Cabot, Meg. Insatiable. William Morrow, 2010. ISBN 978-0061735066 464 pp. $22.99
I finished Insatiable this past week, and my husband commented, when I picked it up another night, “Are you STILL reading that same book?” It was kind of a crazy week, and I was pretty tired at night, so I’m not sure how that contributed to my difficulty getting through what has been pegged by other reviewers as an easy read.
I liked the irony of the premise: psychic New Yorker and soap opera writer who is a fed up her job and with the popularity of the vampire genre gets fed on by a vamp who she’s unknowingly fallen for. I really enjoyed the treatment of Meena’s psychic ability, that if she shares a vision, she can divert fate, that what she sees is a possible and changeable outcome.
I did think there was a lot of cleverness to Insatiable. I loved Senor Sticky, a great allusion to Kendra’s (and later, Buffy’s) Mr. Pointy. I don’t watch 24, an appreciated that the relevance of Jack Bauer’s name was explained, and I loved the allusions to Dracula. The narrative was pretty straightforward (with several predictable elements).
But overall, I found the writing … amateur. At times, I felt more like I was reading a screenplay, because of the pacing, description and dialogue. Although the dialogue was frequently and delightfully snappy or snarky, the construction of sentences, variety of vocabulary, and plot predictability didn’t have the pizazz of a multiple title novelist.
I wouldn’t call the characterizations stereotypical, but I didn’t findlot much depth or change–perhaps, Meena’s decision at the end is a change, but given her dissatisfaction at the beginning of the novel, it’s not a surprise. I liked the neighbors next door (they surprised and delighted me) and I especially loved Alaric’s first encounter with Mary Lou and her couture.
I randomly opened the book to page 104, and here’s the rundown of dialogue attributions:
Now, I know most writing guides will tell you to simply use “said” & “asked,” but use should still be limited, because you can use other tricks, like action, to indicate who is speaking. The overuse of attributions really stood out jarringly for me, instead of fading into the background to let the dialogue shine.
Flipping ahead and skimming through a couple of pages, I am struck by how frequently Cabot uses words in italics. There are two clear purposes: one, to indicate thoughts, like Meena’s musing to herself, or the psychic words/images she receives as portent of death to come.
Cabot also (over)uses italics for emphasis, and this is a no-no, to me. A strong, evocative writer shouldn’t have to TELL the audience where to put the emphasis in the sentence. The sentence structure or choice of words should allow that to occur organically. Cabot tell us to put emphasis on “what” (p 105), counted (p. 106), not (pg 108), knew (pg 109), how (pg 109), what (pg 109), was (pg 109), do (pg 113) ;and then, when a thought in italics has a word to be emphasized, it’s back in a regular font style (him, pg 109).
For me, these are serious writing flaws, and while I have no doubt of potential appeal or audience for this novel, the quality isn’t there enough for me to appreciate it as chick-lit.