The Secret Recipe for Moving On – Karen Bischer – Swoon Reads – Published 23 March 2021
Home economics is supposed to be an easy A for Ellie Agresti, but, much like an imperfect souffle, her plans collapse epically when she’s dumped by her boyfriend, Hunter. Now Ellie has to mend her broken heart while watching Hunter fawn all over his new girlfriend, Brynn, in class. To make matters worse, Ellie is partnered with four of the biggest misfit guys in school: Jeremy, the loudmouth with temper issues; Isaiah, the solemn, silent horse racing obsessive; Andrew, who can’t take rejection; and Luke, the giant, tattooed stunt biker.
Over the course of a semester, Ellie works to overcome her feelings for Hunter, as well as deeper insecurities that have plagued her since middle school. As the weeks go by, she’s surprised to find friendships in unexpected places… and sparks flying with the last guy she’d expect.
From that beautiful, pastel cover to the romance and teen drama, this is a sugar-sweet YA novel about, well, life as a teenager.
This book was just a whole heap of fun. Yes, there is drama. Lots of drama. From high school gossip blogs to breakups in the worst of circumstances. Crying, losing tempers, showdowns and attacking classmates in the middle of class. There are also so many moments that just made me grin or happy dance. I adored the time Ellie spends with her Home Ec teammates. As they learn to work together and slowly learn more about each other, as they go on team excursions, they become a great group and it was this dynamic that I really loved about this book. You could have doubled these interactions in the book and I would have loved every minute spent with them.
Ellie is our narrator and she is a teenager who is struggling to find her place in the high school world. She was bullied in middle school and starting at a new high school was daunting. Finding a boyfriend so quickly and falling in with his friends seemed the perfect way to both fly under the radar but also not be invisible. Just when Ellie is ready to take the next, big step with Hunter, she finds him distant. It’s pretty obvious to the reader what is going to happen, but when he dumps her, Ellie is devastated. From my reader perspective, it was good riddance, but to Ellie, her heart and trust has been broken. Enter her new Home Ec class. She has to share it with her ex and his new girlfriend, and she is forced to join a team of – in here eyes – losers. But, those losers turn out to be great guys, and together they vow to beat the other teams. Ellie also finds herself romantically drawn to one of her teammates, Luke. But he is in a relationship and the last thing she wants to do is be on the other side of a messy breakup.
Honestly, this feels like the perfect YA contemporary romance. It’s fun and light, yet touches on some of the big things teens have to deal with – bullying, building and breaking relationships, first love and first heartbreak, and judging and being judged by classmates. It’s full of emotion and drama but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are some great scenes, like the football game and the visit to the racecourse. It’s also great as an opener to discussing the proper response to bullying, and learning not to be judgemental of classmates based on looks or gossip.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: High school, romance, breakups, classmates, competition, cooking, home economics, friendship, bullying,
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references, references to virginity, deciding to have sex, sexual relationships, characters being described as frigid, pressure to discuss sexual relationships. Strong coarse language, f*** (2), sl** (8), sh** (15), who** (1), bit** (12), as***** (9), di** (4), pi** (14). References to classmates as stoners.
Published: 23 March 2021 by Swoon Reads
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 288 pages.