Wicked Sweet

Wicked Sweet

by Mar'ce Merrell

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Chantal is a planner, and her summer-before-senior-year plan requires best friend Jillian, resumé updating, and studying for AP classes. Jillian wants something different and is afraid to leave introverted Chantal in the dust. All that changes, though, when popular classmates Parker and Will suspiciously start hanging out with the girls.

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Chantal is a planner, and her summer-before-senior-year plan requires best friend Jillian, resumé updating, and studying for AP classes. Jillian wants something different and is afraid to leave introverted Chantal in the dust. All that changes, though, when popular classmates Parker and Will suspiciously start hanging out with the girls.

Chantal only sees one thing: Jillian ditching her for Parker—a guy who can't even be trusted! Chantal hatches a new plan, one that will expose Parker and Will for what they truly are, and along the way, get her best friend back with the littlest lie and a lot of mouthwatering cake. After all, what are best friends for?

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Nerdy best friends Chantal and Jillian made a pact in ninth grade that they would focus on grades instead of boys. Now, the summer before their senior year, Jillian wants to start dating Parker, a good-looking study-group friend. But unknown to the girls, he and his friend Will have devised a contest and whoever kisses the girl he's paired with first wins. When Chantal finds out that she's been played by a boy who has bullied her throughout school, she devises a plan to humiliate him by sending him desserts from a secret admirer. Meanwhile, a real romance develops between Jillian and Parker that threatens the girls' friendship. The story is told from the points of view of these four characters, and Jillian's insightful narration stands out as the most compelling and developed; her mother is emotionally absent, which leaves the teen to raise her six siblings. The revenge plot allows for a lot of revelry over baking as Chantal channels a British celebrity chef, but it's hard to imagine that her plan could actually humiliate Will. The boys never have to answer for what they did to the girls, and a romance for Chantal seems pasted into the story. Despite these small annoyances, this is still a sweet, light read.—Shawna Sherman Hayward Public Library, CA
Publishers Weekly
A lot of wheels are turning at once in Merrell’s aptly titled debut, a story of summer romance, betrayals, and revenge that’s best served sweet, which shifts among the narration of four soon to be high school seniors. Driven and future- focused best friends Chantal and Jillian typically embark on ambitious “summer projects” each year, aiming to someday become “neurosurgeons committed to world health.” But this year, Jillian decides that their summer should include boys, too. Friends Parker and Will have a summer project of their own, a “man challenge” that entails getting the two girls to fall for them. When Chantal overhears their plan, fueled by an old grudge against Will and fear of abandonment by Jillian, she seeks revenge on Will with a complicated and secret baked goods– inspired plan. Despite the lighthearted plot, Chantal’s growth through baking and other well-constructed characters should hold readers’ interest. Merrell delves into persuasive family dynamics, finding parallels between the teens’ stressful home lives and the constantly changing emotions, alliances, and motives of each character. Ages 13–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (June)
From the Publisher

“At once funny and poignant, this will appeal to readers with a taste for cake and romance, but be aware that you may be moved to bake something decadent.” —BCCB

“A sweet, light read.” —School Library Journal

“A lot of wheels are turning at once in Merrell's aptly titled debut, a story of summer romance, betrayals, and revenge that's best served sweet.” —Publishers Weekly

