Pizza, Love & Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams ( web | tweet)
Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: cooking, reality TV
Format read: ARC from ALA (Thanks!)
Summary: Cooking is in Sophie’s blood. Her mother, who died when she was little, was a great cook and her father owns an Italian-Greek restaurant where she works. When her best friend finds out about a reality show for young chefs, he urges her to try out and hopefully win a scholarship to a prestigious cooking school in California. Soon, she is thrust into drama and the spotlight like she never imagined.
You know how they say you shouldn’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach?
The same belief could be applied to reading this book. With all the talk of grand food preparation and the recipes included after each “reality show” challenge, my stomach was constantly grumbling. (Williams included two of my absolute favorite foods too — pizza and eggs benedict!)
Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff… is a very cute novel featuring Sophie, a 16-year old who comes across as very sheltered due to her work at her family’s restaurant. She doesn’t have much experience with boys and it seems like her boy best friend, Alex, is pretty much the only solid friend in her life. (Not including the employees at her dad’s restaurant.) Instead of following in her father’s footsteps, she dreams of being a well-known chef and though she is self-conscious about her talents, she tries out for the reality show and makes it!
In ways, once Sophie makes it to California, this book reminded me of Lauren Conrad’s L.A. Candy trilogy especially when it uncovered just how “unrealistic” reality TV was. Instead of booze and boys, there’s a burn book and a few competitive moments orchestrated by the producers. Sophie is aware of what the producers of the show are trying to do — make TV worth watching and she manages to steer clear and watch what she says. (Although that doesn’t mean these people don’t twist her words when the show finally airs or she doesn’t question the loyalty of her friends at points.) I was happy to see she made two friends right off the bat — the adorable and funny Stan and the focused Shelby. She even reconnects with her mother’s sister, Mary, who owns an organic restaurant on the west coast. There is even the mysterious and European Luc, who sweeps Sophie away and causes her to question her feelings for her bestie, Alex.
Even though the book is description heavy, the pacing is still quick and I got a good handle on who Sophie was as a character. She had a great passion for cooking and she also loved her family. My one qualm were some moments that I felt were glossed over and I would have liked to have either a) more interaction or b) time not to jump so quickly. There’s some sweet innocent romance going on, for sure, (in fact it feels like these kids are 14 and not 16 much of the time) but it never overpowers the true focus of the book: Sophie venturing out on her own and figuring out how she can make the world a better place with her food.
For a feathery, fun read, perfect for the foodie or a person who enjoys spending time in the kitchen — a subject not spotlighted in many the world of YA. Let’s hear it for the pizza!