Title: Insatiable

Author: Meg Cabot

Other notable works by author: The Princess Diaries series, The Mediator series, 1-800-Where-R-U series

Page Count: 464 pages (hardcover)

Method: Kindle on iPhone

Rating: Good

Plot Summary: Our heroine, Meena Harper, works as a dialogue-writer for the popular soap opera, Insatiable, in this satirical vampire book. A living doormat, Meena allows everyone to walk all over her and rarely says what she means, whether it is staying quiet about her brainless co-writer Shoshana (what a name!) getting the big promotion that rightfully belonged to Meena, or not speaking up when someone is about to die. Meena’s special power is the gift of prophecy, specifically seeing how someone is going to die (heart attack because of a terrible diet, suicide bomber in a Morocco hotel, developing brain tumor). Living with her unemployed brother, she seems pretty depressed with her lot in life. She ends up dating the prince of darkness, vampire Lucien, at her neighbor Mary Lou’s apartment (Mary Lou has tried to set Meena up with someone every time she corners her in the elevator). She is swept away by his feelings for him (thinking that he’s just some prince from Romania) but later becomes entangled in family politics and a nasty vampire war. Alaric Wulf, a Palatine guard, joins the foray as Meena’s reluctant protector as he tries to kill Meena’s boyfriend, Lucien.

Notable quote: “She didn’t have time for this. She had a meeting. And a story to pitch. There was that head writing position, vacant now that Ned had had that very public nervous breakdown in the network dining room during spring sweeps” (page 3).

Character Breakdown:

Meena Harper: interestingly, the narrative points out what I noticed from the beginning: Meena is named after Mina, the female lead in Bram Stroker’s Dracula. This entire story is chock full of metaliterary points like this one, positioning Meena as the vampire bride-to-be while turning the stereotype on its ear. Although she is very whiny in the beginning, with her inability to actually say any of the things in her head to the people who most deserve it, Meena struck me as a strong character. She sticks to her convictions and although she makes some stupid choices, for the most part she does the right thing no matter how painful. Some points that bugged me about her: she is continuously annoyed about the other female characters who are rail-thin or who exercise/diet entirely too much. From the male perspectives, she is described as petite and specifically slender. I felt that this was a strange contradiction.

Lucien Antonescu: the prince of darkness, Lucien is a vampire who teaches Romanian history in Europe. When he hears that a number of brutal killings in New York City may threaten the secret about vampires, he hightails it over to the U.S. to put a stop to them. Once there, his cousin’s slightly wacky wife throws him a party where she essentially invites every single girl she knows to try to woe him. She even admits later that she thought Lucien and Meena would make a good couple because she has that whole “foretelling people’s deaths thing.” The cousins are a little too stupid for my tastes, but whatever. Lucien falls for our leading lady and pretty much struggles with being the prince of darkness and a regular guy in love with a slightly crazy girl. Who can see how people are going to die.

Alaric Wulf: meta, meta, meta… but ignore the obvious Twilight reference with the “wolf” last name for now. Alaric is the second lead male character who vies for Meena’s affection. A Palatine guard (i.e. a rogue assassin sent by the Vatican’s secret police to obliterate vampires, succubi, and other demons), Alaric is rebellious and arrogant. With little regard for anyone who isn’t his partner, Alaric goes around the entire story swinging his sword (yes, sword) appropriately named Senor Sticky. Although this made me laugh, I don’t think the name of the sword was actually appropriate to Alaric’s character. That minor point aside, Alaric is fun to read and has sufficiently flaws to make him an interesting character. Some points that bugged me about him: I didn’t get the sense that he was foreign. He can speak many languages and has obviously traveled the world but his attitude is decidedly American, hence my issue with his characterization. Another problem is his sudden, intense fascination with Meena.

Dimitri Antonescu: the villain of the story, Dimitri is a thug who misses the glory days of killing anyone and everyone he wants. As far as villains are concerned, he’s pretty wimpy, but not because he doesn’t have his undead heart in the wrong place. He’s all about taking advantage of the weak and helpless, not to mention manipulating and lying to get what he wants. The problem is really that his big brother, Lucien, is such a bigger powerhouse than he is.

The Good: I laughed at almost every scene. The conversations were always funny and the unique metaphors and descriptions struck me as brilliant. The attention to detail and research were evident (sometimes too evident) and added to the narrative. The romance between Meena and Lucien was palpable and exhilarating, especially when he tries to read her mind and concludes that she is too insane to be understood. The constant underlying satire of Twilight made this a refreshing read, especially because some of the creepier aspects of being a vampire were not glossed over and were rather pointed out as being pretty creepy (instead of romantic).

