It’s always sad when series end—not just the ones with the absolute set number of books, but even the ones that could go on for a while. The flipside being that of course, you don’t want the series to limp on forever until you want it to end out of mercy, but still. (*cough*Sookie Stackhouse *cough*) But it’s still sad because you don’t want these characters to go away and even if it’s the proper send-off, it’s still…I want more.
Moreso here because this is my second time that I’ve said goodbye to Heather and company. Big Boned does actually serve as a nice little wrap-up to the first three books, and the constant pushing back of …Ready to Rock did lead me to think that this was going to be a trilogy and I was fine with it. And then we got the fourth book last year, and then this is the grand finale with a big wedding and everything.
(I have to say that I really love the title The Bride Wore Size 12 over the original title, Size 12 is the New Black. The finalized title is so much more film-noir-esque.)
This is, in my opinion, the best of all Meg Cabot’s series. The Heather books are so very much Meg’s style, but there’s this underlying maturity with a slight edge of cynicism which really works. It also falls away from the atypical chick lit tropes, and that is a major plus in my book. Aside from the first book, there’s no handwringing over misconstrued encounters with other women (and even then, there’s an in-character reason for it at that point). In regards to this book, with a lot of other chick lit series that involves the main couple getting married, the plot is mainly all about the jitters and the bridal breakdowns and the best friend pep talks and “omg can we really do this?” (And which Cabot herself did in Queen of Babble Gets Hitched to some point.) Here, the wedding stuff is not only almost done, but Heather is just not dealing with that shit on top of everything else that’s going on in her life. I really like that there’s barely any focus on the wedding, aside as a running gag involving Heather missing her appointments. The only thing that’s important to the wedding that does play a major role is the reappearance of Heather’s mother and Heather dealing with her.
And the great thing about this all is Heather and Cooper’s relationship. In the last two books, you’ve really seen how much they love each other and how comfortable they are in this relationship, and it’s a fairly mature relationship in that there is no handwringing and misconstrued encounters to throw issues in their way. I love their relationship; I love their banter together (“When I get home, I’ll give you another injection.” “If I recall correctly, I gave you the injection.”), I really love the fact that they have sex all the damn time and enjoy it. They are fantastic together, and just ugh I love them.
Also with the last two books, I’ve really enjoyed the mysteries in both. They’re not mind-blowingly brilliant, but they’re cleverly set up that you can see the through line on the reread. In here, we know that something’s up with Prince Rashid, and that it’s not that big of a conclusion to think that even if he’s not directly involved with the main murder, his people have something to do with it. (I did kinda partially call the reveal with Ameera; my guess wasn’t as thorough as what it ended up being, but I was on the right track with it.) I really liked how much the plot hinges on dormitory code of conduct rules that pays off the reveal of suspect and the reason behind the murder really well. (A little over the top, much like the other murderers in this series, but again, it’s standard in this for overreacting murderers.)
(I’m really trying not to make comparisons with the other chick lit-murder mystery that I just read but this? THIS IS HOW YOU DO THE TWIST. It’s set up to make you think that Rashid is the driving force behind the murder of RA Jasmine, and then the reveal of the actual murder does make sense and you can see how things fit together. It not only makes sense, but it’s set up fairly subtly within the plot.)
I should also be said that there is a lot of the character growth since the first book. You see how Heather does grow throughout the books and accepts what her life’s become and finds happiness. For example, Jordan—it took me the entire book to realize that Jordan, who’s one of my favorite characters, wasn’t in the book. And this book doesn’t need Jordan, because Heather’s found her closure with him and Tania and he doesn’t need to be in it beyond the off-hand mention at the end during the wedding. (That, and Jordan’s been largely replaced by his sisters, Jessica and Nicole. Who I like, but they’re not as hilarious as Jordan.) I really like that Heather’s personal plot is her having to confront the last thread from her pop star life with her mother’s return, and even then, Heather’s still not comfortable with having her mom in her life and that you can see that it’ll be a while before they truly reconcile. And Heather really is a fantastic character. You see that she really loves her job and cares about the kids in her dorm, but she manages to balance her cynicism with her optimism, and despite having people mention that Heather’s gotten so used to all the deaths in the past year has ‘hardened’ her. But Heather acting nonchalant is shown as an act she puts on and inside, she’s torn up about Jasmine’s death.
Other things I love about this book: I love that the plot focuses on intra-college politics, and that this is the second book in the series wherein the murder does play a role in regards to that. Even with Fischer Hall’s rivalry with Wasser Hall and Simon Hague. (Which I can’t read Simon Hague now without mentally thinking of STEVE. CARLSBURG. Because that’s who Simon Hague is for Heather Wells. Oh, Welcome to Night Vale has eaten my brain.) A major part with the Rashid angle is that his father’s donation is such a big part of what’s going on with the college. And again, from the last book: can I have a redo of college and have Heather and Lisa Wu as my dorm directors? Because they’re awesome.
I also love that Cabot is on the mark about a lot of the arbitrary points she makes. Her characters do tend to slip into “statistical recitation of something I read on the Internet,” but that’s how her characters generally are. This opens with Heather very politely calling a ‘well-meaning’ mother out on slut-shaming. I really love that Heather is forced to get a gun, and while she does ultimately use it in the end, she very clearly states that she doesn’t like it and it might be okay for other women but not for her, thanks. (Oh please tell me the pink-clad woman Heather relates about seeing at the firing range is a take that to Sarah Palin. It’s an obvious cheap shot, but it’s so good.)
(And okay, the one all of us long-time Meg Cabot fans are probably the most happy about: LIZZIE! Lizzie Nichols is Heather’s dressmaker and I sealclapped when she popped up. )
As I said in the beginning, this is Meg Cabot’s best series so far. The first four books did have issues but they’re fairly solid fun reads, and The Bride Wore Size 12 definitely ends on an absolute high note. It’s also one of her mature series, not just because of the massive amounts of sex that Heather has (remember, first book has Heather and Jordan going at it on Cooper’s hallway runner, plus the best callback in the third book), but also in how it deals with harder topics like sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and personal responsibility; it’s not perfect, but in comparison to more popular series, it’s handled very admirable. In fact, for Cabot’s younger fans moving on to her adult series, this is the one I’d recommend them to start with for those exact reasons. And they’re fun.
As happy as I am to see Heather and Cooper go off into the sunset, I am sad that this is the end for them. I really loved this series, and I really love this book. This is the series that I do recommend all the time to people, and with very good reasons apart from the fact that I’m a huge fan of Meg Cabot’s. If you haven’t read the others before, definitely do, and if you’re unsure about this volume, it’s a definite read.