This book has a younger narrator than what I normally read (fifth grader) but it's such a fantastic, cute, and wholesome story told with such relentless honesty.
Plus it involved cooking and shared the recipes discussed throughout the story. YES PLEASE.
An amazon summary, "This brave and heartwarming middle grade novel will leave your belly rumbling and your heart full. Because when life hands you lemons, it’s time to get cooking! Perfect for fans of Sarah Weeks, Leslie Connor, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.
Since Steffy was little, she and her older sister, Nina, have lived with their beloved Auntie Gina. But when the girls’ dad comes home to live with them, everything changes. So Steffy does what she does best: She cooks her way through the hardest year of her life.
Sometimes it feels like everything but the kitchen sink is being thrown at her—too many ingredients that don't quite work. And all Steffy wants is for her family to be whole again. Can her recipes help bring them back together?
One Hundred Spaghetti Strings also includes over twenty recipes—which Steffy cooks throughout the book—so aspiring young chefs can try them out when they’re done reading!" AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE
Steffy and her sister Nina have lived with their beloved Auntie Gina since their Mom was in an accident. Their father took off around the same time, so Auntie Gina has been taking care of them ever since. As their father comes home, Auntie Gina moves out, and both Steffy and Nina are struggling to understand who their Dad and how to establish a new normal for them. Steffy is also a cook. She may have a hard time with finding the right words to say to people, but she often puts her best foot forward in trying to understand what kind of food they might like, and to serve them that.
Steffy also has an autobiography project to do where she needs to write about herself, but also have the people in her life write letters describing who she is as well. As her whole life has changed so drastically, she starts to struggle with who she is; is she defined by family?
There's also her mom. Her mom lives in "The Place" where every time Steffy and Nina visit, they have to remind their mom of who they are. Her mom had a traumatic brain injury in the car accident, and seems to be a fully functional human being in most senses except she cannot establish memories easily.
That's enough summary.
So what I really, really appreciated about this book was as the situations unfolded, Steffy was a brilliant narrator as she found her own way through her now tumultuous life. The biggest aspect that appealed to me was how much she tried to understand everybody else so she could talk (or cook) for them better. She just wanted to get to know you. There was also a good sense of the struggle a lot of fifth graders face going through their transition into a more independent place.
Steffy also seemed to fight a lot for what she thought a family should be; have meals together, talk to each other, hang out together, etc; basically just be part of each other's lives (like how it was when Auntie Gina lived with them). To get to that place with their father who they very rarely had contact with up until this point.
The more Steffy learns about her father, just how she processes everything as she learns, is so well done. Her character development, frustrations, and how she tries to cope with situations feels very authentic.
This book felt like a friend telling you a story. Just pull up a chair, grab a warm beverage, and settle in; you're in for a good story.