The Title’s On Fire Too Bad the Book Isn’t: Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot

 

Katie Ellison is not a liar.

But she can’t exactly tell the truth, either–not when she’s juggling two boyfriends, secretly hating the high school football team everyone else worships, and trying to have the best summer ever. At least Katie has it all under control (sort of). Her biggest secret, what really happened the nightTommy Sullivan is a freak was spray-painted on the junior high gymnasium wall, is safe.

That is, until Tommy comes back to town. Katie is sure he’s going to ruin all her plans, and she’ll do anything to hang on to her perfect existence. Even if it means telling more lies. Even if, now that Tommy’s around, she’s actually–truthfully–having the time of her life.

Source: GoodReads

Long before my book blogging days I was a Meg Cabot junky.  I had to get every book of hers on release date, and this was before Prime existed so I actually had to drive to the bookstore and pick up said book.

Pants on Fire was one of these books.

In retrospect, it was nowhere near the hype I had for it.  But at the time I was excited about it.  It included a heroine who actually has a complicated love life AND wasn’t perfect.

Sort of hard to find in YA at the time, but since Pants on Fire has been published heroines in YA have grown more complicated and make Katie…well, insufferable.

Like I said, I wanted to like Katie.  She’s not perfect.  But I couldn’t.  I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that she seems a bit unrealistic and a bit of a Mary Sue.

I know, I’m saying something seemingly blasphemous-a Mary Sue main character in a Meg Cabot book, but Katie sort of fits the test with everyone being in love with her, her being unnaturally good at taking photos, Valedictorian, having all the boys love her, being one of the most popular girls in school, and being a shoe in as a finalist in a beauty contest.

Yeah,  gag me.

To be fair, the whole beauty competition was an interesting twist when I first read the book.  But upon, reflection I felt like there were these major “moral lessond of the weeks” that were hammered into my head.

I’m not a fan of moral lessons.

They annoy me.

BUT during the time period the book was written in, they were more common in YA than today.  Especially in Cabot’s contemporaries.

The major moral lessons in these books was what annoyed me the most about all of Cabot’s contemporaries in the period.  The messages are often eye roll worthy and corny, even though I know that’s probably not Cabot’s intentions.

It’s not that the books are especially bad, they are very readable, but there’s just a preachy undertone to them that makes you want to pull out your hair.  Especially when that little life lesson the book’s trying to reach you, is the focal point of the book.

Which if you’re wondering is: Lying is bad.

Lies and omitting the truth are featured heavily in Pants on Fire (even in the title to some regard) of course because of this, consequences! happen.

To be honest, the consequences are sort of lame and don’t take up a lot of page count and our deeply flawed main character still gets a Cabot signature happily ever after.

Katie doesn’t deserve a happily ever after.  Especially a Cabot one.

She is fucked up and needs to deal with her shit, rather than getting in a new relationship.  And yes, I did like the guy she ended up with, BUT girl wasn’t ready for a realtionship yet.

There are things about this book that should make it stand out.   But it doesn’t.  The beauty pagent falls flat.  Even flatter than Dumplin, whose beauty pagent scenes hardly impressed me.  Katie’s big dilemma sort of sadly deflated.  It was like anything with any oomph, died quickly with this book.

Look, I know it seems like I’m harping on this book a lot, and perhaps I am.  It has a lot of things to offer and at the end of the day it sadly just flops around.  That being said, it’s probably the best out of the three Cabot contemporary YA standalones  (Teen Idol, How to Popular, and Pants on Fire).  I liked a lot of the ideas that were in this book, but it just really didn’t work for me.

Overall Rating: A C+

The Good and the Bad: All-American Girl and Ready or Not by Meg Cabot

I initially was just going to review All American Girl, but I found myself referring to the sequel so much I decided to make this a double feature.

 

Samantha Madison is an average, cool Washington, D.C., teen: She loves Gwen Stefani (who doesn’t?), can draw like nobody’s business, and enjoys being opposite to her sister’s annoying ultra-social personality. But when she ditches art class one day, she doesn’t expect to be jumping on the back of a wannabe presidential assassin.

