Pants on Fire

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Review of Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot

Katie Ellison, the spunky protagonist of Pants on Fire, opens the novel in her workplace, the Gull ‘n Gulp, and immediately introduces the Quahogs, both tourist-attracting bivalves and lionized footballers. Mind you, that's KOH-hog, not KWAH-hog. For a moment there, it seems like Meg Cabot's going to peel out into another hilarious, quickie
read, the chick flick of text. Then things start to dissolve.

First, Katie is obsessed with boys. Not simply interested, but constantly, painfully aware. Through her filter, every movement is a guy's come-on, or a reaction to one, and the tone quickly becomes tiresome. Sure, you can gush about your boyfriend, but what about your other boyfriend….and your enemy? Katie's cautious emotional approach to her long-lost friend Tommy Sullivan, whom she betrayed four years ago, would almost be convincing if she could just detach her mouth from his.

Speaking of the guys, the three that Katie bounces between, after soundly making out with them in turn, are each described as flat-out hawt. There's Seth, her official boyfriend, with his puppy-dog eyes and ravishing eyelashes; next comes Eric, curly-haired actor extraordinaire; and finally, the daring Tommy, with his perfect bod. Unfortunately, Katie goes into such paroxysms of exultation over each that they come across as bland, unattractive shmucks. Their lavish descriptions cancel out.

As the story winds on, Katie's lack of self-restraint around boys is matched with an intense use of lies and a brainiac background. Then again, if she were so smart, Katie wouldn't be winding herself into such an awful web of lies or turning to putty every time a boy so much as lays a finger on her – even Tommy, whom she suspects of plotting to ruin her life. Katie's flaw is ridiculously over-exaggerated, and it doesn't promote any kind of rapport. Instead, the last pages leave a bemused exasperation, as Katie puckers up for yet another guy.

Pants of Fire ultimately flops, with an unrealistic protagonist who doesn't promote empathy: Katie isn't much less of a ditz than the friend she keeps referring to as such. Between her three uber-irresistible boy toys, she still can't seem to stop whining about them. Even the tantalizing word “quahog” can't save the day this time. For better, more sensitive examples of Meg Cabot's work, try All-American Girl or the Princess Diaries books.





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