Insatiable, by Meg Cabot

One definition of the word “insatiable” is “incapable of being satisfied.” It’s with great regret I report that’s exactly how I feel about Meg Cabot’s June 8 hardcover release. And it’s ironic, because Insatiable is almost over-full with details. You’d think a reader would gorge themselves rather than feel empty. Not so for me. 

The novel was sent to us at the magazine, ostensibly because the lead character , Meena Harper, is a soap opera dialogue writer. She works on a soap called Insatiable that, in an effort to compete with its rival, Lust, decides to add vampires to its canvas. That, alone, was enough to raise my hackles. See, I kinda actually know the soap opera world…and whenever someone writes about the genre, I always get hyper-protective, worried that they’re just going to employ every cliché in the book. Well, Cabot does. Nothing new to see here, folks: It’s all the jokes about outlandish plots and aging divas we’ve all heard before. The twist is that Cabot pulls in the nation’s renewed obsession with vampires. She takes potshots at your Pattinson-esque unwashed heartthrobs, while crafting a tale of Romanian vampire hierarchy and a fanged serial killer gone amok on the streets of New York. The thing is, winks and jokes about an obsession with vampires doesn’t work when your book is, well, all about obsessing over vampires. It’s like, “Ha-ha, Twilight, ha-ha, but watch me try to capitalize on the phenomenon…” 

The lead character is, let me say it again, Meena Harper. She has a brother named Jonathan. Meena’s love interest is the direct descent of The Dracul, a Romanian prince named Lucien. It’s like reading speculative Dracula fan fiction, dude. Except you have to pay hardcover prices for it. (Thank God, I didn’t.) There’s also a vampire hunter named Alaric, whose boss is named Holtzman. Anyone who has read or watched The Vampire Diaries knows of Elena’s teacher, Alaric Saltzman, right? Talk about unfortunate coincidences there. And, oh, Meena is psychic; she can see how people are going to die — there is even a reference to Sookie Stackhouse. At one point, I started grinding my teeth, thinking, “If I wanted Twilight-meets-Dracula-meets-The Vampire Diaries-meets-True Blood-meets Port Charles…I could just  go immerse myself in the sources!”

And the book took forever to get into. I almost threw in the towel at 36 pages, and then again in the 70s. I’m idling at page 135 right now…and this sucker (no pun intended!) is 451 pages long! Cabot’s chapters are very short, hopping from place to place and POV to POV with time stamps. Consequently, nothing really happens for pages on end. It’s a collection of banter, pop culture references, and a bit of exposition here and there. And I just don’t care yet. My gut instinct is that this could have worked better as a much shorter, tighter paperback. One hundred-plus pages in, Cabot is still setting up the story and the basic character dynamics! And that doesn’t really work for me, unless you’re writing The Stand…which Stephen King already did.

I feel like we’re seeing a major shift in publishing right now. You have authors all hopping around in various genres, trying to stay relevant. Adult authors dropping down to YA, historical romance writers suddenly going paranormal, etc. And it doesn’t always work. Meg Cabot has strengths: her humor, and her ability to write rootworthy women and great comedy-tinged romances. But Insatiable is, for me, like taking all those things I normally love about her books and holding it hostage in a Hot Topic.

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8 thoughts on “Insatiable, by Meg Cabot

  1. I’m taking this one out of the library. I feel the same way that you do when people write about soaps. I almost threw Libby Malin’s book across the room a few times because I thought her portrait of a daytime soap was so unrealistic.

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    • Yeah, I still remember the Catherine Coulter book that was set around a soap and it was terrible, complete with inaccurate soap “facts” heading each chapter.

      Cabot’s book has dialogue writer Meena working at the actual studio/network building on the east side of Manhattan…and expecting to be next in line for the head writer position.

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      • Okay, I just finished the book and I liked it more than you. I did get the reference to Alaric being similar to Alaric on Vampire Diairies but I thought that Abraham Holtzmann was more of a nod to Abraham van Helsing. Totally forgot that Sookie on True Blood was psychic. I pointed out in my review on Adventures of Gotham Gal that vampires have been done on daytime, see Dark Shadows and Port Charles. I guess Cabot was thinking of the days when Guiding Light was on East 42nd Street when she was referencing an East Side Studio. What was the name of the Catherine Coulter book?

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      • It was a DNF for me, which is probably why you have a more full perspective than I did. I hit a wall and I couldn’t get past it.

        I did think of Port Charles and Dark Shadows, and I couldn’t figure out if Cabot knew about them and this was a shout-out to those shows, or if it was just something she crafted to continue with the derivation of the current vampire obsession.

        And the Coulter book was Born to be Wild.

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  2. See that’s what got me, the whole idea that adding a vampire storyline would increase ratings on daytime, which is so not the case. Seriously wouldn’t ATWT and Guiding Light have tried that? I did get the feeling that she was trying to hard to be clever and witty, instead of just letting the story unfold naturally. Oh, and the headlines at the top of each chapter telling the date, time, and place were annoying. Why not just give a weather report as well? “it was sunny with a mild chance of showers.”

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    • Yeah, the headlines certainly didn’t help me. They just threw me out of the story, because it continued to give me that disjointed feel of a bunch of scenes in random places thrown together.

      I did get the feeling that she was trying to hard to be clever and witty, instead of just letting the story unfold naturally.

      This. Yes! And to go one step further, I think there’s SO much “clever and witty” in the book because there isn’t enough story to unfold naturally on its own.

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    • I forgot to mention another thing that twigged me about Insatiable: that Cabot “diversifies” her New York by having two visibly ethnic characters be Meena’s door guy and bagel guy. Never mind that Meena, itself, is a traditionally Indian name, especially spelled that way, so I had a major disconnect, but I thought it was icky that guys named Pradip and Abdullah were in lower class, service roles.

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