A slow-burn romance in a cutthroat kitchen! There’s more to becoming a top chef for 17-year-old Isabella Fields than just not getting chopped … especially when the chances of things heating up with an intriguing boy and becoming a food star in the kitchen are both on the chopping block. Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef. The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down? Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order—and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog. How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point? Salty, Bitter, Sweet: Is a YA contemporary #OwnVoices novel written by CNN producer Mayra Cuevas Features a Latina main character who is trilingual Is inspired by the author’s relationships with food and family Explores complicated family dynamics and relatable themes of friendship, acceptance, and learning to care for yourself
Salty, Bitter, SweetFeatured
Isabella is part-French, part-Cuban, and part-European American. She is living with her father and his new pregnant wife in France. She is determined to win over her new stepmother with her cooking. Her world is thrown for a loop when a very attractive teen, Diego, arrives to stay with him. He is Margo's former stepson.
In the class, Isabella quickly finds enemies and friends, in the only two other girls in the competition. However, it is not an easy path to the finish line, and Isabella will find her morals, life views, and heart tested along the way.
What I loved: I loved Isabella- she is a character that grips the heart from the get-go. This setting and premise are really unique and I really enjoyed it. Isabella's cooking is tied in to her grandmother, Lala, who has recently died. There's a lot of grieving throughout the story that adds a beautiful touch to the story. I also felt like the overall message of happiness and finding potential other routes to doing what you love is really valuable. There's not always a clear right and wrong way to do things, and this book really emphasizes the personal decisions and finding your own way.
What left me wanting more: I felt like there were some plot points that were not fully addressed in the story (probably just like in real life). For instance, there's an unexplained/unaddressed animosity from Margo (the stepmother) for Isabella, even though Isabella is frequently trying to make her happy (which just breaks my heart). There is a heartfelt conversation about her parents' divorce with her father (who had an affair), but I felt like there needed to be a bit more to it (it seemed a little bland/surface-level).
Final verdict: Overall, this is a charming YA contemporary about finding your way in an ever-changing world. Highly recommend for anyone looking for a book about chasing your dreams with a touch of familial and romantic love.