Size 14 Is Not Fat Either
Size 14 Is Not Fat Either follows Size 12 Is Not Fat, Meg Cabot’s chick lit/mystery hybrid. For those who have not read the first novel (which you needn’t have done to enjoy this one), Heather Wells is a former teenage pop star who was dropped by her record company when she insisted on singing her own songs. She caught her fiancé, a member of a boy band, in flagrante with a younger and thinner singer, and her mother and her manager eloped to Argentina with all of Heather’s savings. She accepted a position as assistant director of a college dorm in New York in order to get free tuition, and lives rent-free at her ex-fiancé’s brother’s house nearby. The story is told in the first person.
Arriving at the dorm one morning, Heather is confronted with a truly grisly find in the cafeteria: A human head is boiling in a pot. Heather recognizes Lindsay, a universally well-liked cheerleader. The rest of the body can’t be found, the cafeteria was locked overnight, and the police are equally in the dark about a possible motive. Detective Canavan strictly forbids Heather to get involved in the case, but as she feels responsible for all the students in the dorm, she decides to ignore this and goes investigating on her own. (In her defense, when she does try to inform the police of her finds at one point, she is rebuffed and ridiculed.)
Heather soon finds out that Lindsay was not quite as nice as she appeared. She was secretly involved with the younger son of a very prominent and rich family. The young man is a member of a fraternity, and Heather now must invade the fraternity house to ferret out the truth.
In addition to this mystery, Heather’s got a full plate: A close friend tries to convince her to perform again; her ex-fiancé is convinced she still loves him, yet wants her to come to his wedding; and in the most touching subplot, Heather’s father, who has been in prison for all her adult life, is released and comes to visit her.
Cabot’s trademark social commentary and allusions to pop culture worked to the book’s benefit. She is an auto-buy for me soley because she is so dead-on in this area. Many of the book’s scenes are both funny to read and mercilessly and sharply observant that they can take your breath away.
On the other hand, Heather herself is problematic for me. While she has a lot of inner strength, she happily permits everyone to pile on extra work and responsibility. Too often she seems like a doormat and I would prefer her to show a healthy dose of selfishness once in a while. On the other hand, at one point Heather is utterly helpless, yet I liked the way she used the very small amount of power she had to try and turn the tables.
Two men are attracted to her in the course of the novel, and while the reader understands this perfectly well, Heather remains blissfully ignorant of it far longer than any perceptive person could. The author employed a similar technique in The Princess Diaries, but while one can pardon the teen-aged Mia for being almost willfully blind to what’s going on around her, it makes Heather appear sadly naive and close to TSTL. It also made me want to scream, “Get a clue!”
All in all there is not much romance in this novel, it is straight mystery. (That may change with the next installment, if one may trust the teaser at the back of this book.) As a mystery, it is not bad at all but not entirely successful either. Meg Cabot fans – and those who enjoyed the earlier Heather Wells will probably want to read it, but if you you’re a newbie to this author, I’d suggest beginning elsewhere.