“Merrell's debut will hit the spot.” —Booklist

Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
It's the summer before senior year, and while over-achiever Chantal is busy looking for a summer project to further her ultimate career goal of neurosurgery, her best friend, Jillian, has decided to turn her thoughts instead toward bikinis and boys, straining their long-standing friendship. Meanwhile, Parker and Will embark on a summer project of their own: a "man challenge" to succeed in kissing Jillian and Chantal, respectively, despite Will's longstanding tormenting of Chantal. When Chantal overhears Will's boasting about his conquest, she plots her own sweet revenge involving a complicated scheme to bake cakes for Will, posing as his secret admirer, and then to engineer his public, humiliating dumping by "the Cake Princess," who by this time has become a summertime celebrity. It's refreshing to find a contemporary young adult novel whose protagonists are innocent enough to take kissing as a major summer milestone, but also somewhat unbelievable, as it's also somewhat unbelievable that a seriously ambitious, college-obsessed teenager would undertake anonymous cake baking as a summer project rather than, say, entering a concerto competition or volunteering to help combat AIDS in Africa. Told in four voices, the novel is overly long, with some dozen episodes of cake baking and cake delivery: that's a lot of sifting, stirring, and whisking. Still, revenge is always sweet...especially revenge that comes in the form of a cake, and Merrell delivers empowering epiphanies for all four characters before her cake-fest summer comes to its tasty conclusion. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
Best friends Chantal and Jillian have always been on the same page, taking AP classes and planning for their future as neurosurgeons, but everything changes during the summer before their senior year. When popular Parker begins paying attention to Jillian, introverted Chantal feels left out. Jillian cannot understand why wearing a bikini or wanting to go to parties is suddenly grounds for ending their friendship. When Parker's best friend, Will, who normally lives to torment Chantal, starts trying to hang out with her, Chantal begins to suspect that there is something bigger going on. Determined to expose the boys' scheme, she invents a complicated plan that combines her newfound love of baking, her intense focus and a whole lot of sneaking around. More than just a foodie romance, Merrell's debut tackles difficult issues such as parental neglect and bullying. An overly convoluted plot that never gains momentum overshadows the well-drawn main characters, though. Sweet confections with clever names brighten the narrative, but they will not be enough to keep readers' attention. Predictable secondary characters and wince-worthy missteps of purple prose will make readers yearn for more hearty sustenance. A recipe that never comes together. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Feiwel & Friends
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Read an Excerpt

Wicked Sweet


C is Only for Cupcake.

When Jillian slips off her T-shirt, I swear I break out in hives. She must know I'm not prepared for my best friend in a string bikini. Suprises like this are for spontaneous people—not for me. Now I need more than cupcakes. I need an antihistamine.

It's midafternoon, school is out for the year, and girls and guys from our class carry coolers of beer down the hill, looking for towel space near the water. Jillian and I sit at the top, under the tree we've claimed since the third grade. Everyone else wants to be close to the lake, the sun, and each other. I concentrate on the pattern of beach umbrellas and towels: circle, rectangle, circle, rectangle. I try not to stare at Jillian's bikini triangles.

"Chantal, quit staring," Jillian says.

"I didn't expect ... a bikini." I stare down at the small hills in my one-piece. I am so lacking in this department. "But it's ... nice. It fits." Barely.

"Good. I was worried you'd think it was too, well, you know." She unzips her shorts, lets them drop to the towel. Two strings connect her bikini bottom pieces. Silver studs situated, uh, strategically, sparkle. She smoothes down the fabric while she waits for my response. "Isn't it hot?"

I nod. I smile. I look to see how many people are gawking at us. Well, her. But the surrounding girls and guys are spreading on tanning lotion, opening their drinks, laughing with each other. My skin prickles. I scan the hill and mountains around us for signs of impending disaster, but Williamson's Lake is the same. For nine years, it's always been like this: Jillian, me, and a day to plan our summer project.

While Jillian adjusts the triangles over her parts, then brushes her hair into perfect blond waves, I unpack my beach bag. I need a cupcake. I open the grocery store cello pack: chocolate cupcakes, white frosting, silver balls of sugar. The signature summer sweet.

I hand one to Jillian.

"Oh," she squeals. "We match." She holds the cupcake next to her right boob. "White and silver."

Next time, I'll definitely buy a different combination.

She takes the tiniest bite of chocolate and vanilla, sets the rest of her cupcake down, rubs tanning oil over her flat belly. "We should get you a bikini, too."

I open my mouth to protest.

"You can tell your mom it's mine."

I reach for my sunscreen, SPF 50. "She'd know that you couldn't fit into an A cup."

