Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau, 356 pp, RL Middle Grade

 Bloom 
Review Copy from FirstSecond Books
With subtly and care, Panetta and Ganucheau have channeled that time in life when you aren't a kid and you aren't an adult and everything is confusing and frustrating and impossible with the creation of main character Ari Kyrkos. Recent high school graduate and son of Greek bakery owners in a small coastal town in Maryland, Ari plans to move with friends to the city and find gigs for their band. But he has to find someone to take his job at the bakery first. Back in town to deal with his recently deceased grandmother's house, Hector, who just finished his first year of culinary arts school, is missing his friends in Birmingham. He copes by baking traditional Samoan treats.
When Hector applies for the bakery job, it seems like Ari can finally pursue his dreams and get away from the bakery he hates. But, things with his friends and bandmates aren't quite as solid as he imagined, and, as he trains Hector in the family recipes, he almost enjoys his work in the bakery again. Very slowly, a romance blooms between Hector and Ari, with Ari acting like a petulant, jealous child when Hector's friends visit, or when Hector makes a visit back to Birmingham. As Ari finally begins to accept the status of his friendships with old high school friends and trust in Hector, he grows into himself. Until a tragedy hits the bakery. How Ari copes with this, over time, shows growth of character and maturing that is so rewarding to see in a work of fiction, and so valuable for young readers. Ganucheau's illustrations are fantastic. Her palette of cool blues captures the coastal town in winter and summer and her two page spreads depicting baking are fantastic. Back matter includes recipes and bonus art.
It's not easy figuring out how to be an adult, and Bloom gives readers a  valuable glimpse into those struggles.

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