Meena was one of the strongest, most endearing female leads I’ve read in a long time. Sometimes, Meg Cabot’s heroines can get a little whiney (Mia, I’m looking at you) but Meena remains strong throughout and pretty much in character the whole time. Also, in many books of this sort, the “normal” female character can often be overshadowed by the more interesting “supernatural” male character (I’m thinking of Twilight specifically) where the reader doesn’t quite understand why someone as awesome as the male character would be at all interested in the female character. Not the case here; Meena’s fascinating all on her own and you don’t for a second question why Lucien (and Alaric for that matter) have the hots for her (although Lucien’s attraction makes a lot more sense and has better pacing than Alaric’s kind of quick infatuation).

As is generally true in most Meg Cabot books that I’ve read, the dialogue (both internal and external) is always entertaining and the very human reactions to extraordinary situations felt realistic and amusing.

The Bad: I love reading anything by Meg Cabot. Her style makes me laugh and her attention to seemingly unimportant details makes the narrative pop out as you read it. However, I feel that many times her endings are a little too wrapped-in-a-pretty-bow perfect (case in point, Meena’s brother ending up with Yalena, a girl Meena helps to escape prostitution since the beginning of the book in order to have some sort of happy relationship). I was left feeling as if the story hadn’t ended. In her other books, even in her series, the books always ended in such a way that every book could be the last with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Even if certain events were left open ended, there was a sort of finality to the book. I did not have that feeling with this book and felt more as if the ending was left unfinished rather than that a sequel was on the way. On a specific note, there were a few throwaway lines that didn’t make sense as I read them. One that particularly struck me is when Meena believes Lucien is dead and is being dragged away by Dimitri. The thought that Dimitri will probably rape her before sucking out all her blood flashes briefly through her head and then is never mentioned again. Dimitri has shown zero interest in her (except to piss off Lucien) and although he is portrayed as being unforgivably evil, this comment lacked substance.

The secondary characters, although interesting, were given very little depth. Meena’s best friend, the very pregnant Keisha, is interesting as someone for Meena to play off of for the reader’s sake, but she lacks any real personality herself (aside from as a good plot device to get Meena into the final climax scene). Similarly, her husband Adam had almost no personality at all and acted like a puppet on strings. Meena’s unemployed brother, again entertaining at times, got very annoying. He is so stupid and naïve that he lacks substance. He was a bit all over the place with his thoughts and opinions, believing that his sister is truly insane while simultaneously unfazed by watching Alaric torture a vampire with holy water for hours. I couldn’t get a grasp on his personality at all, only that he became more and more annoying. I almost wish Lucien had eaten him at the end.

The villain was, to be frank, completely lame. Dimitri, Lucien’s half-brother, is suitably cruel by killing or luring immigrant girls into his club in order to accomplish his dastardly plan. Except that the three times Lucien goes to pester Dimitri for information on the crimes, Dimitri gets his ass handed to him. Lucien barely flinches throughout the entire story, which is appropriate given his role as the prince of darkness, but the power difference between the two brothers is such that you wonder how Dimitri could have ever been a threat at all. Sorry to give it away, but Lucien turns into a dragon at the end and breathes on Dimitri. End of problem.

Shoshana is a much better villain in a high-school-archenemy sort of way. She’s suitably shallow and backstabbing, although her complete transformation to evil makes her appear like more of a caricature than a real person. Her aunt and uncle were nice paper-cut-out characters who did not even speak and Dimitri’s followers are suitably scary in a we-are-obviously-cannon-fodder-because-we-don’t-even-get-names way. Note paragraph above: Lucien turns into a dragon and breathes on them. End of problem.

The romance, as much as I enjoyed it, was entertaining less because of Meena and more because of Lucien’s thoughts on the relationship. He is obviously fascinated by how unique Meena is and acts according to some deeper instinct that he can’t control. Meena is also drawn in by this strange attraction to Lucien but hers seems more mindless in the sense that she feels he is the “perfect” guy and feels he embodies everything she has ever wanted. She seems to like him more for what he represents then for who he is (unlike Lucien, who obviously likes her). It is presented as a love story to defy time and space, because they just love each other so much but can’t be together, but it basically takes place over the span of a week. The narrative seems rushed, or rather like too much happens in too short a time period. This is not to say that the events were fast but that the feelings were fast. Essentially, Meena and Lucien sleep together one time (after their very first date) and then they’re inseparable.

Books that reminded me of this: pretty much all of Meg Cabot’s other books.

Link: interestingly, Meg Cabot’s promotional videos were one of the big reasons I wanted to read this book (initially, I wasn’t going to bother with this one). They were very entertaining more because they made fun of Twilight then because they advertised the book per se.