This charming confection of a story features, as the author writes in her Acknowledgments, “cupcakes, figure skating, cute hockey boys, and lake-effect snowstorms.” It also is about growing up and facing real life, even when you make the wrong choices, and even when life gives you the bitter end instead of the sweet.
Hudson Avery, age 17, lives in the small town of Watonka, New York, and dreams of leaving there one day by virtue of her skill in figure skating. But it’s hard to get time to practice, since she has a lot of family responsibilities. Her father left them three years before, and she has a little brother “Bug” who is only eight. Her mother works ceaselessly at her diner, Hurley’s, and expects Hudson to help out there whenever she can. Hudson has carved out a niche for herself at the diner, baking killer cupcakes that are so good the press has dubbed her The Cupcake Queen.
[Each chapter is named for a cupcake concoction made by Hunter, and includes a description of what is in it. They all sound pretty delectable! You can watch the book trailer, which is basically nothing but cupcakes, appended to the bottom of this post.]
Hudson feels like her heart is cracked down the middle. On one side she sees the hurt and regret in her mom’s face and she wants to stay with her and help her. But the other half of her heart is full of pain about her own future:
“…the right side of my heart looks at the lines in her face and sees the map of my future. Today I take the waitress gig. Next I’ll be managing the schedule. Then in a few years or a decade or maybe even two, I’ll inherit the restaurant. Cement my crowning achievement as Beth Avery’s daughter, the proud-but-struggling new owner and sometimes-cupcake baker of a forgettable old diner off the I-190, a pair of scuffed-up ice skates dangling from a hook in the staff closet, a bittersweet memento of another life.”
Still, Hudson schemes to escape, practicing in secret for a $50,000 scholarship awarded to the most promising local figure skater. She is also approached by the two co-captains of the struggling high school hockey team to help them skate better, and finds herself attracted to both boys. As the story builds to a perfect storm – huge cupcake order, championship hockey game, diner inspection, and ice skating scholarship competition, Hudson needs to decide once and for all which side of her heart will take precedence.
Discussion: There is some good characterization in this book: Hudson is very self-absorbed, but still has a good heart. Bug is adorable and by far the best character of the book. Of the two hockey co-captains, Josh is wonderful and Will is slimy, but neither of them is so one-dimensional as to be uninteresting.
Evaluation: I was especially pleased by this book, because I loved the author’s first book, Twenty Boy Summer, and then felt very disappointed by her second, Fixing Delilah. This one makes me feel vindicated in my faith in her as a go-to author for young adult stories.
Published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster, 2012