Latest Read: The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis

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The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis
Publication date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Delcorte Books for Young Readers
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from library

Summary: Olivia loves her life in Silverlake, Los Angeles, but lately, something’s been missing. And after getting this strange advice, her world begins to change. A new job leads Olivia to a gorgeous, mysterious boy named Theo. And as Olivia cooks the recipes from a vintage cookbook she stumbles upon, she begins to wonder if the mother she’s never known might be the secret ingredient she’s been lacking. But sometimes the things we search for are the things we’ve had all along. (Adapted
My thoughts…
The good: After reading The Secret Ingredient, I wanted to go into my kitchen and whip up a delicious meal from scratch. Which is sort of what I ended up doing. Except I followed a recipe because goodness knows, I am no good at just winging it. But even though I need to follow a recipe and it takes me forever to cook most meals, I love it. So I appreciated Olivia's love and talent for cooking. There is something relaxing about chopping vegetables methodically (strangely enough, onions are my favorite!) and of course, gratifying when your meal comes out perfect.

Olivia is content with her life. She has two wonderful loving fathers, a brother she has a good relationship with (even when he gets into trouble), an awesome best friend and a talent for cooking (she gets to cook at her dad's restaurant once a week). But lately, she feels like something is missing and starts to make some changes. She gets a job. She reconnects with Theo, a boy she once almost had a thing with. She finds a vintage cookbook that gives her ideas for new recipes but also has a story of its own. But most importantly of all, she decides to search for her birth mother.

While the cooking aspect was definitely my favorite part of the book, I thought Olivia was a nice protagonist too. At first it was easy to just assume she's timid and somewhat of a pushover but as she has new experiences, you can see her confidence growing. I liked watching her take control of her life but most of all doing what was best for her.

(Some) reservations: It's possible the book is meant to be on the lighter side but with all the interesting characters and the emotional plots (searching for your birth mom? first serious romance?), I expected a lot more depth. There are some pretty major events in Olivia's life and it was like, they happened and.. then ok done. I wanted to know her emotions. I wanted to connect with her more. Some things just felt unrealistic at times. Like as her relationship with Theo deepens, she has this conversation with her dad that just didn't ring true to me. Or Olivia's dislike of technology. To each their own but sometimes her opinion came across as a lecture.

Do I recommend?: It's a short book and a very fast read so if you love cooking and want something light to pass a couple hours with, this might be for you.

Happy reading!


  1. I'm intrigued enough to read it just on the food aspects of the book, also the romance part...but will leave my expectations a little lower because of the reservations you had with it. I think this would bother me too, but I still want to read it because it sounds good. Great review, Rachel!

  2. I do love that there's a cooking aspect to this book! And Olivia does sound like a great protagonist. Her story seems like a pretty good contemporary story overall, and I'm very curious about this book.


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