[REVIEW] The Secret Ingredient

Series: N/A
Stewart Lewis
 young adult, contemporary, romance, realistic fiction, chick lit, family, LGBT, coming of age
 June 10, 2014 (first published June 11, 2013)

Olivia doesn't believe in psychics. But the summer before her senior year in high school, she meets one in an elevator.
This summer will be pivotal, the psychic warns. Please remember - all your choices are connected. 
Olivia loves her life in Silverlake, Los Angeles, but lately, something's been missing. And after getting this strange advice, her world begins to change. A new job leads her to a gorgeous, mysterious boy named Theo. And as Olivia cooks the recipes from a vintage cookbook she stumbles upon, she begins to wonder if the mother she's never known might be the secret ingredient she's been lacking. 
But sometimes the things we search for are the things we've had all along. 

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Life is not something that can be mastered by some strength training or through miraculous goal overtime. It's more like learning through experience.
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I've had this book for almost a year. It was supposed to be a gift for a friend but I ended up deciding against it thinking that she won't like it. And I think that I made the right decision...

The Secret Ingredient is about Olivia an adopted daughter of a homosexual couple who found herself believing in the things a psychic told her. Since the day of their unexpected encounter, Olivia's life made unexpected turns. She found herself stuck in a family problem which worsens each day, an unexpected reunion with an old 'friend' aka Theo (the bloodydamn blurb is lying to you!), and an odd feeling that something seems to be missing in her life - like maybe a mother or maybe something else...

The thing is The Secret Ingredient is a straightforward inspirational story. Very cliched. Full of book quotes. Problems thrown to the main character, she struggles, and eventually finds her way around things. That's just about it. Maybe what The Secret Ingredient tried to incorporate here is that's quiteunusual is the unconventional homosexual parents && the personal cookbook Olivia bought from a used bookstore.

STORYTELLING. The Secret Ingredient gives off that kind of boring vibes. I can't even remember the last time I read a book that starts with 'I am [insert name here] and I blah-blah-blah...' What is this? Some kind of cliched romance shoujo manga with a klutz heroine? OLIVIA is a strong heroine. She tries to do things on her own. She's independent. But it's quite difficult to feel for her. Instead of being the one who learns, Olivia sometimes ends up being the one who tells things to people. 

The romance is downright bad. I like how they've met before and because of certain complications, Theo has to move or suddenly disappear. But the two of them weren't really sweet. Their relationship is plain. Not something I'd cheer for. Sure they hangout - they try to catch up with each other and talk about life. There's nothing really sweet going on between the two of them. THEN there's this forced out struggle around 70% of the book.

Perhaps what's notable here is its emphasis on family. The Secret Ingredient is one of those novels that tells you that family is just about blood relations. Olivia's relationship with her family - even though both she and her brother were adopted - was really beautiful. They're always there for each other, help each other when a problem happens, and while both Olivia and her brother were adopted, they love their parents like they were their real ones.

Olivia's search for her mother is perhaps another interesting part of the story. This is where the psychic's words are given emphasis - all your choices are connected. While Olivia was given a clue at how great things will go for her, she did take the initiative to do something for all of it to happen - her choices ultimately what made everything happen - her relationship with Theo, their family problem, and finding her mother.

OVERALL, The Secret Ingredient is a straightforward inspirational story about family and truly loving and realizing the importance of the people around you. While Olivia is not a very engaging heroine and the romance quite bland, it's packed with life lessons that will remind you of all the things you already know by heart but always set aside :) It's a nice quick read but not if you're looking for something that you'll add to your fave list.

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What I Like: (1) its inspirational nature, (2) the food talk (really fancy right there), (3) book quotes!, (4) Olivia's reunion with her mother, (5) how Olivia's family solve things together

What I Didn’t Like: (1) the boring storytelling (how it as written), (2) the romance (oh seriously you call that romance? I'd say they look more like best friends -___-), (3) Olivia isn't a very engaging heroine

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