cover image The Cupcake Queen

The Cupcake Queen

Heather Hepler, . . Dutton, $16.99 (242pp) ISBN 978-0-525-42157-3

What begins as a formulaic novel about Penny, a 13-year-old girl who’s uprooted from Manhattan to the podunk town of Hog’s Hollow (population 5,134) after her parents’ separation, quietly evolves into an endearing and poignant story about standing up to adversity and finding peace in what is, rather than holding out for what could be. Penny’s friendship with Tally, an outspoken free spirit and proud founder of the cheeky RPS Society (as in rock, paper, scissors), boosts Penny’s confidence (she’s being picked on by the popular clique at school) and teaches her that getting used to new surroundings takes effort—as well as a propped-up sense of humor. Penny’s burgeoning bond with Marcus, a cute boy with a troubled past and a shared propensity for working through problems while stargazing during moonlit walks on the beach, lends a touch of romance while remaining refreshingly true to age—Hepler (coauthor of Jars of Glass , among others) favors linked pinky fingers over sloppy kisses. And the trio’s various relationships with fill-in adults (Penny’s grandmother, Tally’s aunt) as confidantes is a welcome ingredient that makes for layered teen reading. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)