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The Secret Ingredient

3.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  395 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews

Dish created by Stewart Lewis

Serves: hungry readers everywhere
Prep time: 0 minutes
Total time: 1-2 sittings

Recommended equipment: quiet, a cozy spot to curl up in, tasty snacks

1 dash girl, Olivia, sixteen
2 dollops loving dads, Bell and Enrique
3 fistfuls guitar-playing older brother, Jeremy
1 pint-size British best friend, Lola
5 gallons family
Hardcover, First Edition, 241 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Press
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Ya Books June 2013
30th out of 66 books — 34 voters
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134th out of 148 books — 97 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,902)
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Nov 02, 2013 Anni rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 06, 2013 Heidi rated it really liked it
Four stars: A simple summer read about family, love and changes.

Olivia drags down the alley behind Hank, a boisterous chocolate lab. In his quest to find a pizza box, Hank inadvertently drags Olivia to the back of a secondhand bookstore. Beside the backdoor is a cardboard box full of battered books and a sign that says $.25 each. Olivia finds a vintage cookbook from the sixties that she just can't resist. Olivia at sixteen is an aspiring chef. She cooks the weekly special at her father's restaur
Mar 31, 2016 Kristen rated it it was ok
Ugh. I now know that a book can be both incredibly boring and have way too much going on at the same time.

This one had so much promise going dads, a cool British best friend, a cute boy, a search for a birth mother. What a let down. There is SO MUCH going on--like the author just threw every YA thing ever together. [spoilers] Gay dads not getting along, family restaurant going under, new job, cute boy proves untrustworthy, musician brother goes to jail, best friend's mom gets cancer, my
Julie Bradford
Mar 20, 2013 Julie Bradford rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Teens interested in cooking
I fell in love with the blurb and really wanted to love the book as much. It was a good read, but left me unsatisfied somehow. Olivia is a likable enough gal, but some of the plot details were a bit hokey to me. A psychic shows up and makes predictions, but I would have liked them wrapped up a little more at the close of the book. The plotline about the boyfriend had me turning pages; the "plot twist" with him was a bummer. The explanation at the end was a little vague.
I found the part about th
Jan 24, 2014 Audrey rated it did not like it

Dumb plot, stupid main character, cheesy. Very cheesy. And what was with her and the palm trees? She kept talking about how they were sturdy beacons. very bad book. Don't waste your time.
Karline05 Un brin de lecture
Déçue par cette romance young adult qui avait pourtant tout pour me séduite. Olivia est une héroïne atypique et attachante ; comme une bonne partie des gens qui l'entoure mais le manque d'approfondissement des situations pourtant intéressantes entraîne une lassitude et un manque d'implication du lecteur. Je ne me suis pas sentie concernée par cette histoire qui saura sûrement trouvé son public, peut-être auprès de lecteur plus jeune ( 13 ans).
Farah Jay
Sep 02, 2013 Farah Jay rated it liked it
Olivia, a 16 year old teenage girl's world is about to change. Those are such cheesy lines, but this book wasn't that cheesy. The Secret Ingredient is a short and fast contemporary read. Olivia doesn't know her birth mother, but it's this summer that she's interested in finding out who she is. When she meets a psychic in the elevator who gives her a warning, Olivia starts connecting the dots about how her choices are connected. It's summer, so there's no school. Olivia starts working at a place ...more
Nov 24, 2013 Estelle rated it really liked it
Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog

Last year, I sat curled up at a hotel pool reading You Have Seven Messages. I fell hard for Stewart Lewis’ lyrical prose. So it was with great anticipation that I started The Secret Ingredient.

I love how Lewis has created another old soul character in Olive, a master chef in her own kitchen and her dad’s restaurant before she has even graduated high school. She’s insightful and loyal, as she wades through the many unknowns in her life: who is her
Céline Meg

Olivia, seize ans et demi, est presque heureuse dans la vie. Il ne manque que trois fois rien à son bonheur. Elle a deux pères qui l'aiment et qui la soutiennent, une grande complicité avec son frère, une passion : la cuisine et une meilleure amie géniale : Lola. Pourtant, Olivia a envie de plus. Elle veut en savoir plus sur sa mère biologique et si possible, rencontrer l'amour...

