An unexpected family illness forces a 14-year-old Latina foodie to leave her Arizona home for a large Pennsylvania household.
When her Aunt Elba suddenly gets sick and closes the family’s Mexican restaurant, Linda Delgado is sent to live with her “Aunt” Pat and her husband in Pittsburgh. The couple already has seven children, a mixture of biological, adopted and foster. Pat helps to support the family through a local television show dedicated to cooking from canned foods, a practice that contradicts Linda’s training using fresh ingredients. Besides being uprooted from her Native American best friend Julia and her quiet life with her aunt, Linda can’t even find solace in her cooking, as the kitchen is Pat’s domain. The couple’s 14-year-old daughter Chloe resents Linda’s presence, especially as the two have to share a bedroom in the cramped house. At school, Linda finds herself competing against Chloe for the attentions of Dino Moretti, while at home she tries to stomach Pat’s cooking and help an orphaned Latino foster child deal with his grief. McClain breaks Linda’s first-person narrative chapters with posts from the teen and others on a food website, and she almost sidetracks the story with an unfortunate subplot involving a rival cooking show.
A charming heroine and a happy, if slightly unrealistic, ending make this stand out above the usual fare. (Fiction. 12 & up)