Cover of Cupcake, featuring a boy in a suit dancing with a girl in a pink dress

About the Book

Title: Cupcake
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Fondant
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?
Bonus Factors: Pop Culture References, Tasty Business
Relationship Status: Tummy Ache

Cover Story: Fondant

I’m loving the plus-size representation on this cover, and her dress is fabulous. But there’s something strange going on with the figures’ proportions. Unless the guy’s head really is that massive?

The Deal: 

Ariel’s confident in both her figure—large—and her social status—not popular. She loves her life, her best friend, her mom, and baking. And she’s really good at the last one. She’s known for it, not only at school, where most people call her Cupcake, but also on the Internet, where her movie reviews and baked goods vlog has a decent following. (She was even on a televised baking competition when she was little!) 

She’s not looking to make waves, but when she’s chosen as a member of the senior class Homecoming Court, and paired with the enigmatic and broody Rhys Castle, quarterback of the football team, she is forced to come to terms with the fact that she might not have everything—or be as secure with her life as she thought.

BFF Charms: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

Ariel is a sweet girl with a lot of passion. She’s confident in ways that I envy, even as an adult. But she’s also fragile and isn’t as immune to her classmates’ unkind and straight-up fatphobic comments as she’d like to think. I’m not sure I’d be of too much help to her, honestly, given my own self-image issues, but I’d certainly love to give her a hug when she’s feeling down. And perhaps get some delicious baked goods in return. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Rhys Castle is everything a girl who reads a lot of romance novels and watches a lot of rom-coms and period pieces might want: He’s the broody, fit, tall quarterback with a surprising heart of gold. He’s got layers, which surprises Ariel as she gets to know him. And although I’m sure you all can guess what happens by the end of the book, Rhys and Ariel’s relationship always felt too much like fiction. 

And no, not because she’s fat and he’s not. I would never lean into those hurtful stereotypes/predisposed notions. The fact that he thought she was beautiful in every way was a lovely note to the romance; her disbelief and lack of confidence in his words and actions was heartbreaking but real. They just fell so fast, and we readers didn’t get to see enough of the chemistry.

Talky Talk: How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?

The plot of Cupcake is a familiar one, with an #ownvoices/body positivity spin. It’s great to read about a fat girl who’s seen by her peers—and the hot love interest—as more than her body.  I dug O’Gorman’s inclusion of pop culture references (more on that below) and nods to a variety of famous romances. But it was a major struggle to get past the book’s writing, which came across the way folks might think teenagers talk and act, but not how they actually do. (The number of times an onomatopoeia like “Gah” was used was … too many.) Full disclosure: I have little insight into the way kids these days (#old) speak, but I am positive this wasn’t it.

Bonus Factor: Pop Culture References

A person holds a Spider-Man mask in front of a setting sun

Cupcake opens with Ariel and her best friend having a conversation about which Avenger they’d date, so I immediately knew that these young ladies were my kind of people. Cupcake is a huge movie buff, too, and name drops a slew of classics, from Dirty Dancing to 10 Things I Hate About You, when she’s trying to get Rhys to expand his nonexistent film knowledge. The two even bond over Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which is a little eye-rolly, given his name—he’s actually named for his mother’s pregnancy cravings for Reese’s Pieces, thank you very much—but a fun nod to another form of romance media. (Believing that high school jock Rhys Castle has read the series, though … I’m not sure I can fully buy that.)

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, chocolate icing and cherries on top

Ariel’s an avid baker, and an exceptional one, if her friends and family are to be believed. The items she makes throughout the story sound delicious, and O’Gorman even includes a few recipes in the back of the book.

Relationship Status: Tummy Ache

As much as I love a good baked good or five, you were just too sweet for my palate, Book. I wish you all the best, but I think it’s best that I turn to salads for a while.

Literary Matchmaking

Dumplin’ (Dumplin’ #1)

For another delightful and food-nicknamed plus-size MC, try Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’.


If you want more body neutrality and romance, check out Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks’ Pumpkinheads.

Salt and Sugar

And if you’re still craving sweets (and romance), read Rebecca Carvalho’s Salt and Sugar.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Entangled:Teen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Cupcake is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.