Soon the young hero is receiving worldwide acclaim for her bravery, having dinner with her family at the White House, and is even being named teen ambassador to the UN. As if this weren’t enough, she and David, the president’s son, strike up a friendship that everyone wants the dirt on, which starts to give her romantic “frisson” feelings.

Unfortunately, Sam thinks her sister’s boyfriend, Jack, is the true love of her life, and she makes a few wrong turns that could screw up what she’s developing with David. Will she ever stop following what she knows and start following what she sees?

Source: GoodReads

I think this book is very interesting to look to from a political perspective.  Well, like political time capsule perspective.  The early 2000’s were a very different world, politically, for America and it shows in here.  Ultra patriotism, right wing administration, pop culture references.

That is purely a Meg Cabot thing.  Not a political thing.  But still,interesting to see how things have changed in ten years. But I’m not going to bore you with that.

I really did like this book, even after all this time though.  Sam probably isn’t my favorite character, but I think for who she is, Meg did an excellent job depicting her.

I think what I love best about All American Girl is that it gives a stupid character consequences for their bone headed idiocy.  And Sam tries to make up for being a turd.

And boy is she a turd throughout a good chunk of this book.

One thing you’ll have to know going in is that this book is ridiculously dated.  There are band references that only someone who liked the same music Sam did during that time period are going to get.

I’m not a huge Gwen Stefani fan, so it sort of went over my head then and now.

The romance, of course, was wonderful.  When is it not in a Meg Cabot novel?  And I really liked the portrayal of Lucy, a popular girl that is not a jerk but a good person.  And I liked how Cabot basically threw it in Sam’s face that she was wrong about her sister.

You hardly ever see that in YA.

If you’re looking for a sweet little book that’s a nice reminder of the past, give All American Girl a try.

Overall Rating: B+ nice fluffy fun.

Top ten things Samantha Madison isn’t ready for:
10. Spending Thanksgiving at Camp David

9. With her boyfriend, the president’s son

8. Who appears to want to take their relationship to the Next Level

7. Which Sam inadvertently and shockingly announces live on MTV

6. While appearing to support the president’s dubious policies on families, morals, and yes, sex

5. Juggling her new after-school job at Potomac Video

4. Even though she already has a job as teen ambassador to the UN (that she doesn’t get paid for)

3. Riding the Metro and getting accosted because she’s “the redheaded girl who saved the president’s life,” in spite of her new, semipermanent Midnight Ebony tresses

2. Experiencing total role reversal with her popular sister Lucy, who for once can’t get the guy she wants

And the number-one thing Sam isn’t ready for?

1. Finding out the hard way that in art class, “life drawing” means “naked people.”

Source: GoodReads

Sigh…

To be honest, I had no plans on reviewing this one until I started reviewing the first (see introduction).

Was it as horrible as I remembered?

Well, yes and no.  I didn’t like how blatant it was essentially a sex ed book.  But at the same time I can’t completely fault it for trying to give out relevant information for teens who’s sex ed classes pretty much consisted of having sex will make you go to hell.

Then I guess that means everyone’s birth parents are going to hell.

I digress.

Ready or Not came out roughly ten or so years ago, when Conservative Christians were the bread and butter of the Republican party.  Lots of measures that are now found by mainstream America to be appalling were considered a-okay.  And honestly, some of these measures still exist-i.e. taking away a woman’s right to choose.  While Ready or Not doesn’t exactly go in that direction (thank God), it does discuss the whole birth control issue. And it’s the first book to address the annoying trope known as slut slamming.

Grant it, it was done in an over the top and cringe worthy way.

Might I just add, I really, really, hate message books.

Even ten years ago, when I was a member of the targeted audience this is the sort of thing that drove me insane.  Now, I just rolled my eyes throughout the reading experience.

And to be frank, it was like Cabot phoned this one in.  I think I read somewhere that originally this story was conceived as a Lucy centric companion sequel (however, upon looking for the blog entry where I think Meg mentions it, it looks to be scraped or I just imagined reading it).

That would’ve been awesome.

But people whined and we got this sorry sequel.

I’m sorry, but I did not care to listen about Sam complain about how everyone doesn’t like her sorry dye job and how she obsesses in a Mia Thermopolis type of way about having sex.

It’s just boring.

Lucy is a character I wanted to explore more.  And I couldn’t even really get into her side romance with Harold because it was pushed to the side for moaning about Ebony Midnight Whisper Hair Dye.

