Rating: Unrated | 320 pages | Blink YA | Contemporary | Release Date: 03/03/20
Mayra Cuevas debut is a coming of age novel for fans of decadent food and charming European cities. Seventeen-year-old Isa has a passion for French cooking, which has kept her afloat now that she has left Chicago for the scenic coastal city of Nantes, France with her father and his new wife–the woman he cheated on her mom with.
The situation is a little awkward but it’s all worth it when Isa is accepted into a cutthroat culinary program where failure is not an option. She is determined to keep her focus– even if her family’s new charming young house guest proves to be a bit of a distraction.
I think the real heart of this story is Isa coming to terms with her changing family. We get flashbacks to before Isa’s parents split, when she spent summers with her Cuban grandmother who has recently passed. As we flashback and learn more about Isa’s family history the present day story begins to change and reshape itself– much in the same way Isa’s plans for her future do.
This is certainly going to be filed under a book “teen me” would have enjoyed. My cooking/baking skills are nowhere near the realm of Isa’s but I can relate to inflicting all sorts of desserts on my family and looking for feedback.
I only tangentially follow the food world but between shows like Ugly Delicious and Huang’s World it seems like foodies are trying to break down the institutional barriers between what is cuisine and food, something this book embraces as we follow Isa’s journey from the high-pressure French kitchens to the true comfort of a homemade meal.
Cuevas does a wonderful job setting the scenes of Nantes and takes readers to other small European cities that may not be widely known to Americans. When I think about it, I have read a handful of YA novels that are “Americans” in Europe and Cuevas makes the setting seem within reach.
A story full of heart, ambition and scrumptious dishes. Seriously this book a made me hungry and I actually made a caramel sauce apple pie because of this book. Dear reader, I ate the whole thing!