This book was an absolute delight and I’m very happy to give it four (and a half!) stars. Isa said a while back that she enjoys books meant for a younger audience more often, because they’re original and the author doesn’t feel the need to stick to the same clichés that make most YA books the same. I 100% agree with that. I loved All Four Stars and I read it all in one sitting because I had no idea what was going to happen and I needed to know what Gladys would do next!
Gladys Gatsby is a great heroine, and I would have liked to be friends with her in school. She loves cooking, but after a crème brûlée accident she’s banned from the kitchen and from all cooking-related activities. But then Gladys gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a prestigious newspaper mistakes her for a food critic and asks her to review a New York restaurant… despite the fact that Gladys is only eleven years old! One of my favourite things about Gladys is her passion: she knows what she wants and she does her best to make it happen, no matter how impossible it might seem.
This is a Middle Grade book, so a few of the events (like Gladys being hired without anyone checking her credentials) are cartoony and implausible, but on the whole you don’t need a lot of suspension of disbelief. Gladys talks and acts like a mature eleven year old, but she’s still a kid. Her descriptions of food are at the same time mouthwatering and funny because of the metaphors she uses:
…tender duck breast swimming in a lake of tea-infused gravy, with a side of slender asparagus stalks dipping their tips in at the shore…
Gladys is also very smart. All of her secret cooking schemes were brilliant, as were her plans to go to New York. Of course no heroine could do it all without help, and luckily Gladys has several friends around. There’s Parm, the picky eater who couldn’t be more different than Gladys but is still her best friend; Sandy, the boy next door and resident computer geek
and thankfully not love interest, thank you book for not having a love interest, I love middle grade; and Charissa, who starts off as a cookie-cutter (har har) mean girl but has surprisingly more depth. I’d love another book in which Gladys and Charissa really become friends.
The adults are also several, and all different. I liked that Gladys’s parents serve as antagonists, in a sense, because they don’t want her daughter to cook. But they’re not really evil like the parents in Matilda, they’re just misguided and worried that she’ll hurt herself in the kitchen, so they are ultimately sympathetic characters. It’s nice to have a book where the goal is not to defeat evil, but just to pursue a dream. And Gladys does it on her own, but she gets a lot of support from sympathetic adults, from her aunt to her teacher to the owner of the organic grocery shop…
Overall, definitely a recommended summer read! And it seems that a sequel may be published next year, about Gladys and Charissa at summer camp, so yay for seconds!