Obsidian (Lux, #1) - Jennifer L. Armentrout 2.5 stars altogether. *** There will be spoilers. But then I have surely been the last girl on the planet to read this book. So what? ***
”His gaze lingered on my face, and warmth blossomed in my belly. ‘Maybe I’m just curious why she is so enamoured. Dee doesn’t take well to strangers. None of us do.’”
This quote is extracted from one of the 'friendlier' scenes in Jennifer L. Armentrout’s young adult paranormal series starter Obsidian, which openly celebrates the hotness factor of supernatural jerks by calling out to the readers “The jerkier, the hotter! This hero knows that he’s an «asshat», but he likes it that way and doesn’t feel the need to make things right. Hail to the champion of demeaning superpower users!” I am certainly aware of the turn-on-effect the attraction between the moody catch (i.e. Mr. Darcy, Edward Cullen, Damen Auguste or Patch Cipriano) and the average girl with drawbacks (i.e. Lizzy Bennett, Bella Swan, Ever Bloom - such a ridiculous name – or Nora Grey) can have on the female reader.

And I do love Mr. Darcy and Edward as well – especially in those helpless moments in which they realize, that their scheming or their pride has done them in and that love hurts. But in contrast to Damen or Daemon and other “sexy demons” they are finally able to put their earlier off-putting behavior into perspective. Although far from perfect, their efforts to keep a distance to the objects of their desire become relatable somehow. I cannot relate to cruel or deliberately mean, though, and am puzzled that so many girls can. Daemon is Damen’s successor in the shitty-heroine-treatment department: He is equally full of himself and purposefully embarrasses, taunts and insults Katy, but he also feels entitled to account for his modus operandum by stating that he is a guy, that he is just “that awesome” or by changing the subject to something that is basically another way to make Katy squirm or boil in a not so cute way.

Of course the feeble solution presented later is that staying away from the oh-so-special human Katy and preventing the forming intimacy between her and his only sister were necessary to keep his species safely undercover. But this - fully expected - explanation for the heightened jerk-factor did not convince me in the least. There is a huge difference between treating your neighbor like she is dirt - or worse - and keeping your polite distance to someone you are not keen on spending time with. Everyone who is not elephant-skinned gets the signals of disinterest. Plus, the childish, partly hysteric the-likes-of-me-do-not-play-with-the-likes-of-you mantra is rather a perfect trigger of a rising awareness and suspicion than a hint at the desire to be let alone. After the big, long-awaited revelation Daemon justifies his need to let Katy in on the secret by claiming that he had to, because she was about to find out anyway. But then he has his trackable superpower stunts to save her (from being hit by a truck *ding-dong*) in mind, instead of the obvious cause, namely his and bitchy non-girlfriend Ash’s ongoing insistence to differenciate noisily between "us" and "them":
”Daemon was quiet and then he laughed. ‘You’re not really like them.’ ‘Like who?’
- She is often very, very dense.
- Her choice of come-backs was cringeworthily childish most of the time. (i.e. she resorts to claiming dangerous things like “I would not play in your sandbox / kiss you / touch you / share your lollipop if you were the last boy in this universe” while trying to tune down her heartbeat. Naturally he is always able to prove her wrong and makes her drool and stutter wearing that smug smirk of his. I wanted her to stay cool and say something like “So what, slimy Six-Pack? I am a teenager. I have eyes and my glands produce hormones. But that doesn’t mean I want every trollop with a yummy exterior to stick his wiener into my mustard pot. Got it?”)
- She goes all Bella and asks the – understandable, but exploitable – question concerning the aliens’ method of reproduction and receives the “typically Deamon” counterquestion as an answer: ”’Are you asking if I am attracted to human girls?’ [...] 'Or are you asking if I am attracted to you?’”
- She thinks she is “best friends” with the girl next door after meeting her for a couple of times although it is obvious that the chatty beauty only blathers superficially without sharing something personal.
- She admits that Daemon had been right when he warned her not to accept another boy's invitation to the dance, because said jock – who had initially been described like he was a perfectly nice and friendly guy – suddenly had a ‘reputation’ as a date rapist. Sure, her date’s drunken fumbling turned out to be physically aggressive, but Daemon’s own advances did not always fare better in comparison, and Katy could also have accepted, but have made her opinion on drunken driving or casual groping simply clear when it started - instead of waiting until escalation and hanging her head in shameful remorse afterwards. I thought it was too convenient to turn someone else into a really bad boy to make the hero’s equally black armour shine in comparison. Plus I hated that Katy just felt it in “every bone” that Daemon would never hurt her. Screw teenage intuition!
- She agrees to take a stroll deep into the woods each time she is asked to - just because Mr. Megajerk thinks he can think and talk better under a canopy. I had the faint impression that the author was a little bit too much in love with the twosome forest scenes in [b:Twilight and was not able to resist the compulsion to sample its scenery (see also the truck fiasco).
- Her obsession with the nuances of relationship vocabulary. I have constructed a prototype conversation to highlight my point. You just have to imagine it playing in an endless shuffle loop to grasp how intensely Katy’s thoughts were captivated by the subject:
- ’Why do you hate me?’
- 'I don’t hate you, but I hate your stupid kind. I don’t want my only sister to be around the likes of you.’
- 'Oh. What do you mean - the likes of me? Short girls with boobs? But you don’t know me. I dislike you, by the way. So.'
- ‘You think? I know you are attracted to me.’
- ‘Attracted, yes, I mean, no way. Attraction is too much. I lust after your body. That is, I like your body. But not like like ... Is that clear?’
- ‘Well. I get mightily turned on by your blush. Here. Let me poke my manly errection into your hip to show you. Wanna tumble me in the lake?’
- ‘Oh! No need to use body language, buddy. I swear, I'll show you my finger, when I've caught my breath. So you like me! I didn’t know that.’
- ‘No. I don’t like you. I am just a guy with a blush fetish.’
- ‘As I said, I don’t like you either. But I kind of like the other you. The secret, sweet one that got snatched away by aliens, you know?’
- ‘Erhem. I pretend now that I didn’t hear you say that. Otherwise you’ll get ideas that I might be one of them ... And I have to stay undetected by all means, because I am by far the strongest and most disciplined one of us.‘

As a relatively tame romance, one which ultimately avoids penetration, Obsidian has its fair share of sexual tension: The countless moments involving grabbed chins, widened eyes, accelerated heartbeats, moved strands of hair, thickened voices, grazed skins and quivering fingers did have their merits. I forked out half a star in appreciation of them.

The first sexy lake scene which shows Daemon trying to coax Katy to skinny dip reminded me of one of my childhood favorites, Pictures of Adam by Myron Levoy, in which 14-years-old, traumatized Adam believes he is an Alien, frightens his potential girl-friend, Lisa, by staying underwater far too long and succeeds in getting her to completely undress and join him in the ice-cold water. Wow. That realistic, tender and funny scene was dripping with hormones and restraint and sweet awkwardness! Dark, smirking Daemon and his confident demonstration of feel-up-skills is nothing in comparison. Maybe Jennifer L. Armentrout read that wonderful book in her youth, too (I think she is a couple of years younger than I, though).

To readers who are fond of books with a lot of intelligent boy-girl-bickering in them I would rather recommend the Australian debut Shadows by Paula Weston. Mysterious, supernatural Rafa knows where to prod and poke to trigger an explosion, but he also knows how to steer clear of the jerk trail. I would categorize the included “almost”-sex scene as being very hot and I extremely enjoyed the heroine’s tendency to swear extensively .

Last I have to add that the extraterrestrial aspects concerning asylum seekers from the galaxy farthest from ours - interesting to learn that the universe has an end – severely disappointed me. Although I couldn’t stand the sickly instant-love story I admit that I would probably prefer the scifi romance Neptune's Tears. But the alien teen romance I am willing to gush about is still somewhere out there in the vast void of writers’ minds.