Fans of Meg Cabot will recognize her as the author of nearly 40 novels for adults and young adults alike, including such wildly successful books as “The Princess Diaries,” and “Size 12 Is Not Fat.” “Size 14 Is Not Fat Either,” the sequel to “Size 12,” further chronicles the escapades of washed up ex-pop star Heather Wells as she struggles to regain control of her life amid an ocean of murder, scandal and a little bit of Cabot’s signature romance.
p. As the assistant dorm director of Fischer Hall on the fictional campus of New York College, Heather deals with all sorts of student problems on a daily basis. However, no quantity of roommate complaints could have prepared her for the discovery of a student’s severed head in the cafeteria. Just like that, murder-solving is once again added to Heather’s job description and much as she may want to leave it to the professionals, the police seem less than enthused about digging for evidence. Left to her own research methods, Heather discovers some shocking truths, the consequences of which could be life-threatening.
p. “Size 14 Is Not Fat Either” is a funny, quirky, endearing piece of whodunit chick-lit. Each of Cabot’s extremely likable characters has his or her own unnecessary idiosyncrasies, affording nearly every reader someone with whom to identify. The story itself is equally as intriguing as its vivid characters, and the numerous threads of the book converge spectacularly to create a sensational, heart-pounding, page-turner of an ending. This tremendously well-written novel is as much a joy to read as any other of Cabot’s works; she never misses a mark.
In a recent phone interview, several of my peers and I had the opportunity to speak with Cabot about “Size 14 Is Not Fat Either.” The main idea behind the book is that of the quarter-life crisis, Cabot says, “I want to address … the 20s-crisis — what are you doing with your life? That’s really what I’m trying to talk about, and throwing in a little murder.”
p. Cabot tends to base her characters on acquaintances from her own life, which is one of the reasons their personalities are so stunningly real. “I do kind of base my characters on people I know. The real challenge is, as somebody who wants to remain friends with those people, you don’t want them to be able to recognize themselves — particularly if you’re writing about family members … and I’ve actually been really lucky because so far I’ve managed to disguise everybody so well that no one’s quite recognized themselves, but most of the people in this book are kind of based on actual, real human beings. One way Cabot designs her characters is based on files of particularly hilarious or interesting people she kept while working in a dorm. Still, some characters are based on people more integral in her life: “Heather, obviously, is based on me, except sadly I was never a pop star.”
Like Heather, Cabot was a dorm director at New York University for several years and draws upon her experiences at NYU and in the city itself while composing many aspects of the Heather Wells mysteries — including the crimes. While no murders ever occurred in the dorms during Cabot’s employment, the inspiration for the particularly grisly crime in “Size 14” came from the events surrounding a man named Dan Racowitz.
p. He “chop[ped] off the head of his roommate and boil[ed] it in a pot and [fed] her body to the homeless … As a girl from the Midwest, that was the first big news story when I moved [to New York] and I was like, ‘Oh my God. I want to go back home; this is insane’ — which is ironic because apparently a lot of serial killers come from the Midwest … I actually originally had the part where the girl’s remains were made into the meatloaf in the cafeteria and I ended up taking it out because it really was too gruesome, so actually the inspiration is more grotesque than what actually happens in the book.”
p. With her easily digestible style and definite flair for writing, Cabot’s popularity has skyrocketed and, to the delight of her fans, the author’s catalog is growing with it. “I’m starting to get popular, so my publishers are like, ‘We’ll take anything you’ve got,’ which is a great position to be in, but it can look like all you do is sit around and write … I have, like, five books coming out next month.”
“Size 14” is a fantastic novel, filled with all the humor, style and intelligence that a great chick-lit book should have. Its originality will delight even the most jaded reader. Look for the third Heather Wells mystery, “Big Boned,” in January 2008.