With a turkey dinner under our belts, the holiday season is officially in full swing! Here in the United States, Thanksgiving dinner is widely acknowledged to be the biggest meal of the year. For those of you who love to cook and bake, the holiday season is the best time to try out scrumptious new recipes and sample your family’s classic dishes. If you love food as much as I do—creating or just savoring it–you probably have an eye for books that feature food. Young Adult fiction about food is not exactly the most popular subgenre, but there is definitely plenty of fun YA foodie fiction featuring cooking, baking, or food in general. Here are a few of my favorites.
When her older sister DiDi wins a million dollars in a cooking competition, twelve-year-old GiGi moves with her sister from their trailer park in South Carolina to an expensive community on Long Island. DiDi has raised GiGi since their mother died, and sees the influx of cash as the perfect opportunity to get GiGi a better education. GiGi has grown up following DiDi’s “Recipe for Success” to do well, but with this fresh start she creates a recipe to succeed in her new school and life on her own terms. Recipes are included throughout this charming, feel-good contemporary YA foodie fiction novel with an interesting twist.
This fun mystery-romance turns up the heat with a TV reality cooking competition. Nora has food in her blood; her father owns a famous barbecue in their home state of North Carolina. Eager to prove her own chops, Nora signs up for Taste Test, a reality competition with a $50,000 prize and a free education at a prestigious Parisian cooking school. Nora immediately clashes with Christian, the son of a celebrity chef, who sees her as nothing more than a redneck. Nora and Christian edge out the competition as the contest progresses. Plenty of people think the sparks flying between them belie a romance beneath, a chemistry that feels real for both of them. This YA foodie fiction novel will have you flipping pages fast to find out “will they or won’t they?” and enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at a reality cooking show when the cameras are off.
The daughter of two foodies, Lucy Knisley’s earliest memories are tied to food. In this fun graphic novel, Knisley explores the formative foods and meals of her childhood and adolescence. With this memoir’s bright colors and accessible art style, you’ll find yourself lost in a smorgasbord of senses. If you’re in a funk (food or fiction) Knisley’s comic will help you remember how it feels to savor something wonderful. In other words, the very definition of the memoir’s title, Relish.
This gritty and moving contemporary YA foodie fiction novel makes its hero’s passion for food visceral. Carlos Portillo leaves his family and moves from Mexico City to Washington’s breathtaking San Juan Islands following his older brother Felix’s tragic death. In his new home, Carlos takes a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant that he and Felix had always worshipped from a distance. Carlos apprentices with famed Chef Elise St Croix and falls for her daughter, Emma. If you love to cook, you will absolutely devour Adi Alsaid’s descriptions of cooking. I also loved the camaraderie in the kitchen among all the staff, from the highest ranking chefs to the busboys. For Carlos, food is a religion, and Adi Alsaid captures that perfectly. You’ll be reaching for your apron by the end of the novel.
All you have to do is picture one of the many mouthwatering Hogwarts feasts to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Rowling was well-known for the food in the Harry Potter series, every detail so vivid you could imagine it for yourself even if there is no equivalent here in the muggle world. Pick your favorite food from Potter world: a hearty bowl of porridge to start the day, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Harry Potter’s birthday cakes, and especially that restorative taste of Professor Lupin’s chocolate bar. What it comes down to is that Rowling recognizes—and celebrates—the true power of food: it’s magical.
If you are in the mood for YA holiday reads in general, check out my post The Best YA Holiday Novels.