The Secret Ingredient
By Stewart Lewis
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Source: PublisherSummary: For fans of Sarah Dessen and Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Whycomes a journey of family, food, romance, and self-discovery as Olivia, a teen chef living in L.A., finds a vintage cookbook and begins a search for her birthmother that will change her life forever.
Olivia doesn’t believe in psychics. But the summer before her senior year of high school, she meets one in an elevator.
This summer will be pivotal, the psychic warns. Please remember—all your choices are connected.
Olivia loves her life in Silverlake, Los Angeles, but lately, something’s been missing. And after getting this strange advice, her world begins to change. A new job leads Olivia to a gorgeous, mysterious boy named Theo. And as Olivia cooks the recipes from a vintage cookbook she stumbles upon, she begins to wonder if the mother she’s never known might be the secret ingredient she’s been lacking.
But sometimes the things we search for are the things we’ve had all along.
Olivia has been going through the motions of life, working at the restaurants her dads (Yes, she has two) run while going to school. The summer before her senior year though, everything changes after a mysterious run-in inside of an elevator with a psychic. The restaurant is going under, so Olivia gets a job as an assistant to a casting director. After that, everything seems to fall into place and Olivia can't ignore the giant signs life is throwing her way. This summer will definitely be different and she may just find the missing pieces she's been searching for all her life.
First off, I absolutely loved Olivia's character. She's such a relatable character and I love that she loves to cook. Those quirky little details about characters always make them a million times more likable, and it was awesome how she was constantly sharing the little secrets she puts into her dishes that make them that much better. And the fact that she finds a vintage cookbook where the previous owner had written down when she made each dish was really cool. Olivia would make that same dish when their stories seemed to be on the same paths. Being connected to the past to a person she's never met was a really nice detail to Olivia's story.
Olivia deals with a lot in this book, from helping save the restaurant and rekindling an old, albeit brief, romance to searching for her birth mother. That being said, there was rarely a dull moment in this story. The only problem I had with it, though, is how perfect things happened to fall into place. I know the whole deal is that the psychic said all of Olivia's choices are connected and she has to take chances, but things aren't that perfect. Also, the story Olivia makes up for the previous owner of the cookbook was really interesting, but I definitely wouldn't have jumped to those conclusion if I had read what she wrote. So her interpretation of the cookbook's past seemed a little random and too far fetched.
The only other thing that kind of bothered me was how Olivia and Theo's relationship panned out. What happened seems sort of cliche and how it turned out in the end bothered me. I don't want to reveal what happens, but I wish there was more communication and less forcing things to happen to fit the moral of the story.
But overall, I really liked this book. The whole cooking element definitely won me over and Olivia's life and family were great. I really enjoyed Olivia's growth and journey to find out who she really is in life. While it wasn't as amazing as Sarah Dessen's books, it's still an enjoyable YA contemporary that would be a fantastic summer read.