Trois fois rien qui font tout est un roman léger qui se lit rapidement. Nous
Jess Gibbins
Feb 10, 2016 Jess Gibbins rated it liked it
The Secret Ingredient is a great contemporary novel in the likes of Sarah Dessen. I loved the lightness, fun, and quickness of the story. My favorite thing about this book is that the author did a great job of combining the more serious aspects of the main characters life with the lighter ones.

The story involves the main character going through hard times, falling in love, getting her first job, and just being a normal teenager. I loved reading the book because I loved how much I connected to th
Kassie Patti
Dec 05, 2014 Kassie Patti rated it liked it
This book was an easy and fast read . The idea behind the story was cute, a girl whose life takes unexpected twists and turns and changes from being shy to getting a kick. I enjoyed the fact that she had two dads, I've never read a book quite like that and I liked the point of view about gays on it. The characters were pretty well developed, they had their dreams, revelations about what's important, self discovery and family values. The only part that I kind of faltered on was the fact that I kn ...more
Savannah pluma
Apr 08, 2014 Savannah pluma rated it liked it
The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis is a book filled with drama, romance, and unexpected turns. We have our main characters Olivia, Lola, Theo, and, Jane.
According to the author its in the young adult/teen genre, and it’s a 4-8 reading level.
Olivia is a teenage girl trying to find something new this summer. She’s does an awful lot of thinking and wondering about a mother she never had. She takes on challenges and struggles to make sense of everything that happens. She seeks more and more ans
Sep 13, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014-reads
The secret ingredient of The Secret Ingredient is food porn. The narrator, a sixteen year old budding chef who is somewhat unbelievably called upon to cook in her family's restaurant, lovingly details the dishes she whips up both in the kitchen and in her imagination, dwelling languorously on descriptions of both the fresh ingredients and the warm, inviting finished products. It's a shameless bid for the Foot Network audience, and it absolutely works. It's only when you glance up from your plate ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Tiffany rated it really liked it
This book was heartwarming and lovely with the added benefit of suspense. I really enjoyed the character building and as per my usual, the main character Olivia feel to the background at some points due to my love of the other characters. I feel as if some parts of the story were rushed when they definitely should have had more time and effort put into it to help the reader feel connected and invested in the characters lives. Theo, for example, wasn't in depth enough for my liking, he was really ...more
Jul 28, 2015 Jacquelyn rated it liked it
Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

A very cute and creative story. It wasn't great but I still enjoyed reading it.
"tell me this," i say. "do you think there's some grand scheme to our lives and we just have to, like, give in to it?"

the truth about this book is that it disappointed me. there's not much more to it than that. when i saw the cover and read the synopsis, i was absolutely sure that i needed this book. i'm adopted, for all intents and purposes, and i've recently developed an affinity for cooking, so everything about this book's set up screamed for me to read it. for the first 20%, i was thinking
Oct 18, 2014 Janine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
"Well, we never said we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I just wished you hadn't acted like we were." These words gave ring to me for me to read this. The cover is awesome as well that's why I badly need to have a book like this. So, I was so surprised when my classmates gave this to me on my birthday. How cool was that? This book is very sentimental to me. I love it so I didn't waste any time to divulge myself with chocolate and read it immediately, literally!

Knowing Olivia has two dads, intrigu
Jul 13, 2013 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Olivia is a teen chef who was adopted. She loves her two dads, and actually gets to cook in her dad’s restaurant, Food. The summer before her senior year in high school she becomes curious about who her mother is and The Secret Ingredient follows Olivia as she gets a job at a casting agency, worries about her family’s financial issues, meets a psychic, and most of all finds the “something missing” in her mostly happy life.

Olivia is a great main character. She is a quiet, serious teenager who lov
Jul 02, 2013 Bookworm1858 rated it really liked it
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I feel like this is another YA contemporary about which I hadn't heard much. Luckily that tends to work in my favor as I don't enter the book with expectations, instead being prepared to just enjoy whatever comes. What I did know was that this book would feature its protagonist cooking a lot, something that really pleased me. Unfortunately I kept wanting recipes and this book did not provide any. I feel like I am encouraged
Jul 11, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
As soon as I saw that this book was for fans of Sarah Dessen, I knew I had to read it ASAP. Sarah Dessen knows how to write a good contemporary romance, and I was definitely in the mood to read one! Not to mention the main character is a girl who loves to cook. A romance that has to do with food? I'm in!

