Elaine Hamilton is a wallflower. She’s shy, awkward, and desperately doesn’t want to go to her mother’s alma matar Dartmouth. What she does want is to quietly perfect every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, attend Smith College, and eventually study at the Cordon Bleu in Paris — just like her hero Julia Child. A lofty set of ambitions to say the least, but Elaine’s mother, a consummate feminist and politician, thinks Elaine is absurd for wanting to “stay at home and slave over a burner.” Undeterred, Elaine continues to churn out mouthwatering and complex dishes on a daily basis for her parents and five rambunctious brothers.
Until Elaine meets the notorious Lucida Sans (yes, like the font) her only real excitement stemmed from writing unsent letters to Julia documenting her cooking missteps and accomplishments, and marketing trips to local specialty food stores for Parail de Brebis and glacéed fruit. But where Lucida goes, drama and mayhem inevitably follow. Soon Elaine has more adventure in her life than she can possibly handle, including rescuing her eclectic friend from the treacherous clutches of a gorgeous bully, and undertaking the task of auditioning for a televised cooking show.
Coming out of her comfort zone does wonders for Elaine and this charming young adult novel culminates in a very whirlwind and whimsical way that I found quite satisfying. I absolutely loved the detailed cooking scenes throughout the book. Admittedly, it did take me a few chapters to warm up to Elaine’s verbose manner but eventually I found myself heartily rooting for her to stand up to her overbearing mother, break out of her shell, and succeed at her culinary dreams.
Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser will be released on October 14, 2008.