Salty, Bitter, Sweet

Blink. Mar. 2020. 304p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780310769774.
Gr 8 Up–Isabella has faced a lot of heartbreak and disappointment. Her beloved grandmother, who instilled in her a passion for cooking, recently passed away, and her parents divorced after a rocky marriage and her father’s affair. The silver lining: she’s spending the summer in France with her father and new stepmother and participating in a highly selective cooking class for young people at the restaurant of the world-famous Chef Grattard. If she wins the competition and gets the highly sought-after restaurant apprenticeship, her dreams of running a high-end restaurant will become closer to reality. But is being a chef all it’s cracked up to be? And what about Diego, her stepmother’s stepson from another marriage, who is suddenly crashing with her new family? Diego is handsome but complicated, and he’s throwing another curveball into Isabella’s already complex new life. But with the help of her fellow classmates Lucia and Pippa, Isabella just might make it through the intensely demanding culinary course and figure out what she really wants in the process. Cuevas does a wonderful job of weaving together a coming of age, early love story with compelling characters and the beautiful scenery of Europe. What makes the story unique is the emphasis on career success while also maintaining self-care and a moral compass. Isabella is a character who many teens would love to have as a friend, with her raw honesty, ambition, and genuine passion for her loved ones as well as the culinary arts. This book will take readers to the beautiful cities of Europe and into a strong, compassionate teenage girl’s heart.
VERDICT A heartwarming testament to the power of female friendships, the drive for success on one’s own terms, and accepting one’s family, even if they turn out differently than originally thought.

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