Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot: B

From the back cover:
Katie Ellison is not a liar. It’s just that telling the truth is so… tricky. She knows she shouldn’t be making out with a drama club hottie behind her football-player boyfriend’s back. She should probably admit that she can’t stand eating quahogs (clams), especially since she’s running for Quahog Princess in her hometown’s annual Quahog Festival. And it would be a relief to finally tell someone what really happened the night “Tommy Sullivan” was spray-painted on the new wall outside the gymnasium—in neon orange, which still hasn’t been sandblasted off. After all, everyone knows that’s what drove Tommy out of town four years ago.

But now Tommy Sullivan has come back. Katie is sure he’s out for revenge, and she’ll do anything to hang on to her perfect (if slightly dishonest) existence. Even if it means telling more lies than ever. Even if, now that Tommy’s around, she’s actually—no lie—having the time of her life.

From the book description, it sounded like this book would be very annoying, but it actually wasn’t bad. Oh sure, Katie could be irksome, but she was at least distinctly different from the rest of Cabot’s heroines. And yeah, the plot was totally predictable, but it was satisfying in a romantic comedy kind of way.

There was more of the “re-explaining” that has bugged me in Cabot’s other books. In this case, it was where the circumstances of the awfulness of Tommy’s return were reiterated. Yes, he ticked off some people in a highschool-football-crazy town by exposing some jocks for cheating on their SATs. Yes, they lost their scholarships. Yes, Katie is now dating the younger brother of one of said jocks, who is still angry about the whole thing. I got all that the first time it was revealed and (gasp!) made all the necessary connections without having to be led through it on a string. I’m quite sure most teens can manage the same.

Also, like most Cabot heroines I’ve thus far encountered, Katie had a hobby that she was serious about pursuing. I think I need to make a list.

Princess Diaries — Mia is into writing.
All-American Girl — Sam is into art.
Pants on Fire — Katie is into photography.

Suze from the Mediator series didn’t have a hobby that I remember, but she had a sort of job/destiny thing, so I guess that qualifies. Their friends are usually into something specific, too. It’s kind of a character shortcut in many cases (this one’s a cheerleader, no need to establish more about her), but it’s better than girls with no aspirations, at least.

Anyway, I shouldn’t be surprised that Cabot books are formulaic and occasionally padded with needless rehashing: it’d be difficult to crank them out at her current pace if she had to come up with something entirely new each time. It was still a fun read and I’m sure I’ll be back for more Cabot when the need for fluff resurfaces.

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