The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE––PUBLISHED BY LITTLE, BROWN BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS

The Truth About Twinkie Pie is Kat Yeh’s debut novel and, given its delectable cover, well…who wouldn’t want to read it?! This sweet, quirky book follows brainy twelve-year-old GiGi as she adjusts to life at a new school and unravels a mystery about her family’s past.

What can Yeh’s voice-driven middle grade book teach us about the kidlit craft? Here are three things I took away from The Truth About Twinkie Pie.

1. Play with readers’ expectations.

At first glance, this book features a lot of “types.” The popular girl defending her territory and bullying the new kid. The rich, cute boy with the country-club family. The martyr-esque older sister, caring for her younger sibling no matter the cost. The fish-out-of-water protagonist––a Southern girl trying to make her way in a ritzy New Jersey prep school.

We’ve seen it before, until we haven’t. Yeh does a fantastic job of creating expectations, then surprising the reader when her characters defy them. The result is a fast-paced sprint through the last third of the book, as GiGi uncovers secrets, finds an unlikely ally, and discovers that nothing in her life is quite what it seems.

2. Sweet can still be deep.

GiGi has a down-home narrative style not unlike the protagonists of Three Times Lucky and A Snicker of Magic (pretty good company to be in––way to go, Kat Yeh!). Between GiGi’s sweet Southern voice, and a cover so sugary you literally want to eat it, I wasn’t imagining Twinkie Pie would be quite so…emotional.

Twinkie Pie is about many things at once: the definition of success, loss and grief, class issues, poverty, what it means to be a mother, coming out as gay, and food as family therapy. There’s some heavy stuff here, reminding us that kidlit need not be light and airy. Yeh manages to maintain that sweet and at times sentimental tone, without shying away from the tough stuff.

3. One unconventional element can make a big difference.

We learn about GiGi’s mother primarily through her recipe book––the only possession, GiGi’s big sister tells her, that survived a long-ago fatal fire. Tucked between chapters and playing off the book’s emotional turning points, the recipes each come with a story and a purpose.

A few examples: Turn Over a New Leaf Turnovers. Madder’n Heck Smashed Potatoes. Love at First Salad.

These recipes add an extra dimension to the novel––and this makes a huge difference. In the tradition of Like Water for Chocolate and Garden Spells, in Twinkie Pie, food is more than just food. But there’s no magical realism here, just the practical connection between a mother, a daughter, the family recipes, and the simple act of taking the ingredients life hands you and making them your own.

Want to chat about Twinkie Pie? Find me on Twitter @beckererine.

Published by Erin Becker

I'm a copywriter and editor by day and and a kidlit writer by night. In the time left over, I run, explore the mountains, and help other writers. Email me at becker.erin.e@gmail.com.

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