Scarlett’s mother’s blog posts are about Scarlett—and they’re always humiliating.
Mom is a rising superstar blogger whose shtick is parenting advice. This is great for their single-parent, two-child family’s budget but not for Scarlett’s emotional health. Mom is ruthless, bordering on cruel. Examples of her thoughtlessness include “Psst…Want to Know a Secret? My Daughter’s Best Friend Is Really Dull” and “Bye-Bye, Harvard: My Daughter Has No Interests.” Scarlett used to have friends (the former post drove her best friend away) and interests; she was outgoing and participated in clubs and activities, but she’s become withdrawn and boring in order to deprive Mom of material. When her elderly neighbor is hospitalized, Scarlett enters the woman’s house to investigate mysterious screams (phew—it’s just the cat) and gets an unexpected surprise: a chef-grade kitchen and a very special handmade cookbook. Scarlett wants to try the recipes, but how to do it without Mom finding out? There’s that beautiful kitchen next door. Soon she’s making lovely scones and new friends. The irony that Mom ignores her in order to give her followers parenting advice is not lost on Scarlett, who narrates with humor tinged with melancholy and makes the somewhat outrageous premise believable. Disappointingly, considering the prominence of food and cooking in the story, there’s only one recipe. The book assumes a white default.
This series opener is as heartwarming as a fresh cinnamon scone. (Fiction. 8-13)