Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler

We're off to another busy week ahead, and all I want to do is sit down with a good book.  There is a great Read-a-thon going on over at The True Book Addict this week.  I wanted to join in with all the fun, but have parent-teacher conferences this week, along with two other night activities I have to attend.  That limits just about anything I do outside of work to nothing!  If you're interested, you should stop by to sign up to get a nice chunk of reading done this week. 

Regardless of the busy schedule I'm now facing, I did get swept away by a pile of books this past weekend.  I have about twelve books I'm rotating through, which I don't recommend, but is about where my head is at right now.  On Saturday evening, I stayed home and spent a good 5-6 hours reading.  It was the best Saturday night date I've had in awhile!  Although my review isn't one of the books that I finished on Saturday, I wanted to share a quick review of The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler.  It's a quick, fun read.

Synopsis:  Penny and her mother uproot from NYC to move to Hog's Hollow, where Penny's mother opens a cupcake bakery.  Rather than get to know kids her own age over her long summer break, Penny waits until the first day of school.  Once there, her reception isn't good, and she finds herself as a virtual outsider and picked on by some of the more popular kids.  Along the way, Penny makes friends with a Tally and Blake, who take her under their wing.  There's also Marcus, the kid she sees walking his dog on the beach, who she can't help but feel drawn to be around.  If social pressure and making friends isn't enough, Penny has to deal with her parent's separation and whether Hog's Hollow is really the place she wants to end up.

Review:  Tackling issues of separation, divorce, being the new kid at school, and teen love, Heather Hepler's novel seems to have a little bit of everything.  We see the mean girl scenario play out in Penny's experiences at school, but on the other hand, we also see young love blossom before our eyes.  This small little young adult novel seems to have a little bit of everything in a teen's life.

Although the cover is what initially drew me to pick up this small book, the cupcakes and bakery make up a very small part of the story.  Hepler draws on real-life situations that teens face to flesh out the story in the book.  For instance, the first day of school scene and encounter with the school secretary are really well done. (In fact, I shared that chapter with the students in my Popular Fiction course.)  The way the author depicts how Penny feels, and what she sees, are really smart.  To say that Penny is uncomfortable and feeling out of place on that first day, is an understatement. 

Not all the scenes in the book pop out as much as that first day of school, but there are many other memorable moments that feel close to what teenagers feel and consider important.  Penny worries about her family, about her position at school, and about the boy she finds herself crushing over.  She isn't one of those characters that gushes, ad nauseum about how she feels about her crush, but you can sense how much she wants to be noticed.  In short, you really feel for her and want her to be happy.

While simple in its themes and ideas, The Cupcake Queen was a sweet, simple read.  The issues hit on in the book are familiar, yet vital to most teens, and I can see many readers connecting to Penny.  Overall, I found the story to be an easy read, but one I would recommend to many of my own students.

*FTC Disclosure:  Review is based on a library copy of the book.

Although the title is The Cupcake Queen, very little in the book references cupcakes at all.  Are you all right when a title only vaguely mirrors the story, or do you feel that the title should hit on the most important themes of the book?  What say you?


  1. This book seems sweet-I do love the cover!

  2. So this is a YA, then? It look like chick-lit.

    It kind of annoys me when the title and the major themes of the book don't seem to line up. I tend to really geek out when a book has a catchy title AND it reflects meanings and themes in the book on several levels--like To the Hilt!

  3. The cover and the title makes me want to read it, but then I think I'd be disappointed that cupcakes aren't a bigger part of the story..

  4. Buckeye Girl--It was a cute little read, and very fast.

    Heidenkind--It does look like chick lit, but it's more mild and more dramatic and real to life. I agree here. I would have liked to maybe have seen the cupcakes play out more!

    Irisonbooks--Yea, I would have liked to see more of them, seeing as the cover initiated it.

  5. I don't really mind if the title and themes don't totally match... some great YA books that reference the title over and over in clever ways are Joan Bauer's books-- my favorite is Hope Was Here.