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The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis Book Review

The Secret IngredientBook: The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis, Delacorte/Random House, On Sale Now

Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Review copy provided by the publisher, Available in HC 256 pages

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Find out more here: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Secret Ingredient is a sweet quiet read about family, love, and finding that secret ingredient that holds it all together. Olivia is a promising young chef who lives in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles with her two adoring dads. But she can’t help but wonder about her birth mom. A chance meeting with a psychic and the discovery of a vintage cookbook help bring her closer to discovering the secrets of the past.

I like to cook so I’m always intrigued when food is woven into the narrative of the story. Olivia is still in high school, but her dad Bell owns the restaurant FOOD and she gets to take over the kitchen on Saturday nights. Ollie is very creative with her recipes and has learned to put her own signature stamp on her dishes.  The restaurant is in financial trouble though, so Olivia takes a job at a casting agency to help out.

Olivia loves her dad’s but at times she feels that she’s missing out by not having a mom. For instance, she reflects back on getting her first period and having her dad Enrique taking her to the neighbor lady for assistance. She wouldn’t change her situation for the world but she naturally is curious about her birth mom. Ollie’s British friend Lola is her partner in crime in this adventure, and she’s spurred on by a psychic’s uncanny reading in an elevator, and the story-within-a-story found in a used cookbook.

With the names Lola and Bell, and Ollie’s two dads I couldn’t help but think of another great read, Lola and The Boy Next Door. And in fact, I think Stephanie Perkins fans will like this one since it has a city setting, family theme, and romance. The romance doesn’t take center stage in this book, but there is a boy named Theo in Olivia’s life. The love story angle wasn’t my favorite part, though, and I think I preferred Ollie’s more introspective moments in the kitchen.

This was my first experience with Stewart Lewis’ writing. He’s also a singer-songwriter and wrote You Have Seven Messages.  Lewis does a nice job with the female POV, and I forgot that the author was male actually. I liked that the characters are a little quirky and creative, and that the workplace and city settings are used to full advantage. The story is light and engaging and held my interest. Since food is such a central theme, it would be great if recipes were included too, but maybe they are in the finished copy.

The Secret Ingredient is a cute, lazy day summer coming-of-age story, and I’m interested in reading more from this author. There’s actually an indie movie in the works, and the setting was changed to Birmingham, Alabama. Read more about it here.

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Posted on June 15, 2013, in 4 stars, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Reviews, Romance, Young Adult and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Any book that has elements of Stephanie Perkins awesomeness has my attention. Great review! :-)

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  2. Looks amazing:) Never heard of the book before, thanks for sharing:)

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  3. Those were my thoughts as well! I really enjoyed the book and I finished it in one afternoon! It was perfect for a nice, spring/summer day. I wanted a tiny bit more from the romance but I really loved the family dynamic!

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  4. This sounds fun to me!

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  5. this sounds super cute, lucy. i love food in books, too. i have been on the lookout for cute summer reads and think i may have to give this one a go. great review!

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  6. I am so excited to read this. I love Stewart’s other novel so much. And a movie?? Oh! So so exciting. Thanks for sharing that news :)

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