The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski from The Figment Review

This title will be released on May 10, 2011.

by Linna Lee

From the back: In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she’s decorating a cake. Unfortunately everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable.

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems – only her dad’s about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed.

I’m interested in cake decorating. Ok, so this is a pretty recent development. It may or may not have come out of my love for a certain character who decorates cakes and gave bread to a certain girl. It may have something to do with me loving Flour House by Kimberly Karalius. All I’m saying is, from somewhere unknown came a newfound interest in baking and decorating cakes.

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski is about sixteen-year-old Sheridan Wells’ life falling apart and coming together at the same time. In her small town, Sheridan is known as Cake Girl, because she’s an absolute genius at sculpting cake masterpieces with fondant and buttercream. She loves what she does, and her work is in high demand. When Sheridan is creating a cake, life seems good, and she feels closer to her mother, who was also a cake decorator. Her mother abandoned Sheridan years ago, sending her birthday cards each year until the letters stopped, leaving Sheridan with a promise that she was finally coming back. That was two years ago.

The book is full of highs and lows. Sheridan and her best friend, Jack, have spent the past couple years searching for her mother, and they think they’ve finally found her: High! Just as that happens, her dad gets his dream job—his own cooking show. Only it’s based in New York, and he wants to take Sheridan with him: LOW. The most popular boy in school, Ethan, is suddenly interested in hanging out with Sheridan all the time: HIGH! A team of TV production people descend upon Sheridan’s town, and the next thing she knows, she’s roped into inviting people to a fake celebration of her birthday for the pilot episode: LOW.

Sheridan is not confused. She’s determined, and she has a goal: Find her mother. She is frustratingly stubborn, though it’s understandable that she would cling so hard to the life she has, given the uncertainty and upheaval of her relationship with her dad. Everyone around her is telling her to let go and move on. But she’s unable to, and this is both frustrating and realistic; many of us can identify with her dilemma. What I found less understandable is Sheridan’s blind denial about so many things—the kind of person her mother is, for example, and Ethan’s interest in her. Because there are so many alarms going off about Sheridan’s mother and Ethan, there’s no real tension there leading to the outcome. For me, the real tension takes place in the scenes with Sheridan and her father.

The main thing that troubles me is that Sheridan doesn’t seem to change much from the beginning to the end. Her tunnel vision, which leads to some pretty selfish and bad decision making, doesn’t broaden until near the end of the novel. And even then, it seems Sheridan’s relationship with her father is still rocky—though she is moving on and looking forward. I don’t know if Sheridan will reappear, but I would like to check in with her again and see how she’s doing, making cakes in a bakery in NYC!

Lee likes all things spy, smelling books, and is almost always craving a cheeseburger. She tweets from @lkyim about reading books NOT assigned for class. Also she likes Greek mythology. And dogs.

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