SALTY, BITTER, SWEET

Fans of Top Chef won’t be able to resist a taste of this culinary drama.

Isabella Fields is a teen chef with aspirations of becoming world-renowned.

Incredibly, Isa is the only American selected to participate in an elite international summer cooking program that could lead to a life-changing apprenticeship in a famed French restaurant. Isa, who speaks French thanks to her French mother, knows that her performance will be the key to realizing her biggest dreams, and she refuses to let sadness over the death of her Cuban abuela, the divorce of her parents, and her new stepmom’s pregnancy sidetrack her. When a handsome and infuriating new houseguest adds even more stress to her life, Isa struggles to stay focused on her goal of kitchen perfection. The course begins, and Isa finds herself jockeying for the top spot against 14 other young gourmets while grappling with her own complex identity and confronting her grief. The high-intensity cooking competition brings out Isa’s deepest anxieties and tests her friendships. The author uses these trials to call out the male-dominated, cutthroat culture of the restaurant industry and the need for women to support one another. Isa’s mouthwatering descriptions of the dishes she’s preparing and tasting will appeal to both hardcore foodies and the casual eater. Sumptuous European settings and a delicious romance create a satisfying recipe.

Fans of Top Chef won’t be able to resist a taste of this culinary drama. (author's note, food glossary) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-310-76977-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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