I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this will be just one more story of the ignored, "big-boned " girl, who sheds her glasses and a few extra pounds and finally attracts the notice of the most popular guy in school. Except it isn't. Because I'm not unpopular. Not all that ignored. And I love the way I look―just as I am. Then someone puts my name in for Homecoming Court. The bigger surprise? People actually vote for me! Now, I'm a "princess"―whether I like it or not―but the guy I'm paired with isn't exactly Prince Charming. Rhys Castle is the strong, silent type who always wears a frown―he's certainly never smiled at me. I'm 99.9% sure he hates being on Court and being my partner, but surprisingly…he doesn't switch when he gets the chance. Turns out Rhys has a secret―something that makes him run hot and cold throughout the entire three weeks of Homecoming festivities. Whether he's stepping on my feet during dance lessons or gallantly escorting me through the Homecoming parade, I can't get a read on this guy, and for the first time, I find my confidence wavering. But there's more to Rhys than meets the eye. And the more the spotlight shines on me, I realize there's more to me, too.
Ariel is paired up with the strong and silent Rhys, who is a total hottie but also seems kind of rude. As they spend time together doing the royalty tasks and practicing for the big dance, Ariel is able to see a new side to Rhys, one that she really adores. However, she is not sure if she can let herself like him, because she worries he is out of her league - even when he's asking her out. As Homecoming nears, Ariel will have to decide whether she is willing to embrace herself fully as she is.
What I loved: This was such a lovely and charming rom-com read with all the swoon. I was completely caught up in the absolutely perfect couple of Rariel (Rhys and Ariel). Their romance was *chef's kiss* and I loved all the tension, cute scenes, and swoony moments. They are a couple that was so easy to gush over and scream about how they should obviously just be together already. However, I do really appreciate that we received insight into Ariel's mindset and her feeling that things are too good to be true and inability to trust.
These moments, along with those about fat-ist (a term coined by Ariel) events, make this a deeper read that will resonate with people who are insecure about their appearance but with an ultimately positive message. There are several scenes where this is brought to the front in terms of on-the-rack shopping, terrible comments/bullying, and the fact that all the well-known princesses are skinny. The messaging around this is important for readers to hear again, and there were some thoughtful discussions about it in the book. Other themes around mental illness, eating disorders, and bullying are also touched upon and handled thoughtfully.
This book absolutely gave me some great laughs, some sigh-worthy times, and plenty of swoon. I absolutely adored joining Ariel and Rhys in their story, and I was sad that the book had to end. This was such a charming read - perfect for anyone who is a fan of rom-com movies (and this would make a perfect movie addition).
Final verdict: With all the feels and charm, CUPCAKE is an absolutely delightful romantic comedy that is sure to have readers begging for more. Highly recommend picking this fantastic read up!