This debut about a reality show for young chefs has enough spice to keep readers feasting all the way through.
Nora has been cooking all her life; her dad runs a barbecue restaurant that’s legendary in their part of North Carolina. She loves the reality TV show Taste Test, in which teens vie for a $50,000 scholarship to a famous Paris cooking school, and she enters it as a contestant. As soon as she arrives, sparks fly. Handsome Christian is the privileged son of a famous chef, and his friend Joy hobnobs with celebrities. They treat Nora as a redneck. Nora and Christian turn out to be the major talents among the contestants, but the tension that generates convinces many that they’re hiding a romance. As the contest progresses, someone appears to be sabotaging the show. Amid all the turmoil, can Nora concentrate on winning, and does she really have a chance? Fiore creates some likable, enjoyable characters, especially in Nora and Christian, and keeps the narrative zooming along with all the urgency of a real reality show. She spends only a few chapters on the actual cooking challenges, focusing instead on the conflict between Nora and Christian. Readers will spot the romance potential immediately, but the story stretches out that prospect for as long as possible.
Contestants may lose, but readers won’t. (recipes) (Fiction. 12 & up)