REPRESENTATION: Indian American protagonist and characters
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Middle Grade, Retelling, Fantasy
Honesty time, I don’t read very many Middle-Grade novels so I’m not someone who can confidently make comparisons to what else is out there, but, Midsummer’s Mayhem felt very special to me.
I picked it up because of the A Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling aspect, but I was completely won over by the warmth of the characters, especially Mimi, and the mouthwatering foodie descriptions.
I liked how accessible LaRocca made A Midsummer Night’s Dream by keeping the dual nature of the story from Shakespeare’s play. The events of the fairies are influencing Mimi’s friends and family in the real world but, because the kids are also involved in the production of the play, things can be explained without it feeling forced. It balances the play-within-a-play thing really well.
Something else LaRocca does really well and where she must really know her stuff is in the baking! I’m not an huge foodie for the most part, so I didn’t always know exactly what the flavor combinations she was describing would taste like, but I knew I’d want to try them if I got a chance. Having Mimi competing in the contest meant that the reader really gets to see her pushing herself and reflecting on which techniques and flavors work best and hold a special meaning to her as a character.
On a broader level, Midsummer’s Mayhem has lots of themes that are perfect for a MG and tie together and into the plotline beautifully: sibling rivalries, making new friends, losing old friends, competition with others and with yourself, finding your place and your ‘thing’, fitting in with others… Plus there’s kooky shopkeepers, fairies, magic, and spells gone awry.
Midsummer’s Mayhem is a beautiful story with relatable characters. It’s got warmth and charm in spoonfuls and it makes for a perfect summer read.
Eleven-year-old Mimi Mackson comes from a big Indian American family: Dad’s a renowned food writer, Mom’s a successful businesswoman, and her three older siblings all have their own respective accomplishments. It’s easy to feel invisible in such an impressive family, but Mimi’s dream of proving she’s not the least-talented member of her family seems possible when she discovers a contest at the new bakery in town. Plus, it’ll start her on the path to becoming a celebrity chef like her culinary idol, Puffy Fay.
But when Mimi’s dad returns from a business trip, he’s mysteriously lost his highly honed sense of taste. Without his help, Mimi will never be able to bake something impressive enough to propel her to gastronomic fame.
Drawn into the woods behind her house by a strangely familiar song, Mimi meets Vik, a boy who brings her to parts of the forest she’s never seen. Who knew there were banyan trees and wild boars in Massachusetts? Together they discover exotic ingredients and bake them into delectable and enchanting treats.
But as her dad acts stranger every day, and her siblings’ romantic entanglements cause trouble in their town, Mimi begins to wonder whether the ingredients she and Vik found are somehow the cause of it all. She needs to use her skills, deductive and epicurean, to uncover what’s happened. In the process, she learns that in life, as in baking, not everything is sweet. . .