Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

There’s No Recipe For Life

Stewart Lewis' The Secret Ingredient is an ambitious concoction that could have used a bit more spice.

There’s No Recipe For Life

BOOK REPORT for The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis

Cover Story: Urban Outfitters Catalog
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: ADHD
Bonus Factors: My Two Dads, Tasty Business
Relationship Status: Fleeting Crush

Cover Story: Urban Outfitters Catalog

Hey hipsters! Want to know the secret ingredient for the perfect summer wardrobe? Bare midriffs! And don't forget to sport the new trend in shorts-- half stripes, half polka dots. It's like an optical illusion of fashion! You'll be the hottest thing to hit the beach, which kind of has a nuclear winter vibe going. Good thing you've got your sunnies on!

The Deal:

To say that sixteen-year-old Olivia is into cooking would be an understatement. It's her passion, it's her outlet, it's her heart. When she's not cooking for her family, which includes her older brother Jeremy and their dads, Bell and Enrique, she's serving up a Saturday night special at the dads' restaurant, FOOD. Unfortunately, their business is suffering, and nothing in Olivia's life seems certain anymore. So when she meets a psychic who gives her a free reading, the woman's words inspire her to step outside of her comfort zone. Olivia rekindles a romance with Theo, a former co-worker at FOOD, but the real change occurs when she discovers an old cookbook with handwritten notes spelling out the tragic story of Rose Lane, its former owner. As Olivia cooks her way through the vintage recipes, she feels a connection with Rose that motivates her to embrace her dreams, even if that means taking some unappetizing risks.

BFF Charm: Meh

I thought about giving Olivia my charm, but then I realized that I'd just be doing it for the food, and even I can't be that shallow. (Although I felt differently an hour ago, when I hadn't eaten lunch yet.) Olivia is a sweet girl, and she's a wonderful backbone for her family, but I just didn't click with her. Since cooking is such a huge part of her character, there wasn't much room left for personality, resulting in a rather bland heroine. But no hard feelings, okay Olivia? I mean, in case you ever, say, wanted to invite me over for a dinner party or something.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Olivia's relationship with Theo didn't work for me at all. There was zero chemistry between them, and since they get together near the very beginning of the book, I was deprived of any tingles of anticipation. It was difficult to get a real grasp on Theo's character, and his storyline with Olivia took some very abrupt turns. (I felt like Cher hitting the side of a car during her driving test: "That came out of nowhere!") Their whole romance just felt forced, especially since it added nothing to the story.

Talky Talk: ADHD

Stewart Lewis writes in a straightforward, lightly descriptive style that makes this novel a super quick read. The characters are developed but not complex, and while the story is interesting, Olivia's voice isn't very compelling. In terms of plot, Lewis throws a lot of irons into the fire, preventing him from giving any of them the proper attention. This book is all over the place, and the lack of focus robs the story lines of their emotional potential.

Bonus Factor: My Two Dads

Olivia has two gay dads, and while her family is an important part of the story, her fathers' sexuality never becomes the focus. Their characters feel authentic without dipping into after school special territory, and it's great to read about gay parents without them being Gay Parents.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

SO MUCH TASTY BUSINESS IN THIS BOOK!!! Seriously, I just wanted to drizzle the pages with truffle oil and DEVOUR THEM.

Casting Call:

Sophie Turner as Olivia

Relationship Status: Fleeting Crush

It only took one glimpse for me to crush hard on this book. It read like a laundry list of my turn-ons: food, diversity, more food. But as I got to know it, I realized that this book didn't really live up to my first impression, and my attraction quickly wavered. It's not like this book turned out to be a jerk, or treated my poorly-- it's just not the novel I thought it was.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Delacourte Press. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (dammit!). The Secret Ingredient is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).