Fiction Featuring Food
Romance isn’t my jam but I’ve been expanding my reading reach. Evidently tender tales that include as much family and friendship as romance are a sweet spot for me especially when served with a side of something delicious. This spring has presented a cornucopia of food related reads. As we start thinking of summer, it’s got me thinking of food trucks. So, here’s a list inspired by food and optimistic for what this summer may hold.
I really enjoyed these newly published titles:
Donuts and Other Proclamations: release date June 8
“It is liberating, no? You are not special. No one is just waiting for you to show up. No expectations. You are free to figure out what you love and … fling yourself at it.”
As Oscar prepares to graduate from high school, he is more interested in working his grandfather’s food truck, his independent study in the food lab and charting his professional cooking path than planning any kind of college study. His focus and quiet work is disrupted by Lou and her “schoople situation”: hundreds of apples thrown away daily in the cafeteria.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s marketed as a romance and there is absolutely that element here. But, this book is so much more. The larger focus is Oscar’s relationship with his grandfather, their complicated family relationships and Oscar’s desire to blaze a professional path that doesn’t involve college. Oscar and his friends are likeable and relatable. His struggles will ring true for many. Two content warnings: a persistent theme is the death of Oscar’s father to drug overdose; the protest that explodes violently may surprise readers expecting an all over warm read. While I initially balked at that serious, dangerous turn about 80% in, it completely made sense and serves the ultimate goal of helping Oscar figure out his path forward while providing him the confidence to pursue it. An enjoyable read that is both tender and funny, it wrangles some tough situations with a delicate hand. There’s a lot to love.
Beck thought being born in the bathroom of Hot n’ Crusty pizza was humiliating, The annual photo ops and the title “bathroom baby” just wouldn’t go away. Then she discovered her only job prospect at 16 is the promised job at Hot n Crusty. Her ascension to “Pizza Princess” takes that embarrassment to a whole new level. It also consumes all her free time. So, she can no longer work on her romance prospect with Mac. But Hot n’ Crusty holds more than a couple of surprises. Beck finds unexpected friends, resilient old allies, a new romance and a lot of personal discovery.
A light hearted book about understanding yourself and owning all your quirks. It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story is full of likeable characters you want to celebrate. The villains are not overly cruel. Much of the plot tension is related to misunderstandings and trying to live someone else’s expectations. Sure to be a hit with your romcom readers and those who enjoy a warm fuzzy story. Easily passes to upper middle grade readers.
Linh and Bao have known each other for years but never become friends because their families own competing restaurants. Gossip, rumors and grudges keep them apart until an unexpected journalism assignment finds them working together on a series of illustrated food reviews. Part complicated, forbidden romance; part mini class on finding your own thing and nurturing your passion even when the people around you don’t understand, A Pho Love Story is a read that allows for warm fuzzy feels while encouraging deeper consideration of immigrant experiences.
Bao collects words. They spill through the story. Linh collects color and light, they shine everywhere she goes but not always back at herself. Told in alternating voices, Bao and Linh share the narration as they navigate their parents’ expectations, their path to the future beyond high school and figuring out how to be their own authentic selves and what that means when it doesn’t match what their families expect of them. A light romance anchored by family, community, and some secrets.
I can’t wait to dig into these:
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet: Penelope dreams of running a restaurant but her traditional Mexican-American parents have other plans for her. Xander works for her dad’s restaurant when his immigration status is challenged. Both navigate love, identity and finding a path home.
The Secret Recipe for Moving On: Ellie works to remake her social circle after her boyfriend dumps her on the first day of school. She finds a surprising new collection of friends while competing in a Life Skills class baking competition.
Kisses and Croissants: Mia plans to spend the summer in Paris pursuing her dream to become a professional ballerina, but nothing goes according to plan. And then she meets Louis in the “City of Love”.
A Taste for Love Liza struggles to meet her mom’s demanding expectations. To prove herself, she enters the competition sponsored by her mom’s bakery only to discover that all the contestants are Asian American men chosen as potential dates by her mom.
On the waitlist at your library? Here are some older titles to enjoy while you wait.
I loved these:
Permanent Record: I have so many good things to say about this book earlier. But, it made this list because of food. As Pab manages the disasters and conflicts of his life, he maintains an Instagram account where he posts pictures of snack foods paired with shoes. It got me thinking. I absolutely tried Flake, HiChews (never going back to Starburst again), and Takis while reading.
The Way You Make Me Feel: Clara pulls a prom related prank that goes too far. Her punishment is to work her dad’s food truck for the summer with her arch nemesis Rose. As a result, Clara will also lose her amazing opportunity at exotic vacation with her Internet Influencer mom. A book about self discovery, friendship, and family.
And can’t wait to dig into these:
What I Like About You: Halle has a great online friendship with Nash, developed while publishing her blog under super cool persona “Kels”. But, when her real life self meets him in person, can she get over the awkward and be real?
The Music of What Happens Max and Jordan are opposites that may attract if they can get their secrets and family drama out of the way. Working on a food truck may give them an opportunity to explore the chemistry that may bloom into romance.
The Summer of Jordi Perez When Abby falls for her fellow intern, Jordi it’s sure to create complications since the two girls are both competing for the same job and falling for each other at the same time.
Geekerella A retelling of the traditional fairy tale involving a SciFi cosplay ball, the Magic Pumpkin Food Truck and a heart throb looking to reinvent himself.
Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling Anna Chiu supports her family and works at the family restaurant while taking care of her mother who struggles with crippling mental illness. When she meets the new delivery boy, she believes life could be normal just for a minute.
Hungry Hearts Hungry Hearts : 13 Tales of Food & Love A collection of short stories about family, culture and the power of food.