Cupcake -- Rachel Cohn
Cyd Charisse describes what she's up to in Cupcake:
Proving miracles do indeed happen, I'd passed through the first stage of the Plan for the new life by graduating high school. (Pause for moment of shock and a giant sigh of relief from my parents.) That mission accomplished, my Plan laid out that I would then celebrate liberation from my parents' college dreams for me by (1) moving into the empty bedroom in my half brother Danny's apartment in Greenwich Village (done); (2) possibly enrolling in some culinary school classes (working up to it), where I'd definitely win all the important awards like Student with Most Potential to Perfect the Art of the Peanut Butter Cookie, or the coveted So Culinarily (shut up, it is too a word) Blessed She Can Jump Right into Building Her Own Sweets Empire After Only One Class; and (3) the linchpin of the whole Plan--I would not obsess over turning down the marriage proposal from Shrimp, the love of my former high school life, so he could move to New Zealand like he wanted and I could move to Manhattan like I wanted (not there yet with achieving the non-obsessive part of the goal).
Yes. Our Cyd is finally living in New York City, doing her usual Cyd thing: drinking coffee, hanging up on her mother, skipping class, going to Central Park and ogling* hotties, finding work as a barista, drinking more coffee and angsting about Shrimp.
But it isn't all just the same-old-same-old: she breaks her leg and scores a date with an EMT, befriends the middle-aged crankster downstairs, reconnects with Luis (her extremely easy on the eyes driver from Gingerbread), angsts about her brother Danny's ill-advised dumping of his long-term boyfriend, spends more time with her bio-dad and her half-sister lisBETH, helps to improve business at the local LU_CH_ONE_TE and eats loads of cupcakes.
Everything is going pretty well (except for that whole discovering-it-isn't-always-easy-to-live-with-your-older-brother thing).
And then, of course, Shrimp shows up on her doorstep.
Of the three books, Shrimp is still my favorite. But. Even including the bit towards the end that the nit-picker side of me found a bit contrived, Cupcake is a totally enjoyable read and solid follow-up. The contrived-ness of the ending wasn't a huge deal for me -- more Cyd is more Cyd is more Cyd, and that's a good thing. Period. For me, the real strength in these books is