Publisher: Alma Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: May 22nd 2016
Buy The Book: Amazon
Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes. The only person she can turn to is her best friend Sarah, who gets out of scrapes at school and is a constant source of advice and companionship. One day Liv discovers a book of recipes written in her mum’s handwriting, which sets her off on a journey towards self-discovery and reconciliation – but a theft, a love rivalry and a school bully are just some of the many obstacles on the way.
Structured around real cake recipes, Caramel Hearts is a coming-of-age novel about love, disappointment and hope, and discovering the true value of friends and family, no matter how dysfunctional they are.
Warning: this book will make you HUNGRY. Seriously, the recipes in this story sound delicious. I’m no baker, and generally I’m a disaster in any kitchen, but this book made me want to go out, grab some ingredients, and get making some sweet treats.
Caramel Hearts follows fourteen-year-old Liv as she discovers her mother’s old recipe book filled with recipes from when her mother had aspirations to open a bakery. Enjoying finding a connection to her mother that separated her from her addiction to alcohol, Liv decides to work on some of the recipes and discovers that baking is a hobby she loves.
Liv is currently being looked after by her older sister, Hatty, who has taken time out of university whilst their mother is treated for her addiction at a recovery centre. This prevents Liv from being taken in to foster care, but also means that Hatty has to try and keep up with her studies whilst single-handedly being Liv’s guardian with only her student loan to financially support them both. This puts a huge strain on Hatty and leads to high tensions between the sisters.
The sibling relationship was beautifully told in this book, and as someone who has a younger sister myself, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be in Hatty’s incredibly difficult situation. Although they care for each other, they both end up saying things they don’t really mean under the stress of everything. I felt like a lot of the time Liv didn’t fully understand Hatty’s emotions, and jumped to conclusions about her sister’s actions. I loved that the story showed this because it reminds us that Liv is a teenager and she still has so much to learn about the world, whilst also seeing a really tough side of it so far in her life. This is a book that doesn’t present its main characters as perfect, it shows their flaws and their mistakes, which gave it real raw emotion and believability.
There might be sweet treats dotted throughout this book, but Caramel Hearts doesn’t sugar coat any of the issues within its pages. I adored that this story was told in the realist possible way, with low and gritty moments for the characters. Addiction is an evil demon to do battle with, and these characters are faced with every angle of it. But what’s important is that it’s also a story of hope, and the bonds of family.
Bullying is also featured in this book, along with a little slice of first romance and heartbreak. It perfectly deals with a lot of issues that teens are faced with, and I think that readers will definitely be able to relate to at least a little of Liv’s story. I also have to mention what a great UKYA novel this is. I’m constantly talking about how much I love YA books that realistically present Britain, and this is one them.
Caramel Hearts is filled with wonderfully written characters and a plot that ticks all the boxes. It’s also a great coming-of-age novel that can be enjoyed by readers of any age. Once I picked it up, it was very hard to put down again, and I flew through it in a matter of days! I’m so glad that I got to read Liv’s story and although it broke my heart a little at times, it left me with a smile on my face.