(I read this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
Elizabeth Margaret (Em for short) has her life planned out for her. She's just graduated and will go to an Ivy League university, then law school, then work for her wealthy father's firm. It's not really what she wants - her secret fantasy is to become a chef, as her younger sister Gwenny knows - but it's what's expected of her. Then, she gets a postcard from her Aunt Tilly congratulating her on her graduation. Nothing surprising there, you may think - but neither Em nor Gwenny even knew they had an Aunt Tilly. Taking up the offer of a stay at Tilly's B & B, Em will learn more in this summer than she has in her entire life beforehand.
I wanted to love this one - I'm a huge fan of coming of age stories in general - but it fell somewhat flat for me. Greenland's writing has some really strong points, especially her mouth-watering descriptions of the food Em cooks, but her characters are generally fairly bland. (The exception for me was Gwenny, I really liked the relationship between her and Em.) It also moved at too slow a pace to retain my interest fully.
Add to this a rather predictable plot, with first love, the mystery of why Em had never been told about Tilly, and Em's choice between her family's expectations and her heart's desire, and it's hard to recommend this unless you're a massive fan of YA contemporary.
I should point out that Greenland has a pleasant writing style and her dialogue is realistic. If the pacing issues is less of a problem for you then it might be worth checking out. Several bloggers whose opinion I really respect have liked this one - if you're looking for a second opinion it's well worth reading the Sweet Bookshelf's view or Nifty Novels.
Personally, my all time favourite coming of age story is a close call between Rosamunde Pilcher's wonderful Coming Home, an adult novel that teens will definitely enjoy as well, and Dodie Smith's gorgeous I Capture The Castle. For a more recent teen read, anything by Sarah Dessen is worth checking out, with Just Listen being my personal favourite.
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