The Cupcake Queen

Posted on Jun 7, 2016 in BR Library

9780142416686By Heather Hepler
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Pages: 256
Age Range: 12 Years

A confection of a novel, combining big city sophistication with small town charm.

When her mother moves them from the city to a small town to open up a cupcake bakery, Penny’s life isn’t what she expected. Her father has stayed behind, and Mom isn’t talking about what the future holds for their family. And then there’s Charity, the girl who plays mean pranks almost daily. There are also bright spots in Hog’s Hollow-like Tally, an expert in Rock Paper Scissors, and Marcus, the boy who is always running on the beach. But just when it looks as though Penny is settling in, her parents ask her to make a choice that will turn everything upside down again. A sweet novel about love, creativity, and accepting life’s unexpected turns.


“What begins as a formulaic novel about Penny, a 13-year-old girl who’s uprooted from Manhattan to the podunk town of Hog’s Hollow (population 5,134) after her parents’ separation, quietly evolves into an endearing and poignant story about standing up to adversity and finding peace in what is, rather than holding out for what could be. Penny’s friendship with Tally, an outspoken free spirit and proud founder of the cheeky RPS Society (as in rock, paper, scissors), boosts Penny’s confidence (she’s being picked on by the popular clique at school) and teaches her that getting used to new surroundings takes effort—as well as a propped-up sense of humor. Penny’s burgeoning bond with Marcus, a cute boy with a troubled past and a shared propensity for working through problems while stargazing during moonlit walks on the beach, lends a touch of romance while remaining refreshingly true to age—Hepler (coauthor of Jars of Glass, among others) favors linked pinky fingers over sloppy kisses. And the trio’s various relationships with fill-in adults (Penny’s grandmother, Tally’s aunt) as confidantes is a welcome ingredient that makes for layered teen reading.”
Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
Publishers Weekly

“Jaded Manhattan eighth grader Penny is bemused when she is whisked away from her dad to spend the summer in her mom’s tiny hometown. Things go from bad to worse when Mom decides to stay in Hog’s Hollow, open a cupcake bakery and enroll Penny at the local high school. Penny’s sardonic first-person narration is sophisticated, but at heart she is still just a 13-year-old casualty of her parents’ unraveling marriage and their inability to communicate with each other or with her. When she finds herself targeted for elaborate pranks by the local queen bee, she must dig deep to survive her freshman year. Much is familiar here: The characters are drawn with broad strokes-mysterious love interest, quirky best friend, evil nemesis-and the plot device by which the popular crowd is tricked into gaining weight will ring bells with readers who have seen Mean Girls. But Hepler’s novel is greater than the sum of its parts, held together by Penny’s genuine voice and emotions. Readers will root for Penny, a talented artist, as she develops her gifts and adapts to small-town life.”
(Fiction. 11-14)
Kirkus Reviews