"I think she'd be okay with a ... modest ... bikini. We'll go for playful instead of sexy, but you need padding. Cleavage is bikini success."

I stare at the shadows between Jillian's breasts. I have seen way more of her C's this year than I expected; tight sweaters, low tank tops. I thought they were the only hand-me-downs from her Vancouver cousin that fit. I thought that Jillian's new sexy was, almost, unavoidable. I thought reusing was better than buying something new. Practical, that's me.

"Remember the first principle of design? Form follows function.I can't wear a bikini. I like to dive off the platform. And swim, really swim."

"But what if you had two different functions, and, therefore, two different forms?"

It's the way she looks at me when she says it—her eyes unsure, her mouth sort of between a smile and a frown, her jaw tensed. I swallow. My eyes narrow with suspicion. Two months ago she started rating guys—few got above a seven and Jillian said she wouldn't date anyone below a ten—and now she shows up in a bikini, just when the town is about to be overrun by eligible guys without shirts.

"Tell me you're not going for maximum exposure to get a guy's attention." Summer romances don't work, she should know that. Last summer a girl from our class hooked up with a lonely sixteen-year-old from a tourist's family and stowed away in the back of their RV. They sent her back four states later.

"You need a different bathing suit."


"It's the summer? We're going into our senior year? We're both good-looking?" She hits me with the same sort of intensity I see when she's practicing the points and counterpoints for a debate. "We can attract attention without compromising our principles." Jillian rolls her eyes, just the tiniest bit. "Wearing a bikini doesn't mean we're on the dessert menu."

I tilt my head as she goes on to list, again, how much potential my features have. My un-blond and untamed hair needs short, straightened bangs. Dyeing my eyebrows darker will frame my eyes, even when I'm wearing my glasses. And her favorite: a shopping trip on victoriassecret.com will be our secret. I'm lucky, she says, runway models have androgynous shapes like mine. This is the fourth time she's called me androgynous since she started running like a fiend. My head aches. I could use another cupcake, but I look at Jillian's.She's taken two tiny bites. Even with all the preservatives, the frosting is beginning to melt.

"I'm only five-three. And I like cupcakes. I'll never be a model." I've offered this point before. Back then, it stopped her argument.

"Brain surgeons can be hot, too." Clearly, she's been practicing.

"I guess." I imagine my future as a brain surgeon, what it would be like having guys whistle at me in my white lab coat, my hotness startling them like Jillian's does now. "But I think neurosurgery is pretty hot all by itself."

"Think about the surgeons on TV."

"They're all old."

"Exactly. And they're still not bad, are they? We can be young, hot neurosurgeons." Jillian's pink fingernail glides along the top of her cupcake. She licks the frosting from her finger, reaches for her sunglasses, and shifts to catch the sunlight.

I tell her that when we're in med school the last thing we'll need are boyfriends. I detail how I ended up trapped in a girls' bathroom stall during last period today, stuck listening to a whole my-boyfriend-dumped-me drama. I remind her that we made a pact in ninth grade that we'd never put a guy above (a) our friendship and (b) getting good grades. "Remember?"


She stretches out on her towel and I pop the last of my cupcake in my mouth. As it dissolves on my tongue I detect an aftertaste I'd missed before and almost tell Jillian not to finish hers. But there's no point, she's abandoned it to the ants anyway. This is not how our first day of summer is supposed to go.

WICKED SWEET. Copyright © 2012 by Mar'ce Merrell. All rights reserved. For information, address Feiwel and Friends, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

Mar'ce Merrell likes stories where the good guys discover how to sweeten the world. And the bad guys? They get the dessert they deserve. Wicked Sweet is her debut novel. She lives in Alberta, Canada.

Mar'ce Merrell likes stories where the good guys discover how to sweeten the world. And the bad guys? They get the dessert they deserve. Wicked Sweet is her debut novel. She lives in Alberta, Canada.

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