A Nine-banded Armadillo in the Green Swamp, ce...

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By Mandy Webster

Tantalize. Cynthia Leitich Smith. Candlewick, 2007, 2008

Cynthia Leitich Smith obviously read too many Twilight books (and possibly Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) before writing her YA gothic fantasy novel, Tantalize. The parallels between these stories are too apparent for this to be a fluke. If I hadn’t already suffered through two and a half of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire/werewolf tomes, I might have been able to take Smith seriously. But, by the time she began introducing were-armadillos into the story, I was through. Were-armadillos? Seriously? That’s when I gave up and returned Tantalize to the library.

Since this is a book review, I suppose I should tell you a bit about the novel’s plot. Quincie Morris is a teenage human girl who is in love with (surprise) a werewolf. Well, actually, he’s only part werewolf, a hybrid, a condition which apparently provides unique problems of its own.

Early in the novel, Quincie’s father-figure (her parents died a few years back) is murdered in the kitchen of the family restaurant. Quincie and her young, irresponsible uncle are tasked with finding a new chef to cook for their new vampire themed restaurant which may or may not draw real vampire clientele once it opens. And no one, except Quincie, seems to be bothered by the fact that they are still cooking food in the same place where a man was murdered only a few days prior.

While I know it’s important to suspend disbelief when reading fantasy, nothing about the characters and situations in this novel were in any way credible to me. The main characters, including Quincie, just irritated me. And, I couldn’t help but wonder how many young ladies will read this book and get the idea that’s it’s okay for a 17 year old to be plied with wine by a 20-something coworker on a daily basis.

Of course, Tantalize was written for the same young adult audience that has ravenously devoured the Twilight series, so it’s possible that I am simply not the right reader for this novel. Personally, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it any more when I was 14 than I did at 34. But, I’d be interested in hearing what young adults have to say about this piece.

Cynthia Leitich Smith’s latest YA gothic fantasy novel, Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010) debuted at #5 on the New York Times paperback bestseller list. In Blessed, due out next year, characters from the two novels will cross over in what is guarantee to be another unbelievable read.

Amanda L. Webster