Summary (from the publisher): It’s been a year since fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins was in the car crash that killed her older sister and left her terribly scarred. The doctors tell her she was lucky to survive. Her therapist says it will take time to heal. The police reports claim there were trace amounts of alcohol in her bloodstream. But no matter how much she tries to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, Mia’s memory is spotty at best. She’s left with accusations, rumors, and guilt so powerful it could consume her.
As the rest of Mia’s family struggles with their own grief, Mia is sent to New York City to spend the summer with a grandmother she’s never met. All Mia wants to do is hide from the world, but instead she’s stuck with a summer job in the bustling kitchens of the cafe down the street. There she meets Fig–blue-haired, friendly, and vivacious–who takes Mia under her wing. As Mia gets to know Fig and her friends–including Cooper, the artistic boy who is always on Mia’s mind–she realizes that she’s not the only one with a painful past.
Over the summer, Mia begins to learn that redemption isn’t as impossible as she once thought, but her scars inside run deep and aren’t nearly so simple to heal … especially when Mia finally pieces together her memories of the night Rachel died.
We Were Beautiful by Heather Helper
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Like many readers, I hold the Scholastic Book Fair close to my heart. One of the reasons why? At one of these middle school book fairs, I found one of my most memorable first YA reads, Heather Helper’s The Cupcake Queen! That being said, I was more than excited when I had the opportunity to read Heather Helper’s latest release, We Were Beautiful.
Like The Cupcake Queen, We Were Beautiful features plenty of baking, as Mia spends her summer as a baking assistant at Brunelli’s Diner in New York City. Brunelli’s Diner may be one of my favorite new YA settings! Nonna and the rest of her Italian family were utterly charming. I loved how they welcomed Mia into the family from the very start, and as someone who very much loves cannolis, even I was a bit envious of Mia getting to learn how to make them from Nonna! From apple turners to cinnamon rolls to cream horns (don’t worry, there’s more), this book will seriously give you all the sweet cravings.
In addition to the diner, I really liked having New York City as We Were Beautiful’s backdrop. This setting really helped Mia explore life in new ways after experiencing tragedy. Although this book is very much about Mia and figuring out her self and life after the accident, I loved seeing her meet new friends and really understand that not everyone is as they seem on the outside (including herself). In and out of Brunelli’s, Fig was such a great support system and I loved the Art Attack adventures. I also really enjoyed Mia’s relationship with Cooper. The romance in this book was really refreshing, in my opinion, because it didn’t feel forced. Mia and her love interest really got to know each other as friends first and their whole relationship just felt very natural.
As mentioned, We Were Beautiful is really about Mia coming to terms with life after being in a horrific car accident. As Mia recovers more from her memory, she places more and more blame on herself. Although it takes time for her to open up to them, her friends really help Mia come to terms with her past. Mia’s grandmother also helps her in this regard, and I really liked exploring their relationship. I think grandparents in YA are often seen as really supportive and sweet characters from the start (live love Nonna), but it takes a while for both Vernoica and Mia to really talk to another. Their relationship inspires both of their character growth.
Overall, We Were Beautiful was a really enjoyable read for me. I highly recommend it for readers looking for a heartfelt read about friendship and growth (and yes, plenty of baking).
This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this book affect my thoughts and opinions.
Mini Apple Turnovers
Mia’s dessert making & baking at Brunelli’s inspired me to do some of my own! Since Mia mentions making apple turnovers, I decided to make mini apple turnovers. This was my first time ever making them- rolling out the dough was definitely a bit challenging for this amateur baker- but my family and I enjoyed them for our Easter Sunday dessert. The recipe doesn’t specify what kind of apples, but I used Granny Smith. Next time I may use a pre-made pie dough as well (me and homemade dough have a love-hate relationship when it comes to the rolling part. While the recipe calls for 2 dozen, I ended making a dozen turnovers and then used the leftover dough and apples to make a tart.
5 winners will each a win finished copy of We Were Beautiful. USA Only. Open from April 22 to May 1.
About the Author
Heather Helper is the author of several books for teens and tweens, including Frosted Kisses (Scholastic, 2015), Love? Maybe (Dial, 2012) and The Cupcake Queen (Dutton, 2009).
She loves tomato soup, fat cats, and hiking. (Not necessarily in that order.) She’s lived in East Texas, Alaska, and Death Valley. Currently she, her son, their two spoiled cats, and their ridiculously smart dog live in Downeast Maine.
Is We Were Beautiful on your TBR? Have you read anything by Heather Helper? Share in the comments!