Penny, from The Cupcake Queen (2009), endures barbs thrown by her bullying nemesis, Charity, but further trouble emerges when a new exchange student seems bent on stealing Penny’s boyfriend.
Penny's darn busy—when she's not at school, she's working at her mother's cupcake shop or helping her best friend, Tally, with odd jobs in order to raise funds to save the local animal shelter from closing. Meanwhile, her burgeoning relationship with Marcus renders her completely giddy, and she dreams that he'll be her first sweet kiss. But when Penny sees Marcus hanging out with Esmeralda, the gorgeous, new Parisian foreign exchange student, and later with Charity, she falls into worry and uncertainty. And to top it off, her parents are newly divorced, the holidays are approaching, and Penny's dealing with her increasing anger toward her father, who perennially breaks his promises to visit. A number of miniplotlines dilute the story's focus: among others, Penny suffers a concussion, but nothing comes of it save a few missed days of school, and her art teacher's relationship with a visiting artist seems suspiciously close. But as in her first outing, Penny's voice charms; she's keenly observant and wry, balancing surely between young innocence and burgeoning bravery. Readers will cheer the ultimate delivery of a satisfying, heaping dose of justice on the guilty.
A mean-girl story with a big heart and soul. (Fiction. 12-16)