Williams, Kathryn. Pizza, Love and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous
12 August 2012, Henry Holt and Co.
Sophie loves working at her families Mediterranean restaurant, Taverna Ristorante, but she thinks she can be a better cook than her father. When her friend/crush Alex finds about a reality show, Teen Test Kitchen, he encourages her to apply and helps her get to the try outs without her overprotective father's knowledge. She makes the cut and is sent to spend seven weeks at a culinary school in Napa, CA with the other finalists. While she learns about cooking, reconnects with her aunt, and flirts with the attractive French student, Luc, she is also subject to the rules of the reality show and the machinations of the evil producers. Will Sophie be able to be true to her own culinary pursuits while still maintaining her relationships with family and friends?
Strengths: I hate, hate, HATE to cook (Really, why does anyone need to do anything but saute a chicken breast, open a can of tuna, or nuke some vegetables? My family begs to differ.), but I enjoyed reading this. Must be a great book! This is a great balance of a lot of things-- romance, independence, definable interest, friend drama, travel-- and I especially liked how the contestants on the reality show remain friends even though they are sabotaged by the producers. This is just perfect for my 8th grade girls who are a little tired of realistic fiction for 6th graders but not ready to move up to YA books that have a lot of older situations.
Weaknesses: The appeal for this will be somewhat narrow, and there have been a number of books lately about teenagers who want to be on cooking shows. (Stir It Up and The Sweetest Thing come to mind.)