Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith is, perhaps, the cutest book I’ve ever read. It’s the charming YA novel about Ana Shen, a smart and sassy young girl of African-American/Chinese-American heritage, upon her graduation from junior-high school.
The book displays fourteen-year old Ana as she copes with her many issues—her younger brother, her parents, her nemesis at school. Her junior-high graduation is a near ‘disaster’. Though she has no boyfriend, Ana does have a huge crush on a boy in her class. Thankfully, she has a loyal best friend, Chelsea, to help her navigate life.
The book has a contemporary feel as it depicts, in Ana’s teacher’s words, a “‘marvelously biracial, multicultural’ family,” as they prepare for and participate in a celebration dinner. Among the likable characters are Ana’s parents, grandparents, and best friend—featuring dialogue that sounds modern and authentic. For instance, when Ana says:
“We’ve had exactly three family meals with both sides together. . . We eat out together. We have to eat out together, or else there’ll be a fight or a disaster, or the end of the world. . . . This is no longer a dinner, it’s a competition. That means you’ve made my life hell for the next’—she glances at her watch—four hours. Four hours! Holy crap, I’ve gotta go!”
Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet is a YA novel that will resonate with both older and YA readers, alike. This is a book I’d have loved to have read as a young adult. I found myself reminiscing on my own junior-high/high school graduations, and that time in my life. I think Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet will evoke pleasant memories for other readers as well. (This is a book both mothers and their daughters will empathize with and enjoy reading.)
I so enjoyed reading this book! Young adult readers will just think, This book is awesome!
A delightful little book, Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet is by an award-winning author. It’s witty, engaging; its cuteness knows no bounds.
--Yolanda A. Reid
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