Genre(s): Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: Middle Grade
Release Date: May 11, 2021
Publisher: Puffin Books
5 out of 5 stars
Alice Fleck’s father is a culinary historian, and for as long as she can remember, she’s been helping him recreate meals from the past — a hobby she prefers to keep secret from kids her age. But when her father’s new girlfriend enters them into a cooking competition at a Victorian festival, Alice finds herself and her hobby thrust into the spotlight.
And that’s just the first of many surprises awaiting her. On arriving at the festival, Alice learns that she and her father are actually contestants on Culinary Combat, a new reality TV show hosted by Tom Truffleman, the most famous and fierce judge on TV! And to make matters worse, she begins to suspect that someone is at work behind the scenes, sabotaging the competition.
It’s up to Alice, with the help of a few new friends, to find the saboteur before the entire competition is ruined, all the while tackling some of the hardest cooking challenges of her life . . . for the whole world to see.
What an adventure! I really enjoyed following Alice through the ups and downs of this glimpse of her life that us readers get to see. From the beginning, I knew she was a relatable girl. Although I am not her age anymore, I remember the feeling I felt when I got my first phone and all the other teenage-y type feelings that come with it.
Alice’s love for cooking with her father and her reluctance of being on Culinary Combat provided a large obstacle already. Add on the girlfriend, frequently unexpected changes in schedule, and a possible saboteur…there is no way to be bored in this book!
As the book continues, Alice makes some friends at the Victorian festival and they work together as they try to solve the mystery of the saboteur. As she struggles with her relationship with her dad and his girlfriend throughout this time, it was lovely to see how her friends were able to be such a supportive bunch (and distraction)!
Despite the eventual strain between father and daughter, I enjoyed the dynamic between these two a lot! You can tell that they’re very close despite him being basically a single parent. They have a healthy relationship in which he seems to give her the perfect balance of flexibility and independence while still being an authority figure.
Overall, this book is a great choice for those who enjoy reading about realistic and relatable issues for kids, adventure, and mystery. Although Alice struggled a bit navigating through her own shyness and acceptance of a new person in her life, her growth throughout the book is a story of positivity and resilience!
*A big thanks to Netgalley and Puffin Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest and fair review.