|Meg Cabot has established a reliable formula for her Boy books. Hero and heroine meet cute, e-mails and other electronic correspondence fly, and wackiness ensues. Unlike her first two efforts, The Boy Next Door and Boy Meets Girl, however, Cabot’s latest does not find our couple united against a common enemy. This time they’re stuck in a clichéd, antagonistic “hate-at-first-sight” dynamic. While their sparring is entertaining, the sudden transition from loathe to love is unconvincing. Ultimately, Every Boy’s Got One is the least satisfying of this popular author’s Chick Lit novels.
Jane Harris couldn’t be more excited about her first trip to Europe. Not only is she going to a picturesque small town in Italy, but she is accompanying her best friend Holly and Holly’s boyfriend Mark as a witness to their elopement! The only fly in the ointment is Mark’s friend Cal Langdon, an arrogant jerk who is reluctantly accompanying the party despite his openly stated distrust of love and marriage. Cal may be a foreign correspondent with a bestselling book, but he hogs the airplane armrest, he sleeps with supermodels, and he’s never even heard of Wondercat, the popular comic strip Jane has created and brought to the verge of a major Cartoon Network deal.
The story unfolds through Jane’s travel diary, Cal’s PDA, and Blackberries generously loaned to the girls from their New York Journal employers. Also chiming in are Holly’s (Italian) and Mark’s (Jewish) mothers (both opposed to their relationship), Jane’s almost-ex-boyfriend and a teenaged Italian boy who is Jane’s #1 Wondercat fan. Other than several small misadventures, nothing really happens in the book until Holly and Mark’s wedding plans come to a crashing halt and it’s up to Jane and Cal to save the day. Cal has been hurt in the past, but the beauty of the Italian countryside and Jane’s girlish enthusiasm (as well as her sexy toes) make him wonder if perhaps love is more than a strong chemical reaction.
Every Boy’s Got One (that title makes me cringe for so many reasons, not the least of which is its awkward grammar) is a very quick, fluffy read with broad characterizations. Jane is the typical girly heroine who thinks Cal’s book on the dwindling Saudi Arabian oil supply is totally boring, but will spend hours discussing Dr. Kovak’s love life on ER. Cal is the serious but studly “girl in every port” hunk who needs the love of a good woman to save him from his own cynicism. The spirited exchanges between hero and heroine are amusing, but when the scales finally fall from Cal’s eyes it feels like a plot device rather than a natural progression – his sudden change of heart seems forced and unbelievable.
One expects the romance in the Boy books to be of fairytale quality but the humor usually compensates for the lack of depth. This time, however, Cabot seems more interested in providing a travelogue on a country she obviously adores (it was the setting for her own elopement) than keeping the jokes rolling. The previous two Boy books had a workplace setting, which fostered a brisk pace and provided lots of opportunities for pithy correspondence between co-workers. The tempo this time is much more leisurely, and although the missives from the four main characters’ parents are mildly amusing they are not an equal match (Note to Ms. Cabot: The Producers aside, Nazis are not funny. In fact they are pretty offensive to those of us of the Jewish persuasion).
When The Boy Next Door was released in 2002, it was a breath of fresh air, a modern fairytale bursting with energy. The novelty is gone now, along with my need to automatically buy all of Cabot’s books. I think it’s time to pass the torch along to my teenaged daughter, who increasingly seems to be the target of Cabot’s cute but lightweight stories.