and let Link re-integrate into her life. However, there was no context on what role she played. I told you that the police should have interrogated Aryll first, given she was the first witness. But how come she didn't breathe a word of that here? Likewise, you claimed Link sold off most of his stuff already to pay Colin, to the point where he couldn't afford a more expensive gift for Zelda. You even had Zelda go into Link's room and sit on his bed, so why didn't you describe the room? Maybe you could write that Link had no soccer equipment left, or his entire CD collection was gone. If you were revising this story to be re-posted here, the least you could have done was put in a line or 2 about that to provide context. How is it possible that you missed something like that?

The first half of Chapter 14 seems okay, even though the dialogue between Aryll and Link can be improved. You should also clarify that Link is doing a plea bargain, where the prosecutor and the accused can work out a mutually agreed upon punishment, rather than the prosecutor deciding what the punishment is. It still has to go to a judge for approval, meaning there may still be a court date. However, the fight with Talo is what destroys this chapter's credibility. I was happy that Talo is now the reject, and Link bonds further with Zelda as a result. But again, if Link can whisper at Zelda to bring her back, why didn't he whisper to people at the beginning of the story about the truth? Likewise, where is the context with Talo's sexuality, and that he's just a nasty person lashing out rather than a sexually confused person lashing out? During the whole fight, Talo was more concerned that people called him gay, and he took it out on Link. Again, this sounds like Talo questioning his sexuality rather than him being a jerk, which portrays those questioning their sexuality in a very negative light. Again, I would recommend you checking out Avatar/Korra on this (I wrote one such fic myself), but I highly doubt this was on your mind when you wrote and then revised this fic.

Chapter 15 has the big apology, where Link and Colin finally meet up. Again, there is some good in here, such as Link regretting that he joined soccer and pressured Colin to do so as well, along with Colin not forgiving Link on the spot and asking that Link regains Colin's trust and respect. But the main takeaway here is the apology (or lack thereof), which completely destroyed that scene. As stated before, an apology is a realization that a wrong was done and that wrong must be righted. Moreover, the apology should be focused on the victim and not the perpetrator. Sadly, you had neither of those here, and the only excerpt of Link's letter was so bad that it can't even be described as appropriate. Who cares how poetic it is that the apology is hard to write, and how Link's nastiness bled out onto Colin? Link should be focused on the wrong he committed on Colin and how he can fix it, not focusing in on himself and what the apology meant for Link. If your goal is to show that Link has changed and he is no longer selfish, then that apology (or at least that excerpt) really undermined and even contradicted your goal! This is why I originally asked for the actually assembly where the apology is made public, but given you skipped it (despite having time to write it years later), I can't help but remain unimpressed.

Then we get to the final chapter, where the only change you made to this story occurred. The original version had an ending that was just fine, where Link was regaining his voice (although it was implied that it would take years and it would never be the same again). Here, you had Link stay mute, all the while keeping the other flaws in the chapter present. You didn't mention scholarships being stripped, what Colin sued for and why he didn't sue individual team members, and even kept that awkward "tree removing crew" wording. What happened to earning your happy ending, where Link has done enough to warrant change, to the point where he gets some redemption in the end? Instead, you went with this half-baked, "he didn't fully apologize but didn't fully regain his voice either" approach, which is so unsatisfactory to read. You could have spent your energy adding in that extra chapter between 15 and 16, where the apology and community service take place. And instead of someone translating for Link, you can have Aryll do it, as a way to show their re-bonding, all the while having Link tell off Mikau and saying that he no longer cares about Mikau or the rest of the team (the separation without hate that I spoke of). Again, this half-baked, wishy-washy, not wanting a cliche but still creating a cliche just made this fic so much worse.

I highly doubt you will respond to this review or make any further changes to this fic. Which is fine by me, because I really have no interest in it any longer. The only reason I even bothered reviewing is because I ran into this, and I realized how little you improved. Even your newer fics, which I reviewed on FFN, had the same flaws as before, which I also called out but you clearly didn't care about. Like Link with Mikau, I don't care either way what you intend to do with this fic or any further writing, given I've gotten my closure. But if you are to post this and claim it's an improvement, then I have the right to call it out as it is.

You can still reach me on FFN if you want to respond, but given I haven't seen anything from you for the past few years, I won't be keeping my hopes up.

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