Monday, January 28, 2008

"Tantalize" by Cynthia Leitich Smith

OK, it's not often that a book really bothers me after I've read it. This one did and continues to, although not for the reasons you'd think. It's not that well written and it definitely owes a lot to the Stephenie Meyers books, as you can see from the plot.

Quincie Morris is a high-school senior trying to juggle school, work, and a boyfriend. Sounds like any normal teen girl, right? Well, work is actually her family's restaurant, started by her grandparents, handed down to her parents, and now pretty much hers after their deaths some three years ago. He uncle is serving as manager until Quincie turns 21 and can legally take over. Since a new Italian restaurant opened a while back, her restaurant, Fat Lorenzo's, has been losing money. So she and her uncle have decided to remodel and take their restaurant in a vampire-themed direction, dubbing it Sanguini's: A Very Rare Restaurant.

The problems start when their long-time head chef, Vaggio Bianchi, is murdered one night in the restaurant's kitchen. It appears to have been a werewolf attack, but the police aren't entirely sure. And who's they're prime suspect? That would be Quincie's "boyfriend", Kieren, who is a werewolf hybrid (Wolf mother, human father, can't quite control his turning and may not even be able to turn all the way). Kieren is worried and keeps warning Quincie that it was NOT a Wolf that attacked her cook. In the meantime, she has to find a new head chef, and quick.

Enter Henry Johnson, aka "Bradley Sanguini". He applies for and gets the job, yet looks nothing like the suave vampire they were hoping for. No problem - Quincie and "Brad" go on several shopping excursions looking for just the right outfit. In the meantime, "Brad" has her trying several different meals as well as wines, trying to find just the right items for the new menu (actually, it will be two menus, one for "Prey" and the other for "Predator"). As Quincie grows closer to "Brad", Kieren looks guiltier of the murder. And then there's Quincie's suffering schoolwork, as well as the odd behavior of her uncle and his girlfriend...

Don't read this review any further if you don't want to know the end of the book. Seriously!

OK, this is what bothered me about this book. It becomes pretty obvious that "Brad" really is Henry Johnson, who's been around for at least 100 years. That makes is equally obvious that he's a vampire for real. What wasn't obvious was that he had been feeding Quincie enough of his blood to turn her into a vampire as well, someone for him to "love", as he puts it later on. Why does this bother me so much? Because this book is aimed at teen readers, and the manner in which Quincie is turned into a vampire is just highly disturbing, as is her reaction. It's almost a violation of her as a person to have this done without her knowledge; it's perplexing that she doesn't react more strongly when she puts it together. She just sort of goes "OH!" and then figures out how to save Kieren from Henry's wrath. WHAT??? Oh, and her uncle was in on the whole thing, having voluntarily turned vampire himself. How creepy is that? Her 30-something uncle pretty much GAVE her to the big bad vampire. Ewww..... If my loved one did that to me, I'd be pissed as hell. And it also seemed weak that Quincie couldn't tell that something was strange about all the time "Brad" was spending with her, the fact that he kept plying her with wine (remember, she IS underage), etc. The whole thing just really made me feel, well, icky.

I cannot recommend this book to anyone, especially not to the teen readers out there. Perhaps the author went in this direction to distinguish her story from "Twilight" and the others in that series, but this was NOT the way to go about it.


Anonymous said...

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- David

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