Goodreads: Love à la Mode
Source: City Book Review
Published: November 7, 2018
Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. . . .
Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.
Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.
Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.
Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.
Cooking/baking shows are in, so it’s not surprising to see an increase in books based on the premise. In Love à la Mode, protagonists Rosie and Henry are picked as two of twenty high school students to attend a prestigious cooking academy in France run by the famous Chef Laurent. Things do not go as smoothly, as they planned, however, as they face struggles with cooking, academics, and romance.
Love à la Mode is such a wonderfully perfect contemporary novel. It has, one might say, all the right ingredients: a fun premise, a gorgeous setting, close friendships, and a touch of romance. Also, food. Lots and lots of delicious food. I thought I would like Love à la Mode when I picked it up, but I didn’t predict exactly how much I would enjoy it or how excited I would be to see what happens next.
Besides the food, the books biggest strength is the characterizations (and then how that bleeds over into the portrayals of friendships, family relationships, romance, etc.). A lot of times I read books and the supposed banter isn’t funny or it doesn’t read like something someone would actually say (or it’s like the Disney Channel, where maybe it’s a “witty” thing to say, but the character just comes across as kind of mean). In Love à la Mode, the characters really are just funny and kind (and, sometimes, insecure, over-the-top, grumpy, and whatever else makes us funny.) Honestly, this is the first book I’ve read in a long time where I actively wished that I knew this people and that would could hang out, and be friends ourselves. I also thought these characters were realistically teens, when so often it’s easy to imagine the protagonists of YA novels as being in their twenties.
There was also a reasonable amount of conflict and struggles in the book. Strohm does an excellent job of inserting realistic obstacles: a character’s struggle with meeting his parents’ academic expectations, a character’s struggle dealing with the pressure of being at this elite culinary school, a character’s semi-unjustified but kind of understandable jealousy of another guy. There’s tension in the book, but it’s not over-the-top for the sake of drama; the events are things I can believe would happen to any teen everywhere. Maybe I read too much YA fantasy where the entire world is in danger, but this is kind of refreshing.
There’s also a clear love and knowledge of food in the book, and there’s representation of a wide variety: both cooking and baking, simple foods and more artisanal foods, foods from different cultures, etc. If you like food or like watching cooking or baking shows, there’s something for you here.
Love à la Mode is going to be one of the last books I read in 2018, and it’s a great way to end the year. It will likely appear on some of my lists of favorites in the future.