I haven’t had as much fun reading a novel like Cakespell since Wax by Gina Damico! This story is as sweet as it is whimsical and witty. It gave me a good chuckle at times and CAKE. There’s cake. Magical cake.
Rose Zapata, the fifteen-year-old protagonist, has so much personality and adores the 1940s aesthetic. She’s ambitious and resilient, but her tastes in music, dress, and love are old-fashioned. She is a starry-eyed charm that I enjoyed living vicariously through, making me want to bake and watch some black-and-white romance movies. And I don’t even like baking. Or romance.
Rose wants to open a bakery someday, but her mother does not approve. She expects her daughter to go to college and pursue a practical career. Arts and crafts don’t pay the bills. If you think such parental behavior is cliche at all, boy, do I have news for you.
Now, I have plenty of books ahead of me to read, but it’s nice to finally meet a character whose relationship with her mother is less than ideal, especially in regards to career choice. Rose’s mother insists that this a man’s world and baking like a housewife will get her nowhere. So, in order to put a stop to her daughter’s unprofitable passion, she prohibits her from using the kitchen.
I watch her face carefully. And her hands. In case she reaches for the steak knives.Rose Zapata
That sounds scarier than it actually is. Or maybe it was supposed to be as scary as it reads. Either way, it’s relatable.
Okay, enough of me hinting at my dysfunctional family life. Luckily, Rose’s grandfather allows her to use his kitchen in secret. Speaking of secrets, there is one in the family that Rose finds out, and it adds a little extra to her baking. It can make people fall in love—or fall out of love. Or just fall. You’ll have to read the book to know what I mean by that.
Rose has her eyes on Caleb, a cute boy from school who helps her deliver her creations. She’s determined to win his affection, even if it means having to use the power of cake. Sabrina, her best friend, is supportive and also helps, along with Alexandre, another friend of hers.
A little accident at school results in Rose baking more than ever, and it inspires a bake-off, the cherry on top of her already hectic teenage life. Between having to fulfill orders, trying to win Caleb’s heart, and worrying about her stern mother, Rose shows a determination that I couldn’t match in a million years.
Even though I loved this book, a few things made me cringe. Let’s start with witchcraft and the popular misconceptions that led me to believe they’re not just part of the worldbuilding.
Witchcraft is explained to be nothing more than the manipulation of energy to manifest a desired result. This isn’t exactly untrue, but it’s still extremely general and watered down, skimming the surface of a magical art that goes much deeper than simply influencing minor events.
That doesn’t bother me as much as comparing witchcraft to prayer, though. It really isn’t anything like prayer. To pray is to request assistance from a higher power. Witchcraft doesn’t always involve a higher power because not all witches work with gods and/or spirits, nor do all witches believe that the universe actually intervenes in our lives, let alone cares.
Meditation isn’t witchcraft, either. These things can be part of witchcraft, the tools, but they are not witchcraft by nature. Witchcraft is magic, but not all magic is witchcraft. Calling every magical practitioner a witch is not only wrong but also disrespectful toward people such as rootworkers, indigenous healers, and the Pennsylvania Dutch.
What is witchcraft, then? Well, it’s less about what you do and more about your connection with the word.
Also, Rose isn’t skinny, but her feelings about weight might make some readers uncomfortable. She’s the type of teenage girl who wants to look conventionally appealing, so I thought it should be mentioned. I mean, she learns to embrace her curves, even though it’s implied that she loses some of them, but “fat” is just not a good word in this book.
Regardless, I thought Cakespell was delightful. Rose is funny and fiery without shoving it in your face, and I LOVE what she did at the competition. I also love that she finds love. I dare say she is one of the most well-written female YA protagonists. She embraces traditional femininity, but she isn’t weak or submissive. She wants to do what she wants to do and she will do it!
4 full moons out of 5