My advice with this one, unless you’re inanely curious skip it.  I’ll only be recommending it for those assholes who frequently use the slut slamming trope.

Overall Rating: This is the one Cabot book I’ve ever outright gave a failing grade to (F).

When Meg Cabot Went Dark: Jinx by Meg Cabot

It’s not easy being Jinx.

The only thing Jean Honeychurch hates more than her boring name (not Jean Marie, or Jeanette, just…Jean) is her all-too-appropriate nickname, Jinx. Misfortune seems to follow her everywhere she goes—which is why she’s thrilled to be moving in with her aunt and uncle in New York City. Maybe when she’s halfway across the country, Jinx can finally outrun her bad luck. Or at least escape the havoc she’s caused back in her small hometown.

But trouble has definitely followed Jinx to New York. And it’s causing big problems for her cousin Tory, who is not happy to have the family black sheep around. Beautiful, glamorous Tory is hiding a dangerous secret—one that she’s sure Jinx is going to reveal.
Jinx is beginning to realize it isn’t just bad luck she’s been running from. It’s something far more sinister…and the curse Jinx has lived under since the day she was born might just be the only thing that can save her life.

Source: GoodReads

How I remember this Book: This is the book Meg Cabot went “dark”.

Yeah, I’m laughing now.

Jinx is hardly dark.  Oh, sure it has some dark moments and acutally deals with some sensitive issues-drug abuse-but compared to some of the stuff out there in the genre now…

Hardly dark.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book though.  I actually had and even second time around had a fun time with Jinx.

There’s just something magical about reading a Meg Cabot book, the thing is there are books that are more magical than Jinx.

And in the forty some odd books that Cabot has had published I sort of forget about it.

The thing is, I’ve been trying to reread a lot on my shelves and it was Halloween and I’m doing this book project where I’m rereading books pre 2010 and this one just sort of stuck out.  So, I gave it a whirl (again).

The result: pleasantly surprised and amused.  But I do feel like I’ve grown up some since this was published and it’s not like I was that young when it was first put to press.

I think it’s more or less that the genre has grown and has evolved since this book’s initial publication.  And now something that at one time seemed so shockingly dark for a cotton candy fluff author like Cabot just seems like cotton candy fluff.

The plot itself is pretty simplistic.  Jinx (or Jean as she prefers to be called) doesn’t have the best of luck and because of this is sent to live with her relatives in Manhattan.  And there’s evil cousins and witches.  Oh, and cute boys.

Because a Meg Cabot book can’t be complete without a cute boy.

To be honest, I can’t think of one Cabot book where there wasn’t a cute boy.  Okay, I wasn’t especially pleased with John at the beginning of the Abandon trilogy, but he grew on me.  Or for that matter Alaric who I still don’t really care for in the Insatiable duology.  But whatever.

He was a man not a boy.

For the most part, her YA heroes are gimme gimme (dibs on Jesse de Silva, bitches). And Zach fits into this category.  He likes seals.

How can you not like a guy who likes seals?

And his relationship with Jean isn’t insta love.  Sure, there’s attraction there, but it doesn’t go from stranger to soul mate.  It’s more like stranger to your sort of cute wanna get coffee?

Another thing I love about Meg Cabot’s books is how the setting seems to become a character of its own.  I love how she depicts New York.  Unlike a lot of YA and chick lit authors that try to focus on the city’s glamorous side, Cabot looks at the other fun sides of the city.

In this book: the food of Central Park.

That actually sounds like it could be a Food Network show.

But I loved those little dates where Jean and Zach would go from vendor and vendor tasting what the park had to offer.

So, why isn’t this the most memorable of Cabot books?

Because at times it just felt like it was going through the motions.

While I did enjoy the romance and the characters, there were points where Cabot obviously played her tropes.  Jean being a small town girl planted in the big city and seemingly fitting in effortlessly (the Boy Next Door series, the Queen of Babble series).  Jean being seemingly meek but powerful (The Princess Diaries, The Abandon Trilogy-though I still think Pierce is week, the Insatiable duology).   Too rich to be true Manhattanites starring in the book and fawning over the main character (She Went All the Way, The Heather Wells series, The Princess Diaries).  A beautiful evil mean girl (Avalon High the Graphic novels, The Princess Diaries, Airhead trilogy).

