Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes. The only person she can turn to is her best friend Sarah, who gets out of scrapes at school and is a constant source of advice and companionship. One day Liv discovers a book of recipes written in her mum’s handwriting, which sets her off on a journey towards self-discovery and reconciliation – but a theft, a love rivalry and a school bully are just some of the many obstacles on the way.
Structured around real cake recipes, Caramel Hearts is a coming-of-age novel about love, disappointment and hope, and discovering the true value of friends and family, no matter how dysfunctional they are.
This is the wonderful E.R. Murray’s second book and this is aimed at young adults (and older adults like me). Her first book The Book of Learning, Nine Lives Trilogy Part 1 is a fantasy novel for middle grade readers – to read my review of The Book of Learning click here. I’m hooked on her writing since reading it and I eagerly awaited the publication of her next book! From twitter chats with the author herself I found out that Caramel hearts was based around the effects of addiction on Liv Bloom and her family. The book intro on Twitter gave me more insight into the soon-to-be-released book and I was intrigued, to watch it click here). I myself come from a family affected by addiction and I was even more excited to get my hands on a copy of the book, but I also felt slightly nervous. What if it dragged up old painful memories? What if it was too real?
I needn’t have worried about that at all. The heart of the story is not about addiction, it’s about the relationship between two sisters coping with life’s struggles. While Liv’s mother is in the alcoholic recovery centre seeking help, her older sister Harriet/ Hatty must return from college and assume the mother-role. Both sisters are struggling in their own ways and while Liv struggles outwardly getting into various scrapes, Hatty has her own struggles trying to cope with her college work while being away from all her college friends. Being the eldest in the family, I identified more strongly with Hatty than the main character Liv. The arguments between the two sisters were very similar to fights and disagreements I’ve had with my younger siblings. I’m well-known for not crying very easily but I shed a few tears at several points while reading this. There were moments when I felt like the scenes in the book had come from my own head, which felt strange but nice. I wish I had been able to read this book when I was younger; I may not have felt as alone or had half as many fights with my own sister!
I loved every minute of this book and it holds a very special place in my (Caramel) heart. I settled down to read it one Saturday afternoon and only put it down to eat, I finished it the same night! I was desperate to see what became of Liv and her family and friends. I won’t spoil the ending but suffice to say I think it ended just right – on a hopeful and realistic note. The darker parts of the book are lightened by the gorgeous book cover and the recipes that Liv begins to make. The delicious goodies bring her and the other characters closer at various points. The recipes give an insight into her mother’s character – reminding us (and Liv) that there is more to her than just her addiction. The recipes sprinkled among the pages inspired even a non-baker like me to get into the kitchen and attempt to make something! I made the Rocky Road yesterday and it looks a bit rough and ready, but trust me it’s delicious! The ingredients for the fudge are in the cupboard for next weekend! 😉 I’d encourage anyone to read E.R. Murray’s books, they are full of heart and lively characters! Caramel Hearts will make you laugh , cry and want to eat lots of sweet things!