An unexpected family illness forces a 14-year-old Latina foodie to leave her Arizona home for a large Pennsylvania household.
When her Aunt Elba suddenly gets sick and closes the family's Mexican restaurant, Linda Delgado is sent to live with her "Aunt" Pat and her husband in Pittsburgh. The couple already has seven children, a mixture of biological, adopted and foster. Pat helps to support the family through a local television show dedicated to cooking from canned foods, a practice that contradicts Linda's training using fresh ingredients. Besides being uprooted from her Native American best friend Julia and her quiet life with her aunt, Linda can't even find solace in her cooking, as the kitchen is Pat's domain. The couple's 14-year-old daughter Chloe resents Linda's presence, especially as the two have to share a bedroom in the cramped house. At school, Linda finds herself competing against Chloe for the attentions of Dino Moretti, while at home she tries to stomach Pat's cooking and help an orphaned Latino foster child deal with his grief. McClain breaks Linda's first-person narrative chapters with posts from the teen and others on a food website, and she almost sidetracks the story with an unfortunate subplot involving a rival cooking show.
A charming heroine and a happy, if slightly unrealistic, ending make this stand out above the usual fare. (Fiction. 12 & up)
VOYA - Paula J. Gallagher
Arizona teen Linda Delgado lives for good food. She cooks it, she blogs about it, and she serves it up at her Aunt Elba's authentic Mexican restaurant. When Linda's aunt falls seriously ill, Linda is forced to move across the country to stay with a distant relative in Pennsylvania. She is horrified to discover that her new guardian, Aunt Pat, is a cookbook author and star of her own TV show, Cooking from Cans. To make matters worse, Aunt Pat does not want Linda near the kitchen. Linda must try to find her place among Pat's six adopted children and her biological, goth cousin, Chloe. Then, there is also Dino Moretti, a cute guy from school, who has a food-related secret. Tween girls will enjoy McClain's fast-paced, funny, dialogue-driven story, told in the first-person from Linda's point of view. Pages from an invented social networking foodie site, fabfoods.com, serve as a clever way for Linda to keep in touch with her best friend back home. McClain worked hard to make this a multi-multicultural novel, featuring Asian, Latino, African American, Mexican, Native American, Italian, and Polish characters. To her credit, the wide swath of ethnicities seems natural rather than forced. Sizzle makes for a fun, light read to be devoured quickly. Reviewer: Paula J. Gallagher
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Linda Delgado, 14, lives with her aunt in Arizona. Together they run a restaurant that serves fresh, local Mexican food. When her aunt has a ministroke, Linda is sent to Pittsburgh to live with a relative she's never met. Aunt Pat is famous for her local TV program, Cooking from Cans, and she completely eschews fresh foods. She has seven kids through domestic and foreign adoptions, one foster child, and one biological teenage daughter, who resents the newcomer's presence. Linda's friendly narration is compelling and easy to read. Chapters are broken up with screen shots of her food blog. With a light but honest touch, this book addresses many serious matters. It explores the struggles and the triumphs of children from difficult backgrounds, food as comfort, the adolescent struggle to be true to oneself without hurting others, the value of culture, and the results of these issues being lost on a well-meaning but overwhelmed family—Amelia Jenkins, Juneau Public Library, AK