Yes, I get that author tropes is going to be a crutch that the author relies on but…

Come on.

Also, while the story is clearly a standalone and while I applaud and appreciate it, it sort of faded in the back of my mind because Cabot has so many great series.

Overall Rating: B+ if you’re looking for a fun Halloween-ish (it takes place at spring time, but there’s witches in it) book  read this one.  Warning, if you don’t like fluffy books then avoid.  But I like fluff, so I like this book.

Is this Some Sort of Parody: Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

In her small town, dubbed “Dullsville,” sixteen-year-old Raven — a vampire-crazed goth-girl — is an outcast. But not for long…

The intriguing and rumored-to-be haunted mansion on top of Benson Hill has stood vacant and boarded-up for years. That is, until its mysteriously strange new occupants move in. Who are these creepy people — especially the handsome, dark, and elusive Alexander Sterling? Or rather, what are they? Could the town prattle actually ring true? Are they vampires? Raven, who secretly covets a vampire kiss, both at the risk of her own mortality and Alexander’s loving trust, is dying to uncover the truth.

Ellen Schreiber’s spooky and stirring romance tells the story of two outsiders who fall in love in a town where conformity reigns, and ends with a shocking surprise.

Source: GoodReads

 

There’s no way I can talk about Vampire Kisses with a straight face.  If it was intended on being written as a parody then Schreiber succeeded.  If it was written to be a serious romance. Then…

This is bad guys.  So bad.  It’s like the literate version of My Immortal.

Take every Goth stereotype known to man, add some really out dated vampire references (including a cringe inducing cameo by Anne Rice), and top that off with a couple of romances that don’t make any sense then you have Vampire Kisses.

Well, this book makes PC and Kristin Cast look good.

That’s something.

Actually, I take that back .  Vampire Kisses (as far as I know it) isn’t quite as offensive as House of Night.  It could though, with future installments.

A part of me really is thinking of continuing this as my drinking game series because they are painfully short.

The thing is,  the novelty wears off pretty fast.

Raven is such a fanfiction cliche of what a Goth is suppose to be it’s not even funny.

The plot itself is flimsy .  And the writing does not read YA. Well, modern YA.  Maybe YA of the 90’s.  And even then I’m thinking I’m pushing it.  It really reads like middle grade at best. And bad middle grade at that.

If the book would’ve been pitched as a parody, I think it would’ve been great.

However, as an actual novel, I’m sort of flummoxed about how it got published.

Well, I know how it got published.

Twilight obviously.  Well, I think Twilight was what got it’s US rights released.  It was actually sold to Belgium before that (surprisingly).

But it’s sort of sad the standards publishers will have.

Vampire Kisses does amuse me though.  The character, Raven, is such a trope it’s ridiculous.  Even her name’s a trope.

And it’s not like it’s the worst book I’ve ever read.

I did laugh.

A lot.

But again, not the sort of laugh you want to have.

More the kind of laugh that’s asking is what I’m reading real?

But it is real.  Very really.  As in a nine book series real.

I even wonder what you’d drink when reading this book, because besides a God awful main character.  There’s really nothing else to the book.  Except her whining.  No plot whatsoever.

It lacks catch phrases too.

But man, I know a lot more about Goth couture after reading this book.  And surprisingly, Raven doesn’t got to Hot Topic.

Not even once.

What is wrong with her?  Doesn’t she know that’s where all the cool Gothic people go according to My Immortal?

Well, I would’ve thought so considering just how similar this book was to My Immortal.  Except better written.

And a little less grosser too.

The thing was, when I finished it I really was wondering what I just read.

I think the fact that the plot was so flimsy, the characters were so 1d, and that there wasn’t anything really that remarkable about this book had me shaking my head.

I know that The Twilight Saga basically was the golden ticket for any crappy vampire book to get published, but this is just ridiculous.  It’s like every cliche that you can possibly think of thrown in a book and yet…it got published and I didn’t hate it to the point like I did with House of Night.

And I think that might be because Vampire Kisses  knew not to take itself seriously.

Overall Rating:

If a parody: A solid B

If take for real: Hahahahaha.  Um, no.  Just no.

