Cease and Desist by Stephen David Hurley, 327 pages, September 23rd, 2016, Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal and Urban. Available in Kindle, Print, and Audible. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
by Leigh Holland
The author of Cease and Desist, Stephen David Hurley, knows that while my reading tastes are eclectic and varied, I absolutely adore a good dystopian novel. Dystopian literature holds up a mirror to our society. It reveals to us who we are in danger of becoming if we go too far. Above all, it makes us examine our values and choices, so we can make better choices both as individuals and as members of our communities. Although this novel has paranormal elements, it is equally dystopian in nature.
All too often today, we see news stories about teenagers publishing their crimes to social media for the world to see. We live in an over-connected world, where to be heard, to be seen, is a shouting match. That which shocks, humiliates, and disturbs is the quickest way to win the match, to stand out, to get noticed and gain fame. Ironically, we often feel less human connection as a result. Adults ask how these teenagers could do such things. Cease and Desist shows us how and why they would do such things.
We are immersed through first person narration in the life and struggles of Cecilia “Cease” de Menich, a teenage girl with an interesting pedigree, a troubled past, and the charisma of Sarah Bernhardt. Cease is playing the role in a live reality-drama television series of Jeanne d’Arc, the patron saint of France. However, this is no ordinary role and no ordinary show. Other teen actors play the roles of strong females from history, such as Catherine the Great and Susan B. Anthony, in a contest to win first place at the podium, fall in love with one of the hunks on the show, and fulfill the destiny of saving the world. The show is driven by the audience’s ever increasing demand for more nudity, more sex, and even more violence for their entertainment. The actresses are highly competitive, willing to go to ever furthering lengths to win the ultimate prize: Fame. As the sex and violence becomes all too real, Cease must confront her family’s past, and make an all too adult decision about how far she is willing to go for fame.
In school, we were given an assignment to pick a historical figure and give the class a presentation. Drawn to Jeanne d’Arc, she was the subject of my presentation. She was a strong teenager, chosen by God to fulfill a destiny that surely must have overwhelmed her. How did she deal with the trials and eventual horrors she would face? What wisdom could I glean from her life and example? In Jeanne, I saw my 16-year-old self, standing at the precipice of adulthood, struggling with the meaning of life, of love, of identity, of destiny. I immediately found Cease relatable. Cease, an actress, tries to become Jeanne for the screen. She begins receiving emails from a fan who claims to be the Maid herself. Cease begins engaging in conversations with the saint, first in emails, then in her own mind. Cease feels as though Jeanne is with her, throughout her struggles on the show and in her real-life quest to resolve her past and understand what kind of love can save the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cease and Desist. The characters and plot line were original and well developed, and the writing was excellent. It transported me back to a time when I was a girl on the verge of becoming a woman, identifying with Cease’s internal conflicts and difficult choices; and remembering that teenage boys, going through their own struggle to transform into men, may mistake sexual conquest for manhood. Its message was relevant; the mirror it held up showing us a phenomenon in danger of becoming all too real today.
Cease and Desist by Stephen David Hurley can be found at Cease and Desist.