The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Reviewed by Lotte:

This was the story of a young girl who discovers she can taste emotions in food, right down to where and the situation in which the food was made. From here the story shares her struggles with this, the secrets she stumbles across and then the unfolding of other family members potentially having gifts too.

This book contained so much promise with an excellent premise, but I felt it was poorly executed. For a start it felt like multiple books crammed into one, as if the author had many ideas so tried to incorporate them all, which only left it feeling like it was all half done.

So firstly, we read of Rose’s gift and although there were reactions to her struggles and refusal to eat certain food, there was even more left unsaid. Characters picked up on it in different ways but seemingly lost interest and left her to it. And that’s without mentioning the implications of said ‘gift’. This just felt unbelievable for me, given Rose’s age.

Bender then sets out multiple avenues that the story could follow throughout the book with none of them coming to fruition. The initial way was a way in which Rose’s gift could be used for good with a friend and how that then twisted into dependency. This is where I thought the story was heading and I was excited by that prospect. But it was not to be. Then it looked like she might use it to unearth secrets like when she discovered her mum’s additional activities. This seemed like an unnecessary part of the story as nothing came of it. It only added to the lack of believability.

Then the story twisted to the brother’s problem which just seemed weird and disconnected from the theme…he became an inanimate object, a chair. Seriously? I did not understand this at all! We begin to learn of perhaps a family trait – we know of Rose and her brother, then we find out about her Grandfather and potentially her father. Again, I thought this was finally where we were heading. But it turns out the Dad refuses to work out what his gift might be, he only shares a small amount about the grandfather and nothing really of the brother.

Eventually Rose finds a path for her life and a potential career but we’re now at the end of the book and so following the same theme, this aspect is unexplored too.

This book was about everything and nothing. This particular lemon cake was indeed sad.

Author: Aimee Bender
Publisher: Windmill Books
Release date: 1 September 2011

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