For fans of Sarah Dessen and Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why comes a journey of family, food, romance, and self-discovery as Olivia, a teen chef living in L.A., finds a vintage cookbook and begins a search for her birthmother that will change her life forever.Olivia doesn’t believe in psychics. But the summer before her senior year of high school, she meets one in an elevator.This summer will be pivotal, the psychic warns. Please remember—all your choices are connected. Olivia loves her life in Silverlake, Los Angeles, but lately, something’s been missing. And after getting this strange advice, her world begins to change. A new job leads Olivia to a gorgeous, mysterious boy named Theo. And as Olivia cooks the recipes from a vintage cookbook she stumbles upon, she begins to wonder if the mother she’s never known might be the secret ingredient she’s been lacking. But sometimes the things we search for are the things we’ve had all along.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher in exchange for an unbiased review
Four stars: A simple summer read about family, love and changes.
Olivia drags down the alley behind Hank, a boisterous chocolate lab. In his quest to find a pizza box, Hank inadvertently drags Olivia to the back of a secondhand bookstore. Beside the backdoor is a cardboard box full of battered books and a sign that says $.25 each. Olivia finds a vintage cookbook from the sixties that she just can't resist. Olivia at sixteen is an aspiring chef. She cooks the weekly special at her father's restaurant every week. Little does she know that this cookbook and this summer will be full of surprises and changes that will ultimately have her searching for that secret ingredient that she thinks is missing from her life. Can Olivia find her happiness?
What I Liked:
- I am on an easy, breezy summer read kick as of late, and The Secret Ingredient fits right in with my current trend of great books perfect for the beach, or backyard or anytime you need a pick me up book. I loved that this book was without all the things that drag down far too many books these days. There are no love triangles, cliffhangers and it refrains from heavy drama and angst. Instead this book follows a sixteen year old girl during the summer as she learns about love, grownup problems, heartbreak, and the true meaning of family. This book is beautifully written and I enjoyed this light read.
- At the heart of this story is the message regarding family. Olivia comes from a not so traditional family. She was adopted in the nineties by two gay men. They also adopted her older brother Jeremy. Olivia is content with her life and she loves her dads and brother dearly. Yet, there have been numerous times while growing up that she has wondered what it would be like to have a mother, until finally she takes that daring step to find her mother. This book features the ups and downs of any family from financial troubles to arguments, but through it all the heart of the family remains strong and true and shines through. No matter how unconventional or different your family may be, the one fact remains that they are your family and through thick and thin, hopefully they will be with you to the end. I loved that this brook brought me a non traditional family and that it shows that the only thing that matters is love and being there for each other.
- Olivia is a character whom I adored. She is unlike your average teenager, first because she is raised in a home with two dads. Second, she has never had a privileged life, as money was often tight so she is content to wear vintage clothes and create her own style. I loved that she wasn't all about material things. The thing I admired the most about her, though, was her refusal to carry a cell phone. She likes to walk and observe the city and doesn't like being tied down by a cell phone. How refreshing is that? Olivia is also a talented chef, and she is always whipping up fantastic dishes. I enjoyed reading about all things pertaining to food in this book as I find it soothing to read about cooking and food preparation. Olivia is the kind of girl you can't help but like as she is kind and sweet, and she is all about helping others. I enjoyed watching her growth during the summer, and delighted in her discovery in the end.
- I really liked the writing in this one. It is lovely and there are so many wonderful lines that just touched me. I loved that this was an easy read and that it was without all the drama and angst that is so prevalent right now. There are plenty of food for thought lines to ponder in this book.
And The Not So Much:
- If you are looking for a book that has a focused plot and storyline you may be a little disappointed with this one. For me, the loose storyline was just fine since it felt realistic. The story focuses on Olivia's summer adventures from a first romance, money problems, illness, heartbreak and the search for her birth mother. Even though the story isn't tight, it is easy to follow, and I personally enjoyed the format.
- The romance was a bit of a letdown. When it first takes off it is sweet and charming and so feel good. Then there is a stumble, and in the end everything is left rather open ended so I was uncertain how it would work out. I liked that this was realistic, because let's face it, how many first loves go the distance? Yet, I was sad that I didn't get a laid out happily ever after, but again that is the way life goes.
- The books ends rather abruptly leaving many unfinished story lines. It almost feels like the author is laying out the story threads for a sequel, but I am uncertain whether there will be a sequel. I wanted do know what happened to Lola's mom? I wanted Olivia to meet Eloise and learn the truth about Rose and the cookbook. Will she see Blake again? Will things work out with Theo? What about her birthmother? I would have preferred just a bit more resolution.
The Secret Ingredient is a pleasant summer book that follows a young girl as she deals with many obstacles on her way to adulthood. This is a book with a lot of heart as it reminds you of the importance of family. I enjoyed the easy storyline and all things pertaining to food. Grab this sweet little book when you are in need of a short, simple book for a summer afternoon.
"Bell says I'm like a fine wine. If you want to get to know me the right way, you have to let me breathe first."
"When you live in an imperfect, mismatched family like mine, you understand that love is about more than just blood. My dads raised me, took care of me when I was sick, taught me to walk, and read me to sleep every night. They are in my bones, a part of who I am. I can't imagine loving my birth parents any more."
"Food brings people together and gives you a comfort that nothing else can. It's more than nourishment, although that's a big part. When our taste buds come alive, other things seem possible. Hope, change, a new outlook on things. Especially when it's the right dish."
"I think about imperfections, and how we're all basically made up of them. But sometimes on the right day, or in the right light, things can feel perfect. Like now."
"After we're done, we share a cookie. No matter what crap is going on in life, a cookie will make it go away---just for a minute. The aroma encircles us in an invisible bubble of safety."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
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