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.