Can I just say that I love Joan Bauer? I do. I don't remember which of her novels I read first, but once I'd found her I wanted to read everything, and did. Consequently, I was delighted to happen across her newest novel, Close to Famous at my local public library.
Twelve-year-old Foster has a dream - she wants to be the first kid with her own show on the Food Network. She also has a plan. She practices her television manner while developng and baking a variety of muffins and cupcakes. She knows that good things don't just happen, you have to work for them, so she gets herself a job with Marietta Morningstar "the muffin queen of Memphis" so she can hone her skills.
Unfortunately, Foster's mother has gotten involved with an abusive Elvis impersonator named Huck and they find themselves fleeing Memphis in the middle of the night. They wind up in the tiny town of Culpepper where they both have to start over. Nothing much seems to happen in Culpepper, but Foster refuses to let her dream die and sets about trying to figure out the best place to sell her treats. Along the way she meets Macon, who hopes to be a documentary filmmaker and Miss Charleena, an actress who was twice nominated for an Academy Award and who is afraid her time may have passed, even as she longs to make a Hollywood comeback.
Before long, Culpepper begins to feel like home. Foster and her mother begin to make friends and become a real part of the community. Foster's mom even starts to dream about coming into her own as a headlining singer and not just backup. Huck didn't take kindly to their flight, though, and they can't hide forever...
As usual, Bauer's characters ring true and find their ways into your heart. Rewarding intergenerational relationships are another strength found in just about every Bauer book and they are not missing here. A subplot about Foster's difficulties reading and how she begins to overcome that is especially noteworthy.
You'll find yourself cheering for Foster and her mother to find happiness in their new lives (and may find yourself googling a recipe fr pumpkin spice muffins with golden raisins!). I loved this novel and can't wait to see who Joan Bauer will introduce us to next!
note: Joan Bauer will receive the Chicago Tribune's Young Adult Literary Prize as part of the Printer's Row Lit Fest, June 4. As long as Tex doesn't come early, I plan to be there!