Olivia has been going through the motions of life, working at the restaurants her dads (Yes, she has two) run while going to school. The summer before her senior year though, everything changes a
Kristina (Gone Pecan)
Jun 05, 2013 Kristina (Gone Pecan) rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, arc
Review can also be found at:

Source: ARC via Random House/Delcorte

Story Breakdown:

Olivia is just a normal teen trying to make it day-to-day. Then during the summer before her senior year things hit the fan. She’s unsure of what to do to prepare for her future, still thinking about ‘What if?’ with a former potential flame, her dad’s restaurant seems to be going under, and she’s been slowing thinking more and more about her birth mother. Over the course of th
Margo Berendsen
This is a fun trip through a girl’s life in L.A. with a little bit of what we all crave from this setting: run-ins with actors (Jude Law – nice!) and a few insider peeks into movie biz, as Olivia works at a casting agency and gets to meet some, um, interesting clients. But mostly it’s a frolic through the ups and downs of family relationships, food, and budding romance all told with a great quirky voice that keeps you glued to the pages.

First line: Every day is sunny in Los Angeles, but it’s no
Michelle (In Libris Veritas)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review

The Secret Ingredient is the story of a single summer in young Olivia’s life, a summer where things start to change. Olivia is beginning to feel like she’s missing something and she’s certain it’s her birthmother. Her fathers, Bell and Enrique, are struggling to make do with their slowly failing restaurant and her brother Jeremy is kind of a dreamer. The Secret Ingredient is the perfect summer time read; it’s short, sweet, has a touch of roman
Brittany (The Book Addict's Guide)
4 stars
Initial Impressions: Thank you to Random House for sending me the ARC for The Secret Ingredient blog tour!

The Secret Ingredient was a lot more than I expected it to be. I was unreasonably a bit wary of it at first and totally dove in to the book and the mysteries (and the food!), devouring the book (no pun intended) in an afternoon. It was a quick and enjoyable read!

Review originally posted on The Book Addict's Guide: I’m really glad that I got to be a part of this blog tour because I h
Mar 13, 2013 Celeste_pewter rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I loved the strength of the family, the original main character, and the setting in this quiet contemporary.
Olivia is a sixteen year old from working class L.A. with a passion for cooking. This is the summer that she finally takes charge of her own life, and the discoveries that she makes, both about herself and her world, will really help her as she tries to create her own future.
There is so much good in this book, but it is the novel of a newish writer: he does a lot of telling, and you can

This book is actually quite good. Though sometimes I was thinking (view spoiler)

Sometimes I had no idea what the conflict(s) was/were. (view spoiler)
May 29, 2013 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-books
Olivia is a proactive girl with a passion for cooking. Currently, she has several things that are not going well. She was adopted as a baby by two loving dads, but now she is curious about her birth mother. Also, the Dads' restaurant is not making enough money to cover the mortgage. She meets a psychic who tells her this summer will be pivotal. As she works and searches for her mother she learns about life.
Her best friend, Lola, and boyfriend ,Theo, are underdeveloped characters. Lola served mer
Review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis is a young adult contemporary novel that features a protagonist on a quest of sorts to find not only herself, but the past that has waited for the day her curiosity becomes too much to handle. Wonderful in its portrayal of same sex parenting, first love, identity, and what makes us us, The Secret Ingredient is an interesting, but slightly disco
I Eat Words
Feb 25, 2013 I Eat Words rated it liked it
I liked this, but I think my expectations were too high after I read that it was compared to Sarah Dessen, Queen of Contemporary Romance. My biggest concern was that it read more of like, and then this happened, and this happened, and then this happened instead of letting us really be inside Ollie's head. While there were clever metaphors and good one-liners that compared cooking to life, there wasn't nearly enough emotional thought process for me to really connect with Ollie, and that's sad bec ...more
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STEWART LEWIS is the author of the novels Rockstarlet and Relative Stranger. He is a singer-songwriter and radio journalist who lives in New York City and western Massachusetts.
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