Twelve-year-old Elizabeth “Fizzy” Russo feels like a leftover kid, and as a budding chef, she really dislikes leftovers.
Fizzy is a skinny, strawberry-blonde, freckle-faced, white girl who has been taught to keep family business private and her emotions to herself. She has struggled to fit in or feel normal since her parents’ divorce, and now that they are both seriously involved with other people, Fizzy is left feeling like an unwelcome guest in both their houses. To cope, she concentrates on her recipes for the Southern Living Cook-Off, hangs out with her aunt Liz, and spends time with her new friends, Japanese-American Miyoko and blond, white Zach. Payne provides plenty of realistic detail here about Fizzy’s slowly evolving relationships with her parents, stepparents, and new friends. Nothing is easy, no one is perfect, and Fizzy learns that when it comes to people you love, sometimes it’s best “to let the little things pass.” Fizzy’s inner monologue, steeped in self-doubt and self-pity, can seem a little heavy-handed, but her growth feels authentic and her progress well-earned.
Readers experiencing family challenges of their own will laugh and cry with Fizzy, rejoicing as she cooks up quite the satisfying new life for herself. (Fiction. 10-14)