100 Days of Cake – Shari Goldhagen – Atheneum Books for Young Readers – Published 17 May 2016
Get well soon isn’t going to cut it in this quirky and poignant debut novel about a girl, her depression, an aggressive amount of baked goods, and the struggle to simply stay afloat in an unpredictable, bittersweet life.
There are only three things that can get seventeen-year-old Molly Byrne out of bed these days: her job at FishTopia, the promise of endless episodes of Golden Girls, and some delicious lo mien. You see, for the past two years, Molly’s been struggling with something more than your usual teenage angst. Her shrink, Dr. Brooks isn’t helping much, and neither is her mom who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure Molly of her depression—as if cake can magically make her rejoin the swim team, get along with her promiscuous sister, or care about the SATs.
Um, no. Never going to happen.
But Molly plays along, stomaching her mother’s failed culinary experiments, because, whatever—as long as it makes someone happy, right? Besides, as far as Molly’s concerned, hanging out with Alex at the rundown exotic fish store makes life tolerable enough. Even if he does ask her out every…single…day. But—sarcastic drum roll, please—nothing can stay the same forever. When Molly finds out FishTopia is turning into a bleak country diner, her whole life seems to fall apart at once. Soon she has to figure out what—if anything—is worth fighting for.
I have one word for you. Cake. Because from that delicious, albeit a little squashed, cake on the front cover, to the cake-patterned title page to the chapter titles, this book made me crave cake so very much. But 100 Days of Cake is not all light, fluffy mocha-cream icing. No, under that layer of sweet goodness is a heartfelt story of family, resilience and one girl’s determination to be well, despite everything that is thrown her way.
100 Days of Cake challenges readers to consider the way in which mental health impacts not only the survivor but those around them, especially their family and friends. The fallout and the effort to face each day effects everyone. It’s a team effort, and this is slowly revealed to both the reader and to Molly as she learns to reach out to others and to let the people around her reach out to her.
Molly is in therapy for her depression, though she doesn’t want to advertise this fact to the world. She spends her summer holidays working at FishTopia with the handsome and comfortable Alex, avoiding her sister, and tasting the copious amounts of cake her mother is baking. If she can just continue to avoid thinking about anything college related, she just might survive the summer.
Molly is a likeable heroine. She is honest about her depression and reflective about how this is impacting her life. And yes, sometimes it feels like Molly needs saving from herself. I can understand her hanging onto familiar things and hiding behind others, but she could really work on her communication skills!! Of course, that’s something she learns over the course of the summer through a series of mixups.
Her’s is not the best therapy relationship to be portrayed in YA fiction (in fact it’s more like an example situation for when things are going really, really bad), but it feels realistic and considers some common pitfalls in therapy relationships. Instead, the real saviour of this book is Molly herself, with the support of her best friend Elle, her mother and her sister.
I enjoyed this book. It is a frank, honest and often humorous insight into depression, love, family and cake.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Friendship, Mental health, family, coming of age, college applications, therapy, therapeutic relationships, baking.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Frequent coarse language, f***, s***, sl**, co**, dou***, sexual references
Published: 17 May 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 352 pages.