I hope you’ll read this review even if contemporary young adult is not your thing… it has a diverse protagonist, dual POVs and mental health positivity… read on to learn more…
The Cilantro In Apple Pie
by Kimberley Nadine Knights
Published May 5th 2016
by Ravenswood Publishing
Rubie is a 16 year old from Trinidad and Tobago transplanted to the Boston suburbs due to her sister marrying a ginger haired American. She didn’t want to leave behind her daddy or her mother, both dealing with health issues. Determined to get through the rest of high school friendless she is foiled in her plans due to Gil, the very privileged middle son of a real estate mogul. Despite his violent outbursts they become friends and only friends. As trouble comes to find them they turn to each other to keep moving forward.
Rubie is the definition of diverse – she comes from Trinidad and Tobago, islands in the Caribbean and so does her author! I really felt like Rubie epitomized a girl that moved far away from home and brought some of her culture with her. On the other hand any reader can relate to the regular girl she is with all the same concerns being a poor high school kid at a preppy rich kid school. I liked that! It really helped demystify what it means to be a POC. Yes they speak a little different and have some wonderful traditions that set them apart but nothing Gil couldn’t overcome by simply asking Rubie what is the world she was saying and being adventurous to try new foods!
Rubie is admirable but what I liked was how well she worked with Gil… he is your classic rich white guy but in the best way possible. Instead of being a flat stereotype this guy was specifically himself and you won’t ever guess why he has problems with his dad. I loved his arc and how his friendship with Rubie helped him. Not their love affair, because if you are looking for romance it is few and far between. Their relationship starts really slow, almost mimicking the perfect romance, but clearly stopping at the friend line. It was a touch awkward because they had been their for each other and that typically means romantic love and not friends love.
Family was a major player in the book and in the most positive of ways. Violet and Daniel, Rubie’s sister and brother-in-law acted as her parents in the States and were the perfect balance of overprotective and compassionate. I adored the conversation she had with Daniel about race and how it feels to be treated so poorly due to your color. I absolutely went bonkers for her religious, life sucks chat with her lovely sister, Violet. Gil also had a champion for a mother and while she too wasn’t perfect it was clear she loved her children. We meet her only once but for a minor character I was as affected as Rubie was by the meeting.
The characters in this book is what made the world building so strong. Reed and Mason, Gil’s brothers also were a delight. Gil has his own super powerful conversations with his brothers that just blew me away and helped put into perspective grief and how it is a shared emotion. Ben, the friend who lost his father was also such a great distraction. The mini story with him and Rosie was the sum total of the romance in this book. I was okay with that. I’ve got to say that after reading this I’m not as gun-ho about romance-less stories as other women are – I personally love some romance and actually the really slow burn over a whole series works for me.
The writing was super powerful. Rubie really makes an impression on you with her narrative but then at the most perfect time we get Gil’s POV for a little bit. Wow! The language was just the best writing craft, here’s an example:
“It wasn’t forced or premeditated. It wasn’t used as a defense mechanism. It was just an authentic smile that bracketed his mouth with laugh lines and crinkled the corners of his eyes—the briefest glimpse of Northern Lights peeking out through the constant mist of rain and layers of black. His smile made you feel special for being one of the few people lucky enough to witness it.”
The end is riddled with twists and they are really so great. Unless you somehow come across spoilers (like in my book status updates) you won’t be able to guess! The two major climax events at the end also were quite well developed. The plot may feel a tad aimless in the beginning. It isn’t that the story isn’t compelling (it totally is) its just that you don’t understand where the story is headed. I LOVE that! I like a suspense filled story where the twists are perfect but the story would still stand strong without them.
The cover was totally puzzling to me. Other that the fact it feels very contemporary and friendship-y it has zero to do with this book. I actually chose to read despite the odd cover. It’s not horrid but in a world with such perfectly stunning covers this is a disappointment. The title is very cerebral which is not what I would pick but it grew on me as I thought about writing this review. You get to the part where they mention the cilantro and I was like I sort of get it…? Then I got it. The book lingers with you, it really does. I adore mental health stories and this is a positive one and rather obscure so its fun too!
BOTTOM LINE: Two friends who make you want to find the friend that is out there just for you!
The only problem I had with the book was the super long ending. At one point I was like oh we’re done and then the story kept going on and on, it was a little saggy butt. I like the end scenes a lot and they help tie things up, particularly about the friendship, but some editing could have been done to tighten. In particular the movie theater “date” was odd and contrived for these two friends. A little more thought with a better meeting of the three would have done wonders.
Thanks to YA Bound Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.