BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

Truth about Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh on BookDragon“Well, my mama was a hairdresser, but she had this big dream that what she really wanted to be one day was a – an astronomer,” 12-year-old Galileo Galilei Barnes explains to her teacher and class on her first day at her new school. Pointing at the stellar birthmark on her forehead, she continues, “So she named me Galileo Galilei after this, um, scientist guy who I guess was really into studying stars and stuff.”

In spite of her stumbling explanation – she’s avoided all things Galileo out of annoyance that her mother couldn’t find an astronomer named Kaylee or Alyssa – she’s straight-A smart, not to mention wise beyond her years. Called GiGi for most of her life, she’s also ready to start fresh at the Hill on the Harbor Preparatory as “Leia.”

Recently arrived in Long Island from a South Carolina trailer park, GiGi lives with her older sister. Like their mother, Delta Dawn (named after the popular song) is also a hairdresser, and better known as DiDi (which, interestingly, is Hindi for ‘older sister’). The sisters have only each other; Mama passed way when GiGi was a baby and a father was “never in the picture.” For now, all the sisters have left is a collection of Mama’s unique recipes that DiDi whips up with delicious flavor and endless flair.

GiGi’s not like most of the other kids at her posh, privileged school. She hasn’t had much practice in the friends department, but her ready openness draws popular boy Trip to her side. Trip’s childhood best friend Mace is none too pleased, although her impressive, beyond-tweenage New York sophistication will eventually save GiGi more than once. As much as Mace seems to dislike GiGi, she swarms so close to DiDi that GiGi feels her sister slipping away …

With her closest relationship faltering, GiGi hopes that a birthday gift of Mama’s favorite (no-longer manufactured) Revlon Cherries in the Snow lipstick will help bridge the sisters’ growing divide: “I just knew in my heart that if we had a little bit of Mama with us, things would be better.” But that treasure hunt leads to more questions … and GiGi realizes she must finally uncover the truth for – and about – herself.

Kat Yeh’s first middle-grade novel is a rich mosaic of adolescent self-discovery (not to mention a collection of chapter-ending recipes ready to spoil young palates and clog old arteries – everything in moderation, right?!). Far beyond the usual angst-filled adolescent naval-gazing, Yeh gives active voice to multiple, relatable characters each trying to figure out who he or she is and their place in an uncertain too-soon-grown-up world. While GiGi takes center stage, Trip and Mace are not far from the spotlight, each dealing with identity issues (no spoilers here) many tweens struggle with daily. If you decide to go audible, narrator Cassandra Morris has spunk to spare, and makes these personal journeys that much more participatory.

In spite of the sweetest concoctions, Yeh avoids sugar-coating her characters’ lives, sprinkling them with very real issues of alcoholism, abandonment, bullying, and family dysfunction. Initially fluffy it might seem, but by book’s end, you’ll have had quite a substantial story to savor.

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2015

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