The Xander Years 2 by Jeff Mariotte: B

From the back cover:
Most teens have trouble finding themselves now and then, but when you’re living on a hellmouth, “trouble” is an understatement—especially if you’re Xander Harris. He has never been very popular, and has never had much luck with women, but he is uniquely Xander.

After a Sunnydale High field trip to the zoo, Xander becomes obnoxious and aggressive. Giles thinks it’s typical adolescent male behavior, but Buffy knows better. And when he finally scores “cool” points by making the Sunnydale High swim team, he’s thrown into the middle of something, well… fishy.

Still, once Xander is excluded from the Slayer’s most recent anti-apocalyptic campaign, he finds himself battling his own private evil—and saving Sunnydale High from a fate it never imagined.

Continuing the alliterative trend from volume one, the three episodes picked for novelization in this book (“The Pack,” “Go Fish,” and “The Zeppo”) are billed as three tales of transition, transformation, and transcendence. Um, okay. I didn’t really think Xander was that affected by donning skimpy swimwear. It’s interesting to note that in all three of these episodes, the villainous baddie ends up getting devoured.

I am happy to say that Jeff Mariotte does a better job conveying the thought processes of the characters than his predecessor from volume one, though frankly, that wouldn’t be difficult. Sometimes they’re covered in a simple paragraph, and I didn’t have any specific problems with those, and sometimes, when it’s something the character would’ve said in their mental voice, they are italicized. It’s the italicized thoughts that are more prone to being irritating, and occasionally, downright jarring. A little setup for this snerk-inducing example from “The Pack:” Xander is prowling around with the other hyena-possessed kids, feeling all wild and hungry. They’ve just sampled the hot dogs of some students, spurned them, and have now caught a whiff of something more appetizing.

The scent grew stronger as they stalked the halls, headed directly toward their prey. Something weak, something that could be brought down by the pack.

Or rather, the Pack, Xander thought, suddenly realizing that it should be capitalized.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have an episode title!

Seriously, this is so stupid! There was just a scene where Xander was too affected to be able to comprehend geometry properly, but here he is contemplating the abstract significance of his little group and how it should thusly be conveyed in writing? How very primal a sentiment! *eyeroll*

Other than that, and noting that once, in “Go Fish,” the names of two swim team members were confused, I have nothing to complain about. Again, the major reason this is entertaining is because the original episodes were. Mariotte neither added much of value nor fouled them up.

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