Author: Lisa Schroeder
Published by: Aladdin on January 1, 2010
Twelve year old Isabel is dying to get out of Willow, Oregon (population 39, 257) and experience something other than her small town. It seems that everyone gets to travel except Isabel–even her best friend, Sophie. When Isabel’s mother decides to open up a cupcake shop across town, Isabel is once again stuck in Willow for the summer as she tries to help her mom get the shop up and running. But when Isabel learns of a baking contest where the finalists get an all-expense paid trip to New York City, she realizes this is her chance to finally get out of Willow. Except there are two major roadblocks to this plan: Sophie, who also is entering the contest and is always the best at everything, and her own mom, who wants her to enter the contest on her terms.Can Isabel manage to finally do something for herself, without losing her best friend and further straining her already tenuous relationship with her mother? In this sweet coming-of-age story from popular teen author Lisa Schroeder, Isabel discovers that it’s not about where you go in life as much as it is about enjoying the view wherever you are.
I initially bought this book from a used bookstore for my little sister. My little sister is not an avid reader; actually she rarely reads at all. But when she does she seems to like those books that have strong baking themes, so I thought this would be perfect for her. It looks like an incredibly fluffy, easy to read book.
Once I gave it to her she ended up reading it (sometimes it’s a hit or miss with her) and, not only that, but she liked it too. Normally, this is not the type of book I would like, but sometimes I like to take a break from my regular readings for something fluffy. I generally don’t like to read books of the same genre one right after the other anyway because I tend to let my judgement of one book affect the other too strongly. And since I just finished Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret, I figured this book would be a nice change of pace.
So the thing about fluffy reads for me is that I tend to judge them a little too harshly. In light of that I want to make one thing clear at the beginning: this book wasn’t bad and I would definitely recommend it to younger folks who like stories about baking. It’s a nice, clean story with a good message laced in about self-confidence.
But, as always, there were elements to the story that I didn’t quite like. For one thing, I wasn’t crazy about the characters. I didn’t quite like Isabel’s family, except for the grandmother who had a sparkly personality and helped keep the family together. Both of Isabel’s parents were incredibly weak willed and I wasn’t a fan of the way Isabel handled her problems. But, let’s start with Isabel’s mother.
Isabel’s mother has severe self-confidence issues. She has absolutely NO perseverance to see anything through. Anytime there was even a small problem she was ready to throw in the towel. It’s so bad that it negatively affects everyone around her. It’s an interesting change from other stories for this age group because normally it’s the main character who is having self-confidence problems. It’s a nice change of pace for readers who have self-confidence issues because it allows them to see how their behavior might negatively impact the people around them. Isabel loves her mother, as evident by all she does to try and make her happy, but at the same time Isabel unintentionally holds some resentment toward her as well. However, even though the issues presented here are easy to identify with it’s still frustrating to watch Isabel’s mother.
Isabel’s father wasn’t much better. He didn’t have self-confidence issues, but I would still consider him weak-willed. He pretty much let his wife do whatever she wanted and as Isabel puts it, “[we were tiptoeing around].” I can understand Isabel not knowing how to help her mother and I can even understand the husband’s inability to help the mother, but I can’t understand why he didn’t do anything. By the end of the story he had done nothing to help change his wife’s mood; Isabel is the one who did all the work.
Isabel, herself, wasn’t exactly a perfect character either, but most of the flaws I saw with her were the typical kid kind. She had jealousy and anger issues and she sometimes made some bad decisions that I saw coming a mile away. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy her character, she is probably considered to be generally realistic and probably relatable to some younger folks.
The story itself isn’t very exciting, but it doesn’t drag either. This is one of those books that if someone asked me if they should read it or not I would probably say yes, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone off the top of my head. I’d say for a child who doesn’t quite like to read but likes baking/desserts this would be a great book. It definitely worked for my reading reluctant sister!