The Princess Diaries: Book One
As Meggin Cabot:

The Boy Next Door

She Went All the Way

As Patricia Cabot:

An Improper Proposal

Kiss the Bride

Lady of Skye

Portrait of My Heart

Where Roses Grow Wild

Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot
(Avon, $13.95, PG) ISBN 0-06-008545-2
† Meg Cabot follows up her bestselling Chick Lit trade-paperback debut novel, The Boy Next Door, with another light-hearted romance told entirely through e-mails and other 21st century media. Itís difficult to put down and undeniably entertaining, but I was turned off by the passive, whiny heroine who acted more like a 14-year old fan of Ms. Cabotís Princess Diaries books than a grown woman. †

Readers first met Amy Jenkins, Personnel Director for the New York Journal, in The Boy Next Door, when she sent the heroine snippy e-mails about her tardiness The fact that Amyís staff call her T.O.D. (Tyrannical Office Despot) behind her back should give you some idea of her personality. This time sheís making life miserable for her employee, Kate Mackenzie, by insisting she fire Ida Lopez, the dessert cart operator who sells delicious pastries to the staff Ė but only to those people she likes. When Ida refuses to serve Stuart Hertzog, legal counsel to the Journal and Amyís fiancť, her job is doomed.

But Ida quickly files a grievance against the newspaper for wrongful termination, setting up Kateís introduction to Stuartís brother, Mitch, who despite being a soulless corporate attorney is very cute and remarkably decent. Kate has sworn off men, however, after a recent breakup with her longtime boyfriend Dale, a musician who isnít into commitment. Breaking up with Dale has left Kate without a home, so she is currently camping out on the couch of her best friend and co-worker Jen. Considering that Jen and her husband are busy trying to get pregnant, itís not an ideal situation. †

Mitch thinks Kate is pretty adorable, but his attempts to defend her against Ida Lopezís suit end up getting her fired. Now homeless and jobless, Kate starts wondering why she ever left her hometown of Luxor, Kentucky. Will Mitch ride to the rescue, vanquish the back-stabbing Amy and the overly pompous Stuart, and convince Kate to take another chance on love? †

Boy Meets Girl zips along at break-neck speed on its way to the inevitable conclusion. Cabotís characters communicate through Instant Messaging (e-mail is so 2002), voice mail and fax. Kate also keeps a journal and occasionally scribbles notes to herself on restaurant menus and art exhibit programs, so we know more about whatís going on in her head than we did about Cabotís previous heroine, Melissa Fuller (now Melissa Fuller-Trent and a mom as well). †

Having insight into Kateís thought process is not necessarily a good thing, however, because she is truly an annoying heroine. ďI wish I were dead!Ē is her favorite melodramatic exclamation, followed closely by ďI hate my life!Ē When she loses her job (Iím not telling you anything you canít find out from glancing at the book cover), she wallows in self-pity and passivity, getting drunk and crying until Mitch bails her out of her predicament. I couldnít help comparing her to The Boy Next Doorís heroine; Melissa was occasionally whiny and overly dramatic, but when she discovered she had been deceived, she took action in a very decisive way. †

If you ignore Kate, youíll still swoon over Mitch, a former public defender who wears funny ties, works out by practicing wheelchair basketball and genuinely wants to help people. Youíll also have a great time with Cabotís digs at urban corporate life, especially the snobs who populate its upper echelons. Amy and Stuart are completely self-absorbed and ultra-conservative, so their battles with Mitch are full of fireworks. Readers are also treated to the return of outrageous Journal Style Editor Dolly Vargas and dim but warmhearted supermodel Vivica. Kateís ex-boyfriend Dale is also good for numerous laughs, starting with the unique name of his band (I wonít spoil it for you). Boy Meets Girl also benefits from several tantalizing recipes from Ida Lopez, including one for a chocolate bundt cake with chocolate chips that Iím eager to try out. †

While Cabot sometimes seems to forget that sheís writing for adults, not adolescents, Boy Meets Girl is nonetheless quite the giggle. Iíll cheerfully keep reading her epistolary novels as long as she keeps writing them; theyíre cheerful, hip and just plain fun Ė the perfect antidote to the winter blahs. †

--Susan Scribner

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