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Every Boy's Got One by Meg Cabot

One of the things that made me fall in love with Meg Cabot, even enough to try her again after suffering through Size 12 is Not Fat, is the overwhelming charm of the formula that she has perfected. Cabot's one-offs, unique in their composition and far better than her series stories, uses mixed media to push the narration along. Journals, e-mails, IMs, receipts, forms, menus, agendas: you name it, they pop up somewhere in the book. Events are seen through the tinted lenses of one character, then another, and then a third, muddled and confusing and very much like walking into someone else's grand drama without having the background story. This, for me, has always been half the fun of Cabot's writing.

Every Boy's Got One is another of these tales in which Jane Harris, a professional comic strip artist, accompanies her best friend Holly on her elopement. Holly and her intended, Mark, need two witnesses to come with them to Italy and watch them wed, and while Holly brings Jane, Mark brings his best friend, jet-setting journalist Cal. Jane and Cal are immediately at one another's throats as the trip ebbs and flows from a triumphant success to an utter disaster and back again. Most of the action happens either in Jane's travel diary or through e-mails between characters, but not without the required quota of Three's Company style miscommunications and hijinks.

Cabot's writing, for me, has always been charming, but in this case, I'm afraid it fell a bit flat.

I don't know if it's the fact that I've been reading so much Marian Keyes or something about this particular book of Cabot's (one of her more recent ones), but I found the book reading more like a bottom-of-the-barrel Lifetime movie than one of her novels. For starters, the narration relies very heavily on Jane's point of view, and while I understood that she was the protagonist, I found her fairly unlikable. Really, I found most of the characters unsympathetic and grating: Holly was wishy-washy, Jane was overwrought, Cal went from extreme womanizer to capable of true love in record time, and all the relatives and more minor characters were just annoying. I liked Mark, but then, Mark was given next-to-no personality. He just was.

My other issue with the book -- aside from the points in the plot that rendered suspension of disbelief impossible (perjuring themselves at the consulate, for instance) --  was the limited way in which it was told. Jane's travel diary is the primary lens readers interact with the story through, and it is at times impossible to believe that she is penning several pages during a game of War, or while in the car, or while in a romantic restaurant. It is also impossible to believe that she writes fast enough to copy down conversations verbatim, but several times, it's referenced that she does. Moreover, though, Jane's unlikability shines through and colors her impression with a sometimes-whining, sometimes simply obnoxious personality. Towards the end of the book, Cal is guilty of the same thing, his story told through notes on his PDA with the same rosy-tinted nonsense as Jane's section.

I wanted to like this book. I wanted Meg Cabot to redeem herself. But while the stereotypical plot was definitely right up her alley, the storytelling was poor enough and the characters unlikable enough that I found myself not reading for enjoyment, but reading to be done.


the forest-dweller

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