At least the cake on the cover looks delicious in this Aimee Bender novel. I've never had lemon cake before and really I want nothing more than to have some right now. But that's only one of two things I actually liked about this novel.
I picked up The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake because it was recently named an Alex Award winner, meaning that it's an adult book young adults will enjoy. I can definitely understand why young adults may like this read. One, the cover is awesome and we all know we judge books on their covers, don't deny it. Two, it's full of teen angst. Three, it's got that young adult experimental-type quotation marks are for wusses form that frustrates me to no end.
Basically we follow Rose from when she's 8 years old and realizes she can taste the feelings of the people who make her food. That's the second of two things I actually liked about the book. The premise seemed original and I was intrigued as to what Bender would do with the story.
But she does nothing, because the remaining 46 chapters are completely generic. It's just a bland story of a family with a stereotypically depressed mother unhappy with her marriage, but with a questionable love for her son that would give Freud plenty to write about. Meh. And really, there's no excuse for not using quotation marks in this novel. If there's a reason for it, like in Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, it's appropriate (more on that later, that book is on the 1001 Children's Books list). But when it looks like it's just to make the book more artsy, it's annoying.
If the novel wasn't so heavily focused on the family, there's a chance it could have been more interesting. If you want a good story about food, pick up Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France, instead. It's far more interesting and entertaining than this piece.