The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises

sweet-lifeCindy: There’s a girl licking chocolate frosting (or Nutella spread) off her finger on the cover. That’s all I need to pick up The Sweet Life of Stella Madison (Random/Delacorte, July 2009). Actually, one of our BBYA teen readers reviewed this at book club and it was her comments that spurred me to read it. Stella’s father is a famous NYC chef and her mother owns a restaurant that provides guest chef cooking instruction along with your meal. Stella prefers Burger King Whoppers and chicken fingers with Cap’n Crunch breading. She gets a summer internship at the local newspaper and is given the food beat! The girl who isn’t a foodie is off to review local restaurants. Add to this, her faithful but predictable steady boyfriend is professing his love and Stella is conflicted by her feelings for the new hottie intern at her mom’s restaurant. Our teen reader said she was rooting for Stella to pick the hottie so she could have the steady nice guy! This is a very “sweet” story about a girl navigating through the messy details of relationships, both her own and her parents, but also one about a young woman coming to draw upon her own talents. A great summer read. And back to the cover….my only beef is that Stella agonizes over her heat-induced prone-to-frizz curly hair throughout the book–doesn’t match the tresses on the cover. I hate that. But did I tell you there is chocolate on the cover? Yum.

Lynn: I agree with you about the hair, Cindy, but at least the girl on the cover has a face instead of being one of those headless torsos on so many covers! This really is a sweet book and a perfect summer read. Many of the chapters start out with the most mouth-watering menus and all the food descriptions made me ready to head to the kitchen. There is some real substance to this book, though, especially in the portrayal of a young woman trying to understand her very real attraction to two boys at the same time. The highlights for me were the sections involving Stella’s attempts to become a restaurant critic. I would have loved to have seen more restaurant visits and read more of Stella’s reviews! I don’t want Lara Zeises to give up writing books for teens but she obviously has a real flair for food writing ūüėČ Stock up on Ding-dongs and savor this charming book.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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