Published by Sky Pony Press on June 5, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 256 •Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley
Seventeen-year-old Carter Lane has wanted to be a chef since she was old enough to ignore her mom's warnings to stay away from the hot stove. And now she has the chance of a lifetime: a prestigious scholarship competition in Savannah, where students compete all summer in Chopped style challenges for a full-ride to one of the best culinary schools in the country. The only impossible challenge ingredient in her basket: Reid Yamada.
After Reid, her cute but unbearably cocky opponent, goes out of his way to screw her over on day one, Carter vows revenge, and soon they're involved in a full-fledged culinary war. Just as the tension between them reaches its boiling point, Carter and Reid are forced to work together if they want to win, and Carter begins to wonder if Reid's constant presence in her brain is about more than rivalry. And if maybe her desire to smack his mouth doesn't necessarily cancel out her desire to kiss it.
*A huge thank you to NetGalley and Sky Pony Press for providing an ARC free of charge in exchange for an honest review!*
I am a HUGE fan of any sort of competition cooking show out there- Chopped, Master Chef, Holiday Baking Championship, you name it, I watch it. So my interest was definitely peaked when I came across The Art of French Kissing, which combines two of my favorite things: YA novels and cooking competitions. I’d never read a book that actually focused on a cooking competition (though I’m always on the lookout for food-centered novels) so I was extremely excited to see how this popular topic would play out in a YA contemporary romance setting.
There was a lot about The Art of French Kissing that I really enjoyed. The culinary school setting, the unique challenges the students are tasked with (some familiar like mystery box ingredients, some more creative such as only having damaged cookware to use), and the utterly mouthwatering descriptions of food. I could have read about what each of the characters was making in detail for pages upon pages, and I loved the challenges where they had to collaborate on teams and choose a menu that played to everyone’s strengths. I also appreciated the reality of what the scholarship money at the end meant- how it would really make pursuing a culinary education possible for some of them that they could never realistically pursue otherwise. It added a depth to a book covered in sweet, innocent, pastel macarons.
However, as a reader a hurdle for me while reading the novel was the protagonist, Carter. I found her incredibly hard to empathize with, as her behavior was incredibly selfish and she was constantly on edge. While I know the story was trying to pull off a hate-to-love sabotage-like romance, I found her behavior at times inexcusable given the severity of it and the risk and danger it posed to others, both physically and to their future in the culinary program. She didn’t seem to grow much emotionally by the end of the novel, and I was disappointed at her lack of grace when good fortune befell her, and don’t think she reaped realistic consequences for her actions. However the love interest, Reid, was a much more nuanced character and he seemed to grow and become more likeable as the book went on.
Overall: The Art of French Kissing was a quick, fun read that definitely kick started my appetite any time I picked it up. I loved the premise and hope to see this author continue to write food-driven YA. While the main character hindered my overall enjoyment while reading, I still loved the competition premise and seeing some of my favorite cooking competition challenges come to life on the page.