|AUTHOR: Kelly Fiore
PUBLISHER: Walker Children’s
PUBLICATION DATE: August 27, 2013
SOURCE: ARC from publisher
GENRE: contemporary romance
GIVE IT TO: grades 7-10; aspiring chefs
SUMMARY: Small-town chef Nora Henderson leaves her father and best friend Billy behind when she gets accepted as a contestant on Taste Test, a reality TV competition featuring aspiring teen chefs. Thrust into the spotlight, Nora competes against well-trained, wealthy teens, including the arrogant son of a famous TV chef.
WHAT I LIKED: It’s cute and fluffy, and I can see my middle schoolers enjoying it. It will be easy to booktalk and has a sort of And Then There Were None vibe with the live weekly eliminations and the dangerous sabotage that comes in as the competition heats up.
It’s mostly engaging and well-paced. After the first 75 pages, I read the remainder in one sitting.
I enjoyed reading the interviews, emails, and police reports that were interspersed between the chapters. Not only do they give insight on what’s going on out in the real world and behind the scenes of the show; they also help break up the text, which will appeal to reluctant readers. I especially enjoyed how the teens reacted when the Producer tried to bait the contestants and start drama. I love that the teens had the Producer’s number and refused to play along with it–funny stuff there!
The recipes! I love what the contestants do with the challenges and the unique foods they create. Nora’s coffee/cayenne/chocolate pork rub sounds really weird, but I am interested in trying it!
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: There is a love triangle, but it felt very one-sided and left me wondering why it was included at all. (mild spoiler below–highlight to see)
I think Nora ended up with the wrong person and that the boy who was really right for Nora didn’t get a fighting chance. I won’t say any more than that, but I wasn’t a fan of the one she ends up with. I felt like the intimate scenes between Nora and the boy were more told than felt and that the pair lacked chemistry. I wish Fiore had explored both relationships more equally. It just makes me so sad when the nice guy finishes LAST and the arrogant ass gets the girl.
The big reveal of who is responsible for the contestant injuries is a little convoluted and a lot “Scooby Doo” in its “you caught me; let me confess my whole plan right now” ending. I had a hard time believing their motives or that doing what they did would even produce the result they wanted.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While it’s not perfect, Taste Test is cute and fun and will be easy to booktalk with my students.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order.
- Overall: 3/5
- Creativity: 3/5
- Characters: 3/5
- Engrossing: 4/5
- Writing: 3/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: mild; a few damns, one ass
- Sexuality: mild; some kissing and innuendo, guest appearance of a naked female chef on an X-rated cooking show (she’s fully clothed in her scenes in the scene in the book), older rockstar flirts with teen girls, Nora calls her roommate a “ho-bag”
- Violence: mild; a small bomb, mean-girl bullying
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; Nora drinks a “sip” of champagne