Breakfast Served Anytime

261p. Candlewick. 2014. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9780763667917; ebk. $16.99. LC 2013944002.
Gr 9 Up—This earnest but patchy debut is as much a love letter to Kentucky as it is a novel about rising high school senior Gloria's transformative summer at "Geek Camp." During her four weeks on the campus of Morlan College, the temperamental and snarky teen grieves for her recently deceased grandmother, makes lifelong friends, has classes at a diner, develops a crush, and ponders her future. After graduation, should she move to New York City with her best friend to pursue acting, or should she accept a full scholarship to the University of Kentucky? The ambitious story is as overloaded as a blue-plate special, tackling racism, death, sexuality, religion, family, mountain top removal, and myriad other weighty topics. Motifs (blue butterflies and To Kill a Mockingbird, to name two) seem more inserted on top of the plot than integrated into it. Readers may find it difficult to get behind Gloria because her character fluctuates so hugely: she's immature enough to hate a stranger because he wears an odd hat but is mature enough to read Henry James and understand T. S. Eliot. However, the author's palpable affection for her state and the sweet-as-Kentucky-pie passages ("the sunlight slanting through the trees was getting soft and syrupy in that way that makes you miss things that aren't even gone yet.") guarantee that Breakfast Served Anytime will have solid regional appeal.—Chelsey Philpot, Boston University, MA
At a summer college program in Kentucky, a classroom of gifted students studying "The Secrets of the Written Word" grapples with life's big questions. Mercurial, dreamy, and verbose, protagonist Gloria narrates with intellectual enthusiasm and attention to emotional detail. Although the plot meanders, Gloria's open, genuine voice carries this debut novel to the end of a life-changing summer.

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