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Cover for THE SECRET INGREDIENT by Stewart Lewis

Cover for THE SECRET INGREDIENT by Stewart Lewis

These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org

 

School Library Journal

SLJ Reviews 2013 June
Gr 8 Up—Sixteen-year-old Olivia lives in a funky neighborhood in Los Angeles; has an older brother who is trying to make it as a musician; a British best friend, Lola; and two Dads. Bell is the affectionate, openhearted, restaurant-owning father and Enrique is a caring former ballet dancer, currently a stylist. Olivia is an aspiring chef who creates weekly specials at Bell’s troubled restaurant, using food to comfort others and express her emotions. A chance elevator encounter with a psychic sets the stage for a pivotal summer. Her job with a talent agent leads to a reignited romance with a boy from her past, and her purchase of a vintage cookbook opens her up to new experiences. Although her upbringing has been full of love, Olivia feels the absence of a mother. With Lola’s help she finds her mother’s name and meets her. This reunion allows Olivia to recognize that she already has all that she needs. The portrayal of a loving and supportive unconventional family is well done. Despite its convenient resolution, the subplot involving Bell’s restaurant illustrates how families pull together in tough times. Olivia is a sympathetic protagonist and her struggles to find her place will resonate with many readers. Enjoyable chick lit that is likely to be popular.—Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

[Page 131]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist

Booklist Reviews 2013 July #1
Olivia, 16, has a lot going on. Her two dads may lose the family restaurant, her brother is a flake, a boyfriend returns to take her virginity, the mother of her best friend has cancer, and she may have found a clue to the identity of her birth mother. If that’s not enough, Olivia, a chef in her own right, has found a vintage cookbook with notes that resonate in her life. Considering the amount of story here, Lewis does a good job of mixing up the ingredients. Except for maybe the cookbook story line. And the part where boyfriend Theo is raising his developmentally disabled brother. But Olivia’s first-person voice is so likable, most of the characters are so relatable (especially the dads), and the setting is so well realized, this is all kinds of fun. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

The Horn Book

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Adopted by two dads, Olivia begins to sense a void in her life. Serendipitously, Olivia finds her supposedly “nameless” birth mother but quickly realizes that maybe the secret ingredient to a fulfilled life is appreciating what one already has. Lewis’s mature protagonist adapts remarkably well to her nontraditional life in this story that limns themes of adolescence, adoption, illness, and financial instability.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

VOYA Reviews 2013 June
An unexpected encounter with a psychic portends a significant summer in the life of Olivia, a gifted chef with growing curiosity about her birth mother. Cooking is central to the story with savory descriptions of the many meals Olivia prepares for her family and friends and for her weekly special at FOOD, the family restaurant in Los Angeles. A found cookbook with notes from the previous owner offers more culinary inspiration and introspection as Olivia connects with the imagined and actual voices from the past. While the family finances are on the rocks, much like the relationship of her dads, Olivia and her brother try to contribute.This breezy read explores issues of identity, embracing passions, and finding ones way in the world. There is a magical feel to the book due to all the interconnectedness and chance encounters that help move the plot along, driven by the presence and predictions of the psychic. The cast of characters is well drawn, even with many quirky characters with brief appearances. Although sometimes Olivia expresses her inner thoughts in the narration and in conversation in a way that does not necessarily ring true to teenage speech, the sentiments are sincere and serve to provide insight into the way this teen is thinking about the world and her role in it. The idea of a secret ingredient in a recipe helps to tie the parts of the novel together, particularly the larger quest for identity of the main character.—Erin Wyatt 3Q 4P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

One thought on “The Secret Ingredient

  1. Pingback: The Secret Ingredient | Queer Young Adult Literature

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