Published by Bloomsbury on 1 July 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes. The only person she can turn to is her best friend Sarah, who gets out of scrapes at school and is a constant source of advice and companionship.
One day Liv discovers a book of recipes written in her mum’s handwriting, which sets her off on a journey towards self-discovery and reconciliation – but a theft, a love rivalry and a school bully are just some of the many obstacles on the way.
Structured around real cake recipes, Caramel Hearts is a coming-of-age novel about love, disappointment and hope, and discovering the true value of friends and family, no matter how dysfunctional they are.
Caramel Hearts is a coming-of age story with feelings packed into the pages like the apples in a Fruity Custard Pastie (recipe on p222).
That’s right, Liv’s story is scattered with delicious recipies for sweet treats, from her mum’s Recipes to Make Happiness Bloom cookbook.
Liv’s Mam is currently in rehab, so her big sister, Hatty, has come home from university to look after her. Liv struggles with bullies and the ups and downs of high school life, but when she finds her mum’s old cookbook, she decides to try out of few of the recipes. Money is tight for the girls, and Liv can’t always source the ingredients for her baking adventures, but a series of bad choices lands Liv in trouble.
Liv is such a sweet and determined young lady – her heart is in the right place, she just makes some really unfortunate decisions along the way. It’s all part of growing up though, and she is lucky not to land in more serious trouble. Some of the bullying in this book is really nasty and it made me sad that the victims were so submissive for so long (something that reflects real life quite accurately).
The recipes in this book are varied, with some easy ones such as the Rocky Road to the more tricky ones like Baked Alaska. I actually made a batch of the Lovers’ Lemon and Choc-Chip Shortbread and it was amazing! I recommend making a double batch – the recipe only made about 8 cookies. One thing I particularly loved about Liv trying the recipes was that she experiments with taking shortcuts and wonders why the end results don’t turn out. I recognised my own baking journey in that – there’s a reason you’re supposed to follow baking recipes to the letter!
I don’t usually read much contemporary YA these days, but I found that this story drew me in – I just wanted to know what was going to happen to Liv, Hatty and their Mam.
Read this book if you are interested in a sweet coming-of-age story, with some tasty recipes thrown in.