Sunday, February 8, 2009

Queen of Babble gets Hitched, by Meg Cabot.

This started off as a review of that particular book but ended up as a tribute to Meg Cabot as a writer.

I like Meg Cabot. I don't think she gets nearly enough credit (or maybe she does and I just haven't been paying attention, which is probable) She doesn't necessarily write complex prose, but that's not why I read a book. I read a book to get sucked into the lives of characters I can feel a connection to.

Some of the problems I can see with her is that she does have a prototype for her characters - you could argue that, but for a few notable differences, many of her male characters are more or less the same. Fortunately, I really like that prototype, so I certainly don't mind. She also has a way of making me really relate to her characters no matter how different I may be from them.

Now, she does, even in her non-young adult books, still have a bit of a young adult voice. I can't say I would ever point to one of her books as some of the best the genre has to offer, or to win someone over to the genre. But her books have a sort of comfort to them, like sliding into a hot bath. I can see Cabot's name and be assured that I'm going to enjoy the book. I think anyone who reads one of Cabot's books could reasonably say the same thing. You don't know how comforting that is to someone who, like me, uses books as an escape mechanism (and that's not to go emo on anyone. It could just be from regular school related stress)

Now I say all of that, and it seems at odds with my next point, which is that I really admire how much she experiments with her books. While most of them are told in the same voice, Cabot really likes to mess around with how she tells a story or different constructs within a story. Of course you have your regularly-told stories. Then in the Princess Diaries series she worked with a diary format. Okay, not too out of the box there. But in "The Boy Next Door" and another one that escapes me, the entire story is told through e-mails. One of them is told through e-mails, receipts, and other things jotted down on spare scraps of paper. And she managed to make it into a really fun book that still sucked me in; it didn't read like an experiment.

Then in "Airhead" we have her completely departing from the usual with her heroine, yet at the same time remaining true to her typical heroine's voice. Sound strange? You'll have to read it to find out more, I'm only spoiling one book here.

Which brings me, finally, to my point here. Which is "Queen of Babel gets Hitched." It's the sequel to the "Queen of Babel," by the end of which she falls in love with Luke and it looks like they're well on their way to a happily ever after.


So what's brave about this one? It turns our Luke isn't quite the hero we thought he was. I've seen books take the the "it's been a few years, we've grown apart bur the falling apart takes place offstage" sequel approach. But making the hero from a previous book into... well certainly not the hero anymore, with that process unfolding in front of our eyes... that's not something I've ever seen. I admire Cabot for doing it, but I don't know how I feel about it. Because I read the first book a really long time ago, (it's been at least 2 years I think) I could find myself rooting for the real hero of this story. Had I read the first book more recently, I don't know that I would have taken kindly to this one.

On one hand, it's a great effect to mimic real life. In books, you can usually tell who the "right" guy is or who the "good" people are, even if the heroine doesn't know. The writers generally want to make sure we know. So being fooled right along with the heroine was a great parallel to real life relationships and a great concept. So the analytical side of me was enthralled. The casual romance reader in me is still a little confused.

Hell the romance reader was more angry at Luke than the heroine was! She's going "you know, it's okay, I don't care about him anymore" and I'm going "NO, IT'S NOT OKAY, YOU JERK!" but maybe that's just me.

That being said, I love Chaz, and I love the "my best friend is the one for me" plot line. I could believe their story. One of the coolest things about Chaz is how willing he is to take the backseat and let her shine.

In any event, I would recommend this book to any Cabot reader, and I would reccomend that anyone become a Cabot reader (though maybe you should start with the Boy Next Door or something) She was incredibly brave to show her readers the destruction of a relationship that she created, and, minor qualms aside, she did an excellent job with it.

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