Happy Thursday, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing the exquisitely beautiful The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee.
If there's one book you plan on ending 2016 with, it's this one. This is the book that will continue to give you hope for the future, awe you with its beauty, and charm you with its delightful romance as well
Published December 27th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format read: ARC via author - thanks Stacey!
Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.
At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.
Consequently, it’s not that surprising that she can jump from an effortlessly gorgeous debut about friendship during the California gold rush, to a tale of class and friendship taking place during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, to her current novel, The Secret of a Heart Note.
The Secret of a Heart Note is a contemporary fairy tale, following the life of sixteen-year-old Mimosa, who is one of the world’s only aromateurs. She has the power to sniff out smells invisible to the rest of us, and uses that power to create elixirs that help bring love to others. The only caveat: she’s not allowed to fall in love herself, or she risks losing her powers.
However, a chance encounter with the high school soccer star and a mixture given to the wrong person brings Mimosa face-to-face with a world that she never thought she could take part in….
There are so many things to celebrate about Lee’s latest, beginning with the fact that Stacey has written a book that celebrates the power of the individual. Mimosa, like so many gifted with unusual abilities, struggles with her role in life. She understands the hand that fate has dealt her, but also finds it hard reconciling the fact that her destiny has been so predetermined for her.
But rather than go the stereotypical route of having Mim run away from her responsibilities, Lee shows her embracing them and the power of what she can do – for better and for worse. Mim’s innately proud of her abilities, and it’s evident in how she chooses to conduct herself in the face of an often-unrelenting student body. It’s a quiet show of strength and self-confidence that readers can learn from, even as...
She meets Court.
I’m going to be honest: I’ve sort of hit an overload on YA romances at this point, so it takes a lot to impress me. Lee thoroughly impressed me with Court, and his interactions with Mim.
Because he’s many things, including a star soccer player and the guy that every teenaged girl – especially the popular girl – wants. But he’s also genuine in how he deals with Mim. Even as Mim struggles with the idea that Court is likely attracted to her because of her abilities, there’s a genuine honesty in how he chooses to engage with her, even when he’s mad at her.
He’s someone who’s thrust into a world he doesn’t fully understand, but he’s willing to make an effort to learn and be a part of it, even when he is calling Mim out on her mistakes, and how they directly and negatively impact him. He's not afraid to make Mim want to be better, and vice versa. They're genuinely partners in every sense of the world - especially as they go on a scavenger hunt of sorts. Lee does an exceptional job of showing his development and growth with each and every page, and it’s a thoughtful examination of not only a good guy, but what first love should strive to be.
While the relationship with Court does bring Mim into direct conflict into everything she’s been taught to be against, it also challenges her to stand up for what she wants. Without giving spoilers away, she’s challenged in ways that makes Mim understand just what is at stake in her life, and just what will happen if she doesn’t take an active role in striving for that life. To quote an old adage: Mim learns that she needs to manage her life, or it will manage her. And she does so victoriously.
Outside of Mim’s core story, Lee’s extraordinary research skills filter through every sentence, paragraph and page. She’s created a beautiful world of flowers, elixirs and hopes, and a layered history of such thoughtful detail, it made me a little sad that I didn’t belong to this extraordinary world.
Readers will find themselves itching to look up so many of the flower names and places that Lee has written about, and will come away having read a thoroughly engrossing and exquisitely detailed tale in the end. Highly recommend, full stop.
About the author:
Stacey Lee is a founding member of #WeNeedDiverseBooks. As a fourth-generation Californian, she graduated from UCLA. then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After discovering her synesthetic ability to smell musical notes, she dabbled in natural perfumery, collected over one hundred bottled botanicals (her favorite is clary sage), and found the inspiration to write this novel. Stacey plays classical piano and lives with her husband and two children in Southern California. She is the author of the YA historical fiction novels Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon. You can visit her online at www.staceyhlee.com.