Publisher: Alma Books
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Read in: July/August 2016
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.
I received a copy from the publisher. In no way has this affect any of my thoughts and opinions I express below.
Before I start, I want to point out that previously, E.R. Murray was very kind and did a guest post on her favourite foodie fiction, so if you want to see that, you can check it out here!
To be honest, I didn’t think much of this book at first. I loved the cover, because of how aesthetically pleasing it was. However, it took me forever to get through the first half of the book, and I was getting a little bored in first 100 pages. However, the more I read, the more hooked I got and overall, I’m so glad I continued reading because it was good coming of age story that really melts your heart.
The one thing I really though was quite unique and enjoyed were the recipes that were integrated throughout the book. They reflected the protagonist, Liv, growth as as she deals with the ongoing issues and turmoils going on in her life. It’s the kind of light-hearted, fun reading material that makes you want to try baking yourself. Even Liv is a complete beginner (and failure) at the beginning of the story – as the book progresses, she improves, which I think is an encouraging message to aspiring bakers.
Despite the light-heartedness that I described earlier, there are quite a lot of issues that are dealt with in this book. Liv’s best friend, Sarah, is a subject of bullying by Maddy, the school’s popular girl. However, her attention is swept away from Sarah to Liv herself, and she now has to deal with the consequences of bullying first hand by herself. Although bullying is a concept that is delt with quite a fair bit in YA fiction, Murray does it in a respectable manner. Factually, it’s pretty accurate whcih is something I’m pleased about.
Another big issue in this book is alcoholism and as an extension of this, abuse. Liv lives at home with her sister, Hatty, who has taken a break from university to look after Liv. The kind of life they lead with just the two of them living at home, with the arguments and the familial bond that bounds them together is a really touching subject. It demonstrates the importance of family. This is only possible because of their Mum, who is an alcoholic. Unknowingly, Live doesn’t realise that Maddy’s behaviour and attitude towards her is manifested from abuse by her parents. I think this link between parental abuse/neglect to bullying is a very big issue that happens all the time in society, and I’m grateful that ere are books like this that shine a spotlight on such issues.
Like almost every YA book ever, there’s also romance. Liv, being in that awkward teen stage, develops a crush on the one person she can’t have, Jack. Even as the story progresses, and Liv commits the deeds she does, I like how she comes to realise that there are more important things to a relationship than a cute face, and both come to terms of acceptance. It’s a more unique plot line, and I like how it’s more of a sub-plot rather than the main driving force of the story.
Event though I respect and thoroughly enjoyed Caramel Hearts, I had a few personal issues with the writing style. Sometimes, I felt the way it was written was just more ‘told’ than ‘shown’, which detracted from my reading experience a little. Besides from that though, it was very enjoyable.
Overall, if you like a heart-warming coming of age story, I definitely think you should read this. It deals with quite a few issues that are prevalent in our society today, and will also make your mouth water from all the delicious recepies.