Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Bibliographic Information: Leitich Smith, C. (2007). Tantalize. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 0763627917.  310 pages.

Plot Summary: Since the death of her parents at age 13, Quincie Morris has been in the care of her uncle Davidson.  With her parents gone, the place that has felt the most like home to her is Fat Lorenzo’s, the Italian restaurant that has been in her family for generations.  And Fat Lorenzo’s chef, Vaggio, and the rest of the staff were like Quincie’s extended family.  But there was a problem, competition, from other local Italian restaurants, was cutting into Fat Lorenzo’s business. Quincie, who, at 17, helped manage the restaurant, and Uncle Davidson came up with a plan: turn the restaurant into a Sanguini’s, an Italian restaurant, with a vampire theme.  From the food to the décor to the wardrobe of the staff, everything had to be planned out perfectly.  But, in Quincie’s world, in Austin, Texas, there really are vampires and werewolves.  In fact, Kieren, her best friend since childhood, and current love obsession, is a hybrid werewolf.  So, when Vaggio is literally torn apart in a brutal murder in the restaurant kitchen, while Quincie, unawares, watches a nature special in the break room, the spotlight turns to the non-humans around her, including Kieren.  In the shadow of Viggio’s unsolved murder, Quincie must focus on Sanguini’s and get it up and running for the reopening in a few weeks.  She also must deal with the fact that Kieren is just about at the age where he will be leaving Austin to join a wolf pack, and Sanguini’s new, young, and handsome, chef seems to have more than a fleeting interest in Quincie.

Critical Evaluation: Leitich Smith manages to take a vampire story with all the fantasy and darkness that comes with vampire novels and merge it with a young adult story that feels realistic and even relatable to many teens.  After all, problems with love and attraction are universal themes, even if the one loved is not always a hybrid werewolf.  Written in first person from Quincie’s perspective, readers learn information as Quincie does.  Her voice is honest and down to earth, even while dealing with otherworldly topics.  Adding to the immersive experience, that reading this book brings, are special pages sprinkled throughout.  A restaurant critique looks like a clipping on the page, the restaurant’s menus are presented in menu style complete with fancy script.  For those who can not get enough Tantalize, Leitich Smith has written others in the series: Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story.

Reader’s Annotation: When 17-year-old Quincie Morris and her uncle open a new vampire-themed restaurant, there are many changes afoot.  With vampires and werewolves, new love and old, will Quincie make it?

Information about the Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith writes books for all ages, from young children to young adult and adult.  She has published picture books, in addition to short stories, essays, and young adult novels.  Leitich Smith’s website (http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/) is a wonder of resources for readers and writers.  It includes recommended reading lists, advice for those interested in becoming writers, and extensive information about Leitich Smith and her writing.

Leitich Smith is genuinely interested in the world and people around her and generously shares her talents and insights.  She is a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and some of her works include authentically portrayed American Indian characters, something that is unfortunately often lacking in books about American Indians.  She currently lives in Austin, Texas, the setting for Tantalize, with her husband, also a writer, Greg Leitich Smith (http://gregleitichsmith.com/).

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy

Categories/Themes: Paranormal: Werefolk and Vampires, Fantasy: Myth and Legend

Curriculum Ties: Reading comparison between this novel and Stoker’s Dracula and ancient vampire legends

Booktalking Ideas:

  • How would you feel about your love interest being a hybrid werewolf?
  • Would you go to Sanguini’s?  Which menu would you pick?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19

Challenge Issues: Underage drinking, sexuality, mythical creatures.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Additionally, there are several positive reviews of the book.

Why is this book included? This book was assigned reading, which is how I learned about it, though I was already a fan of Leitich Smith.  Also, I wanted to include some novels with vampires and werewolves, as they are currently very popular among young adults.