Some solid cooking tips shared by the main character, an aspiring chef, are an added bonus to this slick, enjoyable novel that juggles a variety of mostly successful plotlines.
Olivia and her ne’er-do-well singer/songwriter older brother Jeremy adore their two dads, Enrique and Bell, even if they seem to be unraveling a bit in the face of bills that are piling up both on their home mortgage and Bell’s restaurant. Early on, Olivia stumbles into a chance meeting with a psychic that foreshadows many of the novel’s events, including a romance and her first sexual experience, her decision to pursue the identity of her birth mother and the discovery of an annotated cookbook from the 1960s whose former owner captivates her. Food metaphors are occasionally overdone—“Without every flavor of our family working together, there is no dish”—and coincidences abound to a degree that strains believability, but the nicely ambiguous ending saves the story from feeling too pat, and the psychic cues readers to expect that fate may be at work. Nuanced characters, including the talented protagonist and her loving but realistically flawed family, are the stars of this introspective and poignant coming-of-age tale.
It should win fans among those who appreciate a good balance between depth and a playful tone. (Fiction. 12 & up)