 

I Should Thank My Mind for Repressing this Mess: Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis

Moonlight can totally change your life.

And it all starts so simply.

You. Him.

The moon.

You’re toast.

Okay, so maybe Shelby has made a few mistakes with boys lately (how was she supposed to know Wes had “borrowed” that Porsche?). But her stepmother totally overreacts when she catches Shelby in a post-curfew kiss with a hot senior: Suddenly Shelby’s summer plans are on the shelf, and she’s being packed off to brat camp. It’s good-bye, prom dress; hello, hiking boots.

Things start looking up, though, when Shelby meets fellow camper (and son of a rock star) Austin Bridges III. But soon she realizes there’s more to Austin than crush material—his family has a dark secret, and he wants Shelby’s help guarding it. Shelby knows that she really shouldn’t be getting tangled up with another bad boy . . . but who is she to turn her back on a guy in need, especially such a good-looking one? One thing’s for sure: That pesky full moon is about to get her into trouble all over again.

Source: GoodReads

Oh, lord.

You know, part of this reread project I’m doing is to give second chances.  But upon rereading Never Cry Werewolf I think I hated it more than I did way back when it was released.

Have publishing standards really changed that much since the book was released?

Well, no.  Obviously.  Otherwise Halo and a host of other horrible YA novels wouldn’t have been released.  But Never Cry Werewolf  is just well…bad on so many levels.

Levels that are almost, too boring to talk about.

I have to though.  And I think the best way to start off this so called glorious conversation is to talk about the era it was published in (2009).

Five years ago, which doesn’t seem that long.  But in the terms of YA publishing, it’s a lot.

Five years, ago Twilight  fever was at it’s height and if you had anything with a vampire, werwolf, or hot guy who had paranormal ability with abs automatic publishing contract.

I can just imagine how the query letter went:

Dear Agent/Publisher,

You should represent/publish my book because it has a hot guy with an accent and a paranormal creature in it.  The hot guy takes his shirt off a lot.

Signed,

Author.

Okay, Davis probably went into a little bit more depth than that, but the substance of the book really didn’t go that much beyond that.

A part of me wants to say that it’s eerily similar to Born at Midnight, but even that book in all it’s sheer awfulness is better because it actually attempts at a plot.  And doesn’t just try to push the YA tropes to the max and then well forget having an actual plot.

I’m serious.

I can basically sum the book up like this: Evil stepmother sends our innocent heroine to a camp full of evil campers.  But never fear, there’s a hot guy at the camp so it’s not that bad.  But our heroine has to get herself in trouble because she’s as brave and stupid as Clary Fray.  Except unlike that lackluster series, there’s not even an attempt of a plot made here.

Yep, that sums it up.

Yes, we have a character who has Clary Fray level of stupidity there.

That’s a pretty big insult.

If you have no idea who I’m talking about (and I hope you do, you really need to be spared that pain) Clary Fray is the insipid heroine of The Mortal Instruments series.  She thinks she’s Batman.  But she’s not.

That’s about how stupid Shelby is, but since she has no supernatural powers whatsoever I’d say she’s a shade dumber.

That’s hard for me to admit, that someone is dumber than Clary Fray.

I’d almost feel sorry for her.  Almost.  At the beginning I did think her stepmother was over reacting by sending her to brat camp for missing curfew.  Actually, a lot of the adults I thought were overreacting to the point that the were caricatures, but at the same time I sort of think Shelby deserves to be sent to TSTL school.

Hum, TSTL school.  You know, I could make a lot of money from such a school.

Shelby would be a prime candidate.  I mean, if you were being sent to brat camp would you openly defy your counselor to search for a complete stranger in the middle of nowhere.

And yeah, even if you’ve been camping before it’s still the middle of nowhere.  In an environment your not familiar with.

Oh, but wait.  He’s British and that means (according this book) that he lacks the skills to survive in the wild.

Funny.

This book forgets that the British empire colonize a large portion of the world centuries in the past, and had to survive in the wild. Well, let’s not count Roanoke.

Add that with the all British people are hot because they have an accent-never mind that there are several types of British accents-I start to feel sorry for anyone who lives in the United Kingdom when reading this book.

As for the hot guy with the British accent.  Well, Austin, is well as dull as they come.  If you imagine Jack Osbourne looking like Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, that’s Austin.  But add a boring streak.  And that’s really him.  Funny, she used Ledger he’s  Australian not British.  But I guess that’s close enough.

I don’t get how Davis can think her audience is so shallow.  Add an accent a pair of abs and that’s all you need for characterization apparently.

Besides, having to extremely dull and stupid characters as are protagonists, there are the side characters to contend with.  The best friend character (Ariel) surprisingly did not offend me, but what did offend me were the adults.

As I already said, total caricatures.

I really don’t think society has changed that much in five years.

I mean, I remember when I was Shelby’s age and while my parents would freak out if I missed curfew they wouldn’t send me to brat camp.  Also, those counselors making you (no, forcing you) to share all the details of your past.  Psychology 101, don’t force people to share things they’re not ready to share yet.

So, wouldn’t happen.

Unless they wanted a big fat lawsuit.

There is such a thing called privacy and something else called negligence.

As for the whole drug contraband plotline.

Jeez Louise.

All it would’ve taken would’ve been a quick phone call to Austin’s dad.  They wouldn’t even call his personal assistant in real life.  Because in those type of situations you’d call a parent or guardian or perhaps the police-if they believed it was illegal substances.

So, that whole plot point.

Stupid.

And the fact that there wasn’t anything else going on in the book made it even more stupid.

So, what was I left with.  To boring useless character.  With a dumb plot.  That gets resolved that only leaves the narrator in deep shit.

Lame.

Needless to say, I don’t recommend this one.  It’s not fully fleshed out, and purely written to cash in on what was the time a growing genre.  I really wish I had something nice to say about the book, but I don’t.  I think upon reread it was even more painful.  While it’s true that there are still some God awful books being published in the genre, I do think that YA has improved since the publication of this book.  Which I’m grateful for. What I’m not grateful for, is that there are still lots of books like this being published.

Overall Rating: F.  It just fails.

 

2014 Nostalgia Challenge

I’ve decided that next year I’m going to challenge myself to read a nostalgia themed book each month.  If anyone wants to join in this challenge they’re more than welcomed to.  Each month has a specific theme which I’ve listed below.  I’ve chosen some books that I read in childhood, while some books I’ve read in the distant past.

1) January: A book that was new to you in that it changed your mind about reading.

Probably the first book I read that made reading cool and in a way made it okay for me to embrace my inner book nerd.

2) February: A book that you love.

Probably the first book I loved being assigned. Pride and Prejudice is still relevant and is still getting a dozen remakes later, despite being two centuries old.

3) Your first mystery.

Double

Okay, technically not my first mystery. But it was the first mystery that left a lasting impression on me and made me ship Francy (the ultimate mystery couple).

4) A book that taught you something.

I loved the American Girl books growing up. The Samantha and Molly books hold a particular special place to my heart. The only reason I chose Sam over Molly was mainly because the Edwardian era is a tad bit less depressing that World War II. However, I might do both.

5) A book that you utterly despised. 

Ugh. Just ugh. I reviewed this series and that’s all I have to say about it. But barf ugh.

6) A book that you were forced to read and loved.

My mom forced me to check this one at the library, at the time I just sort of rolled my eyes. Until I read it and then I checked it out three times.

7) A book that made you feel heat.

Oh man, Suze and Jesse. Even though he’s technically dead you can definitely feel the heat between those two.

8) An animal book that you loved.

I don’t know if I love this one or if it freaks me out. Either way it’s probably the most bizarre animal story I ever read. And it truly makes me think twice about buying an Australian Shepherd.

9) A book that you were assigned in school and hated.

Ugh. I think what I hated the most about this book is it showed just how low humanity could go (via kids).

10) A book that scares you.

Having a girl fall in love with a psycho and spawning five million other YA and NA books like it. Yeah, that’s enough to make a book scary.

11) A guilty pleasure book or series.

I raked up so many ARC (Accelerated Reader Club) points with this series. The sad thing is I remember them not being good. But they are like bad candy: addictive.

12) A book that makes you feel the season.

Probably my favorite holiday novel of all times. I truly wish we’d find out what happened to the Herdmans. I guess that’s what Cops is for.