"It was worth it, though, because suddenly I could feel again. I could feel everything--the grief, the fear, the remorse and betrayal, the mortification. The shame and love and worry. I could feel in my heart, my bowels, in the marrow of y bones, and the soft tissue of my organs. I was me once more."
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Plot Summary: Tantalize starts off with two teens sitting on a train track: Quincie and Kieren, hovering between childhood and adulthood, with their unsaid feelings encapsulated in them finally holding hands. Kieren, however, is a werewolf-hybrid who is not in control of his powers. He morphs, leaving scars on Quincie that never fade. The reader skips forward in time, where Quincie is a normal girl who spends her time outside of school helping her Uncle D and head chef Vaggio expand the family restaurant into a vampire-themed culinary delight. When Vaggio is murdered, leaving wounds akin to a wolf attack, Quincie's world is changed forever. She tries to not suspect her best friend / romantic interest Kieren, with his past of being unable to control his wolf side while trying to save the restaurant from her Uncle's inept hands. Not only does Quincie have to balance school and romance, she has to train the new head chef Henry Johnson to not only cook food worthy of her parents' restaurant but to act as the new Vampire Lord. As Quincie begins to fall for Henry, she slowly starts to lose interest in other parts of her life, including Kieren.
Critical Evaluation: The original use of an Italian menu to organize Tantalize is refreshing as is the theme of food within the novel itself. Instead of a book focusing only on vampires and werewolves, it teases and taunts the concept of all-powerful supernatural beings with a multitude of puns and japes and imitations. Quincie-as-narrator allows her strengths and weaknesses to show as well as her very individual personality. The novel's dialog is realistic and witty while at the same time keeping Quincie's own internal voice and reactions in place. The themes of unobtainable love and holding personal values close reoccur often throughout the novel. Unlike other romance novels, the love between Quincie and Kieren and the tentative crush that Quincie has for Henry is not as important as Quincie's own personal values and how she begins to drift from what she holds dear (the restaurant, her family, and her ability to organize).
Reader's Annotation: Quincie Morris is a normal girl with abnormal problems to tackle. Not only does she have to deal with an uncertain romantic relationship with her best friend and half-werewolf Kieren, she also has to totally revamp (no pun intended) her family restaurant into a vampire themed Italian restaurant AND train a lanky Southern chef into a Vampire Lord capable of wooing in the customers.
Information About the Author: Smith is famous for her diversity of writing: from young adult books like Tantalize to books for children to picture books and short stories. Her writing style varies from the humorous and whimsical to the dark and rather spooky.
Smith writes about a variety of topics through a variety of media, resulting in a strong and wide-spread fan base. Smith is also famous for her writer's resources and the advice that she gives out to fledgling authors. Find out more about Smith at her website.
Genre: Supernatural; Horror; Vampires; Werewolves; Romance
Curriculum Ties: Addiction
- In the world of Tantalize, quite like our world, vampires are idolized for their eternal beauty and werepeople are vilified as being less than animals. Quincie choses neither side, wanting to become closer to her childhood friend and crush who is a hybrid werewolf and promoting her family's new vampire-themed restaurant. When the old chef is murdered and the new chef needs a complete makeover to become the restaurant's Dark Lord, Quincie is torn between her werewolf love and the stylish new vampire.
Reading Level: 14+
- While this book is about vampires and werewolves, it is firstly about teenagers and the turmoil that they encounter in their adolescent years. The changes that Quincie undergoes, including the "addiction" is an easy parallel for what many teenagers encounter.
- Unlike other young adult literature, Quincie is a strong female lead character who does not live her life based on the men in it. She does not make her decisions based on Kieren or Henry, but rather her family (Uncle D) and what she holds important to her (the restaurant).
Why This Book?: Staff Recommendation
Smith, C. L. (2007). Tantalize. USA: Candlewick Press.