SYNOPSIS: When her mother moves them from the city to a small town to open up a cupcake bakery, Penny’s life isn’t what she expected. Her father has stayed behind, and Mom isn’t talking about what the future holds for their family. And then there’s Charity, the girl who plays mean pranks almost daily.
There are also bright spots in Hog’s Hollow—like Tally, an expert in Rock Paper Scissors, and Marcus, the boy who is always running on the beach. But just when it looks as though Penny is settling in, her parents ask her to make a choice that will turn everything upside down again. A sweet novel about love, creativity, and accepting life’s unexpected turns.
REVIEW: Just like the sumptuous looking cupcakes on its cover, The Cupcake Queen is a deliciously satisfying novel to dig into. The teenage issues are familiar (such as divorce, grief and bullying), but Heather Hepler serves them up with a unique storyline that holds your interest and has all the ingredients of a fun, enjoyable read.
Having a major sweet tooth, I have to mention the cupcakes first. They were one of my favorite aspects of the story and I loved how they often mirrored what was going on in Penny's life. The ladybug cupcakes with the licorice antennae, the triple chocolate mudslides (which looked like real mudslides), the "horns of plenty" with the teeny fruits and the ice cream cone cupcakes were just a few of my favorites. The only drawback was that I couldn't see them and more importantly, sample any!
The town of Hog's Hollow itself and the cast of characters within it were extremely well drawn and interesting. The adults with food names (Mr. Fish, Miss Beans, and Madame Framboise) were especially humorous and added to the quirkiness of small town living. Penny's unorthodox best friends Tally and Blake were extremely likable characters to me. I have to mention that before reading this book I never knew that Rock, Paper, Scissors is something taken very seriously in certain circles. Did you know that people even compete in professional tournaments for it too?
Penny's parents, on the other hand, had me consistently frustrated with the way they shut her out from what was really going on. At one point Penny says, "I'd like someone to just talk to me. I want to shout that at the back of mother's head: Just talk to me! But I don't, because maybe if no one says anything out loud, it can still change. " It was moments like this I could really feel Penny's frustration and sadness as my own.
Upon first moving to Hog's Hollow, Penny felt like no one understood what she was going through. The longer she stayed there, the more she came to realize that a lot of people did actually care about her and could empathize with her problems. I found it satisfying to watch the small town charm of Hog's Hollow work it's magic and help her to become a happier person.
The underlying message of The Cupcake Queen is that life is always going to throw out unexpected (and often unwelcome) surprises. But sometimes, when you give things a chance, it can all work out much sweeter than you ever expected. You just need to trust in yourself and follow your heart.
Reading level: Young Adult (Ages 10-14)
Hardcover: 240 Pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (September 17, 2009)
Buy at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indiebound
Heather Hepler grew up in North Texas. She has lived in Reno, on the coast of Maine, in the interior of Alaska, and near Death Valley, but she currently lives in Tyler, Texas where she is still getting used to heat, the East Texas accent, and the astounding obsession that women in Tyler have with big hair. She works as a reviewer for various publications, including Kirkus Reviews, and she teaches YA and Children's Literature and Creative Writing for the University of Maine and several other colleges.
Heather is the co-author of Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (Dutton, 2006), Dream Factory (Dutton, 2007), and Jars of Glass (Dutton, 2008). Her first solo novel, The Cupcake Queen, will be published September 17th 2009.
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