Tantalize, by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2007. 310 pp. ISBN 9780763627911
One month before the grand re-opening of Quincie's family's restaurant, their beloved chef has been murdered, possibly by a werewolf. Or is the new vampire theme of the restaurant attracting real bloodsuckers?
After her parents' death, first-person narrator Quincie Morris was left in her Uncle Davidson's care. Now at age 17, she will help her uncle manage the family Italian restaurant, which they've decided will now have a vampire theme. When their beloved Chef Vaggio is murdered one month before the grand reopening, they are left scrambling to find a replacement, and Quincie to cling to the hope that her half-human/half-werewolf best friend and love interest, Kieren, was not involved in the killing. A new chef named Henry Johnson is hired, who is quite talented but also a bit off-putting. Also problematic for Quincie is the fact that the time has come for Kieren to join a wolf pack and leave Austin. Then murders begin piling up and Uncle Davidson starts acting very strangely... Smith continues the stories of these characters in two later novels.
Of all the monster books I've read this semester, Tantalize has probably been the most fun, and I like Quincie's sense of humor and sarcasm. I think the fact that she, as a teen, is helping to run a restaurant should give teens an enjoyable taste of independence. And at the same time give an idea of the huge sacrifices that one makes in other areas of life, such as friendship and school, when one takes on such a responsibility. In addition, there is relevant social commentary in this novel, one example being the fact that werepeople have fewer rights than humans and suffer discrimination. One of my favorite aspects of Tantalize is that we don't find out until the end whether Kieren truly reciprocates Quincie's romantic feelings. And I also love the ambiguity of the ending as far as what Quincie's future holds. What some may find controversial is Quincie's drinking, but her drinking is included to illustrate how alcohol impairs one's judgement.
HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This book could help teens who find themselves with more responsibility than they can handle, or whose parents/guardians are absent. It could also help teens who feel they may have a drinking problem.
WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
I liked the idea of vampires, werepeople, and humans together in one city, and the restaurant aspect sounded fun.