Happy Thursday, guys!
We have several reviews on deck, beginning with Frosted Kisses by Heather Hepler!
This is a sequel to the super cute book The Cupcake Queen, and I love that we get to rejoin Penny in the world of Hog's Hollow!
Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: October 27th 2015 by Point
Format read: ARC via publisher
Former Manhattan girl Penny has quickly discovered that life in a small town is never dull. Not when there's a festival for every occasion, a Queen Bee to deal with, an animal shelter to save, and a cute boy to crush on.
There's a new girl in town: Esmeralda. She's beautiful, French, and just happens to be Queen Bee Charity's best friend. Penny hopes the arrival of Esmeralda means Charity might be too busy to keep making her life miserable.
But Penny doesn't have a lot of time to worry about Charity. Her best friend, Tally, has recruited her to help raise money to save the local animal shelter. Then there's Marcus, the adorable and mysterious boy who Penny thinks maybe likes her as much as she likes him. Plus, this is Penny's first holiday season as a "divorced" kid--although she has no idea what this means.
Can Penny help her friends save the shelter, navigate her new family dynamics, and get the boy, or will Charity and Esmeralda find a way to ruin everything?
Things that worked:
From the very first page, Hepler does a nice job of showing Penny's continuing growth since The Cupcake Queen. She continues to cheerfully help out at her mom's bakery, has maintained her relationship with Tally, and is developing a relationship with cute boy Marcus.
But even in the midst of all of this positivity, there are still elements of Penny's life that she's uncertain about. Heather astutely covers Penny's continued struggles with trying to develop a normal relationship with her father, and also her feelings of self-consciousness in the face of having that cute boy in her life, especially when a new girl comes to town.
Hepler's strengths lie in her ability to portray Penny's struggles as having the appropriate weight/stress in her teenaged world, but without veering into melodrama. Penny is cognizant of the fact that she is stressed by a lot what's happening, but retains a sense of perspective that is refreshing for a older MG/young adult novel.
I had the benefit of having backstory on Penny and the residents of Hog's Hollow, having previously read The Cupcake Queen. However, Hepler's world-building is thorough, and doesn't require readers to have read the first book, before delving into this one.
It's really Hepler's gift for witty dialogue and the small details that make Hog's Hollow a living, breathing world - including their quirky traditions, to their random townfolk, the focus on small town activities and more.
Frosted Kisses is all about relationships, from Penny's relationship to her friends, to her relationship with her mother and grandmother, and even her fractured relationship with her father.
Hepler builds an immaculate web between Penny and all those around her, showing it's these relationships that help influence and determine a person's personality and moral center, something that is accuately shown by the differences between Penny and Esmerelda in the latter half of hte book.
The deeper issues
While Frosted Kisses is a very light-hearted novel, Hepler does a fine job of incorporating the deeper issues, as well. She deftly discusses bullying, new relationships, divorces and other familial issues, including showing how said issues are handled differently by Penny, her friends and Charity.
Though Hepler reminds readers that it's always better to behave honorably in the face of bullying and personal attacks, she also shows the importance of learning to stand up for one's self against the face of such behavior. It's a subtle but important lesson, and sure to resonate with readers who may be struggling with the same issue.
While Penny and Marcus's relationship is very tenative throughout the novel, that's one of the best parts about it. Hepler builds up anticipation and hope involved in a crush, singularly capturing that feeling of do they/don't they like me, which I think readers of any change can relate to!
It's cute, optimistic and absolutely perfect! I'm ready for more, Heather!
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
Penny's continuing journey on figuring out friendships, relationships and even the love lives of those around her, is an absolute delight to read. Heather Hepler will absolutely charm the hearts of readers with this cheerful gem of a book, and I can't wait for all of you to read it. Highly recomend to all readers.
About the author:
Heather Hepler is the author of The Cupcake Queen and Love? Maybe. She also wrote Scrambled Eggs at Midnight and The Dream Factory with Brad Barkley. She holds a master's in library science from the University of North Texas and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. She works as a reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Library Media Connection, and the New York Times. Heather lives with her family in Tyler, Texas.