The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
Reasons for reading; I've liked the books Hepler has co-written with Brad Barkley; Hello, the adorable cover?!; 10 in 10 YA Chick Lit Challenge
Synopsis: "When her mother moves them from the city to a small town to open up a cupcake bakery, Penny's life isn't what she expected. Her father has stayed behind, and Mom isn't talking about what the future holds for their family. And then there's Charity, the girl who plays mean pranks almost daily. There are also bright spots in Hog's Hollow—like Tally, an expert in Rock Paper Scissors, and Marcus, the boy who is always running on the beach. But just when it looks as though Penny is settling in, her parents ask her to make a choice that will turn everything upside down again. A sweet novel about love, creativity, and accepting life's unexpected turns."
First line: "The fact that I wasn't surprised when my mother handed me the sheet pan filled with pink frosted cupcakes is possibly more disturbing than the cupcakes themselves."
My thoughts: This was a funny, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet book that isn't at all earth-shattering but is worth reading and goes quickly. My favourite parts were the descriptions of Penny's delicious and artistic cupcakes and Tally's lard-based prank on the mean girls (that one alone was worth it!). There are the usual teen girl issues/moving to a new place issues in the book - making new friends, mother-daughter relationship problems, divorcing parents, a boy... But the community of Hog's Hollow fleshes out these typical situations by being filled with artists and animal lovers along with the snotty girls and their mothers who strive to win the coveted Hog Queen title every year. It also looks at the problem of being a younger teen and not being either listened to or told what's going on, as neither of Penny's parents will be straight with her about the divorce or even where she's going to live. There's the added bonus of Penny's grandmother, as well, who tries to help but doesn't seem to be able to communicate with her former-urbanite daughter too well, either. Most of the characters, adults and kids, have suffered a recent loss (death, abandonment, or divorce) and fortunately they're able to eventually find comfort from each other and from the beachy surroundings of odd little Hog's Hollow.