Teens, is it just me or do you feel like food is everywhere at this time of year? Like, right after I swallow my last slice of pumpkin pie, somebody’s showering me with gingerbread and gelt. Perhaps I am alone in this observation, but before I can wipe the mashed potatoes from my sticky fingers, I have eaten an entire yule log.
All this to say that food is on my mind, and so I am compelled to tell you about several food-adjacent YA titles you may wish to scarf down this month. Let’s dig in…
Okay, okay, “A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow” by Laura Taylor Namey only refers to a beverage in the title, but don’t be deceived, there are plenty of food references throughout to make your stomach growl. Lila, 17-year-old wonder chef, does not want to go to England. But after her boyfriend breaks up with her, her abuela dies, her best friend ditches her, oh, AND she has a full-on mental meltdown, Lila’s parents decide she needs a change of scene. They send her to stay with her aunt in Winchester, England. The moment Lila steps off the plane, she starts counting down the days until she can return to her beloved Miami home and her life as a baker phenomenon…that is, until she meets the charming, funny, motorbike-driving tea-shop clerk Orion and his artistic, quirky group of friends.
As Lila takes over the kitchen at her aunt’s inn, she slowly begins to imagine her life away from Miami, and what it may mean to heal from the traumas of her previous year. If you enjoy romances that include the English countryside, Cuban pastries, self-discovery, and a little spice, you may want to carve out some time to devour this one.
I have a confession to make about my next recommendation, Kelly deVos’ “Eat Your Heart Out.” I did not want to read this book. It’s a zombie novel, and zombie novels aren’t typically my thing. I forced myself to choke down the first chapter because the book had the word “eat” in the title and (kinda) went with my theme. Hmmm, it wasn’t bad. I kept going. Breaking news: I think zombie novels may now be my thing.
The premise of this book is straightforward. Featherlite is a camp for overweight kids, and Vivian, Allie, Sheldon, Paul, and Rachel have all been sent there to take advantage of an incredible new scientific method for losing weight. The problem? The miracle cure seems to be turning the campers into flesh-eating zombies.
While this book is full of electrifying action—every chapter ends in cliff-hanger fashion—it’s also a profound social commentary on the business of diet culture and the damaging, dehumanizing effects of what the author calls “fat-phobia.” The characters are deep, complicated, and they kick butt. Each takes a turn narrating the heart-pumping story, which results in a fast-paced, insightful ride that will leave you turning pages well past your midnight snack time. Warning: if you love happy endings, you may want to pass on this one.
If neither of these titles made your mouth water, consider one of the following YA specials:
“The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling” by Wai Chim
“Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet” by Laekan Zea Kemp
“A Pho Love Story” by Loan Le
“The Cupcake Queen” by Heather Hepler
“Butter” by Erin Jade Lang
“Puddin’” by Julie Murphy
“Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love” edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond
All of these titles and more can be found in the Teen Underground area of A.K. Smiley Public Library, and several are available as eBooks through OverDrive. I wish you extra helpings of adventurous reading (and eating) in the month ahead. At the library, you are always invited to come back for seconds.