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Monday, July 16, 2012

SUMMER READING: Sweet Revenge?

Hi there!
Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers…where the book du jour may not be your personal favorite, but the variety of offerings keeps you coming back for more.

Today I had intended on posting a review of one of the plethora of storybooks I’ve read recently, but alas…I left all said storybooks at home.  *grumble*  Problem?  Well, I like to have the book I’m reviewing with me when I’m actually creating the post (just in case it sparks a memory of something I wanted to mention), so we’re going to go in a whole other direction. 

Today’s newly chosen book of the day is a “sweet treat” from the Young Adult fiction genre.  It marks the debut of a new author and is a great fit for a summer read considering the story takes place over summer break.  Be warned now, fair readers….if you are susceptible to cravings after reading a book (for example, when reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you HAVE to have a piece of chocolate!), this one will have you running to the baked goods aisle of your local store.  (Ooh…cupcakes…)  Today’s book of choice is…


From the publisher
Chantal is a planner, and her summer-before-senior-year plan requires best friend Jillian, resumé updating, and studying for AP classes. Jillian wants something different and is afraid to leave introverted Chantal in the dust. All that changes, though, when popular classmates Parker and Will suspiciously start hanging out with the girls.

Chantal only sees one thing: Jillian ditching her for Parker—a guy who can’t even be trusted! Chantal hatches a new plan, one that will expose Parker and Will for what they truly are, and along the way, get her best friend back with the littlest lie and a lot of mouthwatering cake. After all, what are best friends for?

Sounds good, right?  It was…and rather tasty thanks to numerous cake recipes…but I can’t say that for me it was all butter cream frosting and nonpareils. Here’s the sitch…I had a VERY hard time connecting with the characters.  Jillian and Chantal seem like a great match for besties initially.  They live next door to each other, love occupying their summer days with a project that’s fun creative AND educational, and are there for each other through thick and thin. They even made a pact to put school FIRST and boys last so that one day they could become two hot neurosurgeons in NYC.  (LOL…though not unrealistic the way they were going.) BUT as we all know, time can change people and unfortunately for these two, it’s doing a pretty good job of coming between them. 

You can’t fully blame Jillian for wanting to explore the world she’s been missing especially with the home life she deals with on a day to day basis.  A mother that is anything but a mother, six little brothers (yes…SIX…a set of twins, a set of triplets and baby Ollie) that could be summed up as loveable but pandemonium personified, and an ever changing cast of men attempting to fill the role of father.  Yeah, life for her is anything but ideal and so when “Mr. Popular” shows a heartbeat of interest in her, all the warning flags that are popping up all over the grid are completely ignored because the blinders of love have been applied.  Good thing she has her best friend to clue her in, right?  Not in her eyes….

Chantal is happy to do whatever she can for her friend (proven by a party she attended that was anything but her style with uber-gross results) but unfortunately her cries of “wolf” fall on deaf ears.  Someone has to want to see the forest for the trees, you can’t force them too and in this case, Jillian simply feels Chantal is jealous.  Yeah…not so much…she’s just trying to keep away from the awful pairing attempted between her and Will, best friend of Parker (Mr. Popular mentioned above), while watching out for her friend’s heart and getting their summer back on track.  It’s a hard race, but she seems up for the challenge even if she does have to go it alone and sugar coat it to boot.

You see, the disconnection was in the best friends because for most of the story they are acting like anything but or rather avoiding each other.  I get it, it was a focus of the story, but with all the other plot points running about it seemed the author didn’t give our girls a chance to have a shoulder (or at least a dependable one) to cry on.  I mean we have Jillian running one way, smack into the arms of Mr. Hottie with her family nipping at her heels, and Chantal going in the complete opposite direction, landing in a bowl of caramel covered misery and body image issues created by her Mother and her stress snacking.  Cupcakes are her crutch AND her nemesis but also her “salvation” as the story progresses. 

There are also a few points running through the story that I don’t feel were appropriately addressed.  Chantal’s image issues.  Will’s uber-creepiness and torture of Chantal throughout the years (even an instance of a “feel up” that was definitely not invited).  It just made we wonder why they were even introduced if they were not going to be followed up on.  Also, the ending…though I loved the twist, it didn’t really feel like much revenge was had which if I recall was the whole point initially for the creation of the Cake Princess, but perhaps that one is explained away with the growth of the characters (*ponders*).  Moving forward…

There are many points that I DID truly enjoy in the book, firstly the back story of Jillian and Chantel.  How they met, how they stayed together and how they tackled life hand in hand through the years.  Even the summer projects were wonderful.  It’s great to see two girls that are focused on a better tomorrow instead of “how-much-party-can-we-get-on” today…well, for a while anyway.  Annelise was another surprise player in the story.  Current ex-girlfriend of Parker (for reasons that are revealed and will make you want to swat some of the characters upside the head), you wouldn’t think she’d be someone you would root for in any way, and yet by book’s end she’s definitely one of the good guys.  A surprise twist indeed!  Speaking of twists, Parker is a hard one to figure out but I must say despite his less than honest start, he grows into a fine individual both INSIDE and out.  Lastly, the cover…though odd in comparison to many other YA books out now, it’s a perfect fit for the story and helps it stand out.  The combination of cake and “death by cake” along with the bright colors truly reveals the flavor found within.

In the end, the story doesn’t fall completely flat like an unattended soufflé but it does over indulge in the sweets.  Personally, I think that had the book been a bit shorter, the ingredients may have blended together more easily leaving you with more of the actual story in lieu of a cookbook with points to ponder and a sprinkling of plot. If you look past the cupcake addiction and frosting faux pas, what we are left with is two friends discovering that life may not always fit the plans they made but if they trust themselves and their hearts, they’ll come out alright in the end. Change isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s not always easy.  We have to be prepared for whatever life may throw our way and the best recipe for success is confidence in yourself…though it never hurts to have a friend on whom you can depend.

ARC for review courtesy of Ksenia at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.  (THANKS!)  For more information on this title as well as their full catalog, feel free to visit them online, like them on Facebook, or follow along on Twitter.  To discover more about author Mar’ce Merrell’s writing world and beyond, check out her official website.  This book was released May 2012 from Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan and should be available on a bookstore shelf near you.

Until next time…happy reading!


V (BookBorne) said...

Fun cover! Not sure the book would be a good fit for me, though.

The1stdaughter said...

Okay, seriously, love that cover! And I completely understand about the issue with having to have the book in hand while reviewing. I absolutely cannot go without it.

It's too bad this one fell flat for you. It seems like it had a lot of potential, but just didn't connect too well. :(

Great review though! Wish it would have gone a little better for you reading wise, but they can't all can they? ;o)

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