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Queen of Babble
ISBN: 0060851996
By: Meg Cabot

Review by: Ann Evankovich

05/07

I hate it when happily-ever-after relies on the protagonist finding and winning her Prince Charming. Lizzie Nichols, like so many women, is plagued by the notion that her happiness depends on having a perfect boyfriend. This is so important to her that she ignores a sea of waving red flags about her current beau, puts her career on hold, and crosses an ocean for the chance at romance. My feminist sensibilities were sitting on the edge of their seat, trying to decide if they should stand up and protest, or read further to see if Lizzie would redeem herself.

Author Meg Cabot digs deeper into dumb blonde stereotypes with Lizzie. On a mission to impress her boyfriend, Lizzie has lost thirty pounds in three months on a radically severe diet. Her family seems happier about the weight loss than they are that Lizzie is the first woman in her family to earn a 4 year degree. To make matters worse, the heroine has a seemingly shallow and incomplete degree in the history of fashion. At least everyone in the story recognizes that her independent studies major seems, at least unemployable.

But despite all the sounding alarms on my misogyny sensor, I had a hard time putting Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble down. Cabot adds enough emerging self assurance to her main character to keep you hoping for redemption. Her male characters are clearly good and evil, which makes the book more entertaining than thought provoking. If you are looking for a fun story, you will find it here.

Lizzie's college major is almost an accessory to her obsessive interest in vintage fashion. She can determine the year and designer of most vintage clothing in a glance. This gift of fashion awareness is her tool for analyzing every person she meets. Lizzie's adoration of vintage designers and her ability to restore their creations not only provides her with a business opportunity, but also saves the day and wins the affection of Prince Charming with a properly restored Chanel.

The ultra feminine vintage wear is the perfect metaphor for the predictable stereotypes that propel the book to its obvious conclusions. Despite some of Lizzie's stubbornness, Cabot revives many vintage attitudes about women to clothe Lizzie. She is recently thin and therefore newly attractive. Her motivation for weight loss is not for personal fulfillment, but to impress an ambitionless boy who has a sexy British accent. She chatters indiscriminately, creating several awkward moments for her varied audiences. She disdains the silicone, money grubbing girlfriend of the object of her affection. The plastic girlfriend ditches Prince Charming for a more monied option, leaving the wealthy, handsome educated castle-owner available to Lizzie. Of course all chattering women want to be thin, and all women who get plastic surgery are shallow gold diggers.

Despite all these choices that offend my feminist ideals, I found the book entertaining. Lizzie's uncensored thoughts made me laugh out loud. I was relieved when she dumped the loser boyfriend. I wanted the mythical Prince to love Lizzie. I was delighted when they finally made love on the oak wine barrels in the dusty sunlight. Sometimes I don't want to worry about STDs and unwanted pregnancy either. Soft focus romance is ruined by splinters and sticky drippings. Not everything we read must be challenging. If you are looking for a diverting book to read at the beach, nothing with pesky subtle symbolism on weighty moral issues, then here is the book for you.

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