Two Brazilian teens, a boy and a girl, stand on a cute cobbled street, in front of two bakeries called Salt and Sugar

About the Book

Title: Salt and Sugar
Published: 2022

Cover Story: Photorealistic
Drinking Buddy: Saúde!
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (talk of death, occasional crude humor)
Talky Talk: Amiga
Bonus Factors: Brazilian Cooking
Anti-Bonus Factor: Big Box Store
Relationship Status: Let’s Chow Down!

Cover Story: Photorealistic

Was that so hard? Our two heroes, their family businesses, the cute Brazilian town. The publisher could have easily gone with a stock photo of a cake, but instead actually drew Lari and Pedro. And they’re not oversexualized. Lari’s cute, but she’ll also whap you with that rolling pin if you don’t watch yourself.

The Deal:

Brazilian teenager Larissa ‘Lari’ Ramires’s family runs Salt, a small bakery. Across the street are their hated rivals, the Molinas, and their bakery, ‘Sugar.’ These families have been feuding since their great-grandmothers had a falling out. Lari especially can’t stand Pedro, her arrogant classmate and the youngest of the Molinas. And this is not a good-natured rivalry, with dueling pastry recipes and publicity stunts. When the Ramireses lose a lucrative catering gig after someone starts a rat infestation rumor, they know who’s responsible.

But Lari’s beloved grandmother has just passed away, and things are changing. The new mega store in town, ‘Deals, Deals,’ is driving all the mom and pops out of business. And their lawyer makes it clear that both Sugar and Salt are in their crosshairs. Shouldn’t they sell the bakery and get out while they can? You can’t fight these big box stores alone. Lari would have to make a deal with the devil to save the family business. Or worse, a deal with Pedro.

Drinking Buddy: Saúde!

Two pints of beer cheersing

Lari is a walking example of entropy. The second she steps into a kitchen, things burn, things spill, and chaos reigns. Is it any wonder her mother never taught her to cook? Lari will be the first Ramires to attend college! (a phrase her mother repeats roughly 900 times) She’s going to study economics and become an accountant, a dream her late father never realized.

The thing is, Lari fails to see the glamor of accountancy. She wants to help run the family business, even though she’s capable of burning water. To make things worse, everyone assumes she’s a master cook like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, and she’s badgered into joining the school cooking club…where Pedro is president.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (talk of death, occasional crude humor)

Well, it’s totally obvious that Lari and Pedro are going to make the leap from hated rivals to friends to lovers. And unlike some books with this theme, the transition was believable. I almost thought Lari was going to wind up with another classmate. Of course with their mothers eager to stick a toasting fork in the other’s heart, their families aren’t going to greet this news with glee, are they?

Talky Talk: Amiga

Lari was a genuinely likeable character. We all know someone (or are someone) who could trip over their own shadow. Pedro took a while to grow on me, with his arrogance and refusal to compromise, but like all well-developed characters, he had a good back story.

Their mothers, on the other hand, were hard to swallow, especially Pedro’s. Their insistence on keeping the feud alive bordered on mania. When Pedro’s grandfather has a cardiac episode and the family car won’t start, the Ramireses loan their vehicle to take him to the hospital. You’d think that would be a reason to bury the hatchet. And yet when Pedro winds up in the emergency room after an accident, his mother immediately accuses Lari of deliberately injuring him.

Also, there was the way Lari’s mother refused to even listen to her daughter and her desire to learn to bake. C’mon, the ‘you must follow your parents’ dreams for you, whether you like it or not’ plot is a little tropey.

Bonus Factor: Brazilian Cooking

These people are not mere hobbiests, nor do they just cook for a living. Food is not only their livelihood, it’s their life. Pedro doesn’t call his grandfather ‘Grandpa’; he addresses him as ‘Chef.’

This book taught me a lot about Brazilian cooking, though I’m afraid most of the terms went straight over my head, both with the Portuguese and not being much of a cook myself.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Big Box Store

So Lari lives in a neighborhood with a lot of family-owned businesses going back generations: bakeries, food stands, florists, butchers, etc. But times are changing. The mega store ‘Deals, Deals,’ is in town, and soon the local shops start to go under. The conglomerate can afford to operate at a loss for a while, unlike the Ramireses and Molinas, who can barely keep the lights on. You know that rat infestation rumor? Turns out it was started by the Deals people, who are trying to nudge Salt out of business. But can you fight a multi-billion real corporation? Especially when you’re too caught up in your neighbor’s business to care about your own survival?

Relationship Status: Let’s Chow Down!

My experience with Brazilian culture pretty much began and ended with that one steakhouse I used to go to, but now I want to learn more about this country…and the food. Can’t wait for another serving from this author.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or delicious snacks.

Literary Matchmaking

Where There’s a Whisk

Sarah J. Schmitt’s Where There’s a Whisk also deals with the cutthroat world of baking.

Tweet Cute

Tweet Cute, by Emma Lord, also is about two rival restaurants.

Verona Comics

The big business vs. the little guy theme is explored in Verona Comics, by Jennifer Dugan.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.