Thursday, June 3, 2010

the cupcake queen by Heather Hepler

New York City
Population 8,200,000

Hog's Hollow
Population 5,134

Population 1*

* That would be me.

Jaded Manhattan eighth grader Penny is bemused when she is whisked away from her dad to spend the summer in her mom's tiny hometown. Things go from bad to worse when Mom decides to stay in Hog's Hollow, open a cupcake bakery and enroll Penny at the local high school.

Penny's sardonic first-person narration is sophisticated, but at heart she is still just a 13-year-old casualty of her parents' unraveling marriage and their inability to communicate with each other or with her. When she finds herself targeted for elaborate pranks by the local queen bee, she must dig deep to survive her freshman year.

Much is familiar here: The characters are drawn with broad strokes-mysterious love interest, quirky best friend, evil nemesis-and the plot device by which the popular crowd is tricked into gaining weight will ring bells with readers who have seen Mean Girls.

But Hepler's novel is greater than the sum of its parts, held together by Penny's genuine voice and emotions. Readers will root for Penny, a talented artist, as she develops her gifts and adapts to small-town life. (Fiction. 11-14) Kirkus Reviews

The Cupcake Queen is a sweet story (yeah I said that) that most 6th-8th graders will enjoy. Ultimately this is a story about accepting oneself, adapting to life's hurdles and finding happiness with yourself. (And Penny's love interest, Marcus, will have hearts a flutter too.) The best friends, Tally and Blake are just as interesting and entertaining as Penny.


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