Skip to main content

The Secret Ingredient

Review

The Secret Ingredient

Although she’s an excellent chef whose delectable dishes are devoured by her family, friends and customers in her dad’s restaurant, Olivia still feels something is missing from her life. An avid cook, she knows that to create a truly mouthwatering recipe the chef must incorporate a unique final touch --- a secret ingredient. Olivia is convinced that this summer she’ll find the “secret ingredient” that is lacking in her life, an idea reinforced by a psychic she meets. Unfortunately, Olivia has other slightly more gripping issues to deal with. Her two dads are in debt and may lose the restaurant that is their livelihood. Furthermore, she starts a new job, has mixed feelings about an old love interest who turns up and tries to be supportive to her best friend whose mom recently was diagnosed with cancer. To top it off, Olivia decides that now is the time to find her birth mother.

"By developing refreshingly unique characters and a clever plot, Stewart Lewis, the author of THE SECRET INGREDIENT, created a novel that was simultaneously lighthearted and deep."

Growing up with two fathers in Los Angeles wasn’t always easy for Olivia, but she loves her dads, Bell and Enrique, dearly. She doesn’t want to hurt them but has a hunch that the mother she never met could be the thing missing from her life. Can Olivia summon the courage to search for her mother? Will she allow a boy who deceived her once to get close to her again? Will her wayward brother who landed himself in jail for driving a stolen ice-cream truck really land himself a record contract? Read THE SECRET INGREDIENT to find out!

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and read it in three somewhat lengthy sittings. Olivia, the main character, had an intriguing and dynamic personality. As she differed from the stereotypical teenage girl who dominates many books, I feel that she would appeal to many readers. In refusing to have a Facebook page or a cell phone, Olivia set herself apart from other slightly bland characters who are fully engulfed by the technology that dominates our lives. In addition, she preferred to shop at vintage boutiques as opposed to mainstream department stores. These quirks made her character seem more real.

Olivia’s interest in cooking also added an exciting element to the book as she often related the rules of cooking to daily life. As a teen who enjoys cooking for my family, I could understand her desire to create delicious meals for her loved ones in times when they needed cheering up. Olivia’s use of food as a healing, comforting or unifying device was both simple and ingenious at the same time.

By developing refreshingly unique characters and a clever plot, Stewart Lewis, the author of THE SECRET INGREDIENT, created a novel that was simultaneously lighthearted and deep. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books about food, friendship, family and growth. This book just may be the missing “secret ingredient” that your bookshelf needs.

Reviewed by Jennifer B. on June 21, 2013

The Secret Ingredient
by Stewart Lewis

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2013
  • Genres: Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385743319
  • ISBN-13: 9780385743310