Cease & Desist by Stephen David Hurley (2016)
YA/NA Fiction | Contemporary | Thriller | Supernatural
“What if the secret to being charismatic were actually a gene you could inherit, and pass along to your children. What if this “X-factor” could make you a star? Welcome to the world of Cease de Menich, a sixteen-year-old actress in New York City who gets cast as Joan-of-Arc in a reality-drama, only to discover her “acting gift” has been passed down through her bloodline for almost six-hundred-years. Cease finds the plot of the drama reveals dark secrets from her past–an abusive mother, a brother who committed suicide–and the reader must decide if she’s a reliable narrator or a terrified girl who’s succumb to the pressure of fame and the abuse of her past.
Cease & Desist is a dark, contemporary YA thriller with a supernatural twist. Readers of books like I Let You Go and The Girl on the Train will enjoy this coming-of-age story, which struggles with the realities of sexuality, violence as entertainment, and mental illness. Cease & Desist has excellent crossover potential into the adult marketplace.”
Expected Publication Date: October 10, 2016
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!
This isn’t history; it’s Hollywood. Please don’t forget that. –Cease
Cease & Desist explores the costs of fame, the vampirism of producers and the entertainment industry, and the growing twisted obsession for sex and violence in entertainment today. No blood, no glory. No sex, no intrigue. No money, no show. No show, no fame. This book is gritty to the core as it flips over humanity to reveal its dark and fetid underbelly that adores the bright lights of New York City and its compatriot, Hollywood.
Filled with graphic violence, sexual content, and strong Catholic themes, this book takes no prisoners as it whisks the reader away into the real world forcing it to witness each challenging act. Hurley definitely has a very creative concept here and this book definitely brings up some good questions about life, yet it did leave just a little something missing. Not sure what but…something. Not plot-wise, I don’t think, but something more in the structure or technical execution, perhaps. Anyway…
This book is crazy. Part One was…pretty intense, but Cease’s letter to her fans at the start of Part Two is epic. She really delivers the truth. No scripts, no “Applause” signs, no agenda, just the truth in her head.
The people who watched me burn at the stake are alive and well and watching you suffer on You Tube. -Jeanne
I like how the author chose to write its characters as actors. The book shows how they navigate the real world and the scripted world along with the challenges and immense pressures that come with both. As hard as an actor may try to serve the empowerment and furthering of art to explore and enlighten humanity, in the end they often become little more than playthings for the public to chew on between walks and meals. And to the entertainment industry? Well, all they see are dollar signs. Hollywood can talk all it wants about race, morals, art, vision, diversity, and dreams but it honestly hasn’t changed very much and if human nature is any indication then I highly doubt it ever will. Maybe it will give a little here or there and let the occasional stereotype-breaker soar through the cracks, but it’s a business and a business can’t breathe without money. If you’re not money then your dreams and desires honestly don’t matter. Harsh? Maybe. True? Sadly. Always? Thankfully not, but almost.
But here’s a piece of advice…something about fame I think you should know. Once you get a taste of it, you’ll want more. You’ll say you can control it. But you’ve no idea what you’re getting into. –Cease
But back to why I said this book is crazy. Well, part of the reason.
We jump back and forth from scenes to set to memories to thoughts to emails to home to the future to the past to the present. While it technically makes the grade as cohesive and mildly easy to follow along, something about it always hinges a bit on the insane that threatens to spin the reader off its axis, confuse them, or lose them entirely. Throughout the whole book I felt myself threatening to fall off of the racing tumbling plot but I suppose it is important to say that I never did. As crazy as everything was I never actually got lost, confused, or overwhelmed. So yeah, it jumps and bucks in a sporadic pace but the story remains gripping enough to keep you clinging on for just a bit longer.
Sometimes I felt like its message/goal was so big and important that the story lost its way a bit succumbing instead to repetition and securely insecure rambles, rages, and declarations. In fact the driving point was so massively important that it quite easily got lost throughout the book and if I hadn’t read the dedication of the book then I probably wouldn’t quite have gotten it at all. Well actually yes I would have. Because like I said, it is repeated quite often throughout. The sexual culture of this age and the pressure put on teenagers is insane and something to be cautioned. I agree. I also agree with many of Cease’s inner monologues, speeches, and fumbling searches for who she is and what she wants and what she’s willing to do to get it. But I wish they weren’t repeated so often. Or at least if they must occur quite so often then at least show more growth or a different focal point for each one instead of it being really the same ol’ same ol’, ya know?
…but the truth is, I became an actress to run away from real life – truth is, I feel like a freak and a loser in the real world. –Cease
It’s true what Jeanne tells her, that she does know. Because her unabating mental rants spiral around it so continuously that it is obvious Cease knows the answer but is reluctant to admit it. It’s just that sometimes there were so many internal speeches and moral arguments that I started to wonder “What’s the point?” What is the point of this sick reality-drama show? What’s the point of the de Menich genealogies? What’s the point of Cease & James’ relationship? Actually, what is it that Cease knows deep down??? What is it exactly you are trying to say? Just come out and say it! Stop hiding it behind clever but vague analogies, metaphors, phrasings, and prime examples that simply beat about the bush. Those who already agree know what the point of this book is but wonder at all the heavy disguises. Those who are clueless to the highly sexualized entertainment industry and the pressures that puts on real teens will likely not understand and wonder why Cease does not indeed just take her top off if it will keep her in the show.
I really feel like this book had something big and important and loud to say, and yet for all the importance it holds it ended up more a novel filled with sound and fury and signifying nothing. (Okay, that’s harsh and an overstatement. It has good points and some really hard-hitting moments…it just had an unfortunate tendency to cloud it up sometimes.)
In this sense I almost feel that this book could have been cut down to just Part One concluded with Cease’s letter to her fans at the start of Part Two. Then cut. I sort of hoped that Parts Two and Three would be different, even though I had no idea where the story could really go, and unfortunately I wasn’t surprised or blown away because all it ended up being was a continuation of the demented pattern. There was some good stuff, some hope for humanity type stuff (from Cease’s fans anyway) but there just wasn’t enough to warrant the book all its pages.
The historical character choices for the reality-drama show were great though. They’re pretty awesome women in history, in my opinion. I especially love how the protagonist of this book, Cease de Menich, was cast to play Jeanne d’Arc. Who doesn’t admire Joan of Arc? And yet as much as she may be praised as a prominent historical figure it is ironic how the idea of a virgin being anything impressive remains laughable today. We’ve come so far and yet we’ve got so much farther to go. This part of the book’s message did come loud and clear. I also agree with it.
I wanted to be the last girl standing. I wanted to give you a big speech about how becoming a woman isn’t just about losing your virginity; it’s about standing up to the things you’re afraid of. I think that’s what Jeanne d’Arc would’ve said had she landed in our time. –Cease
While feminism means men and women are equal (yes!!) and that should include the equal right to have sex with whoever you want (because let’s be real, virginity was only ever really demanded of the women), I believe it should also mean that men and women have equal rights to save their virginity as much as others may desire to lose it. Before, people (well, women anyway) were shamed for having sex outside of marriage and now people are shamed for sex outside of marriage and for waiting for marriage. What’s a person to do?? In such a confused and convoluted world it’s no wonder the younger generations (and even those quite grown up) are confused and pressured beyond reason. In the book, the concept of Jeanne d’Arc, a virgin, winning the reality-drama show is utterly absurd and even though we might say or think that being a virgin is okay, honestly most people are made fun of for it and if they haven’t had sex before graduating high school or in college at the latest then they’re down right alien.
This, I believe, is the main message of this book and while it was quite apparent, it did tend to get buried and lost only to be unearthed when Cease went on another soul-searching or defiant roaring internal monologue.
…lost in a world that keeps insisting it has all the answers. -Jeanne
Well, this has turned into quite the lengthy rambling of words. I’m sorry if I bored you or lost you in the chaos. Overall I suppose I did like the book. It was interesting at any rate and it did succeed in stirring conversation and discussion which I believe it had hoped to do. The plot had action, drama, gritty realness, and very human characters to play its game.
Cease & Desist is a gritty look in the hyper-sexualized entertainment industry that feeds off sex and violence like a sick, twisted, vampire who only sees dollar signs instead of people. Intriguing, wild, scandalous, and debatable, this book is sure to turn heads, raise questions, and tickle your own moral compass.
Similar Recommended Reads: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Meet Stephen David Hurley!
Stephen David Hurley teaches middle school and blogs about fiction, faith and young people. You can find his blog at—you guessed it—fictionfaithandyoungpeople.com