Goodreads Synopsis: With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
I was really excited for a chance to finally read this book! I love all things food, so a combination of YA and cooking seemed right up my alley.
So let’s talk about what I liked in this book. I really loved that were recipes at the beginning of some chapters. I really loved the world and culture, the food all sounded so so amazing. For most of the book I also enjoyed Emoni. She’s a tough, sweet, smart driven young woman and I enjoyed getting to know her over the story. I loved seeing how she was supported by her grandmother, and how the two of them worked together to raise Emoni’s daughter. They have their growing pains, like all relationships do, and it was good to see how they ended working everything out. I enjoyed seeing Emoni fall for someone and be in conflict about how to balance love, her kid, school and her dreams. It felt very realistic. And on that note I also really liked seeing Emoni learn to stand up for herself and her child when it came to her ex and baby-daddy.
So what didn’t I like? The writing style was not my favorite. At times it was fine, at times I was pulled out of the story because it sounded like a badly done voice over for a 90’s teen movie. Maybe that works for some people, it didn’t for me. Emoni’s problems with the chef she works under at school seemed off character to me. Usually she’s a very respectful person, though she still knows how to stand up for herself. But with the chef it seemed like she refused to listen and work with him just to make conflict in the plot. Which was annoying. Of all the story-lines, the part set in Spain felt like a completely different novel, it didn’t really flow with the rest of the story. Which was sad because I was so excited when Emoni was able to get the money to be able to go.
That all said, this is a good story. It’s feel good, it’s about learning, it’s about overcoming hardship and becoming an adult. I enjoyed a great deal of it and in the end I gave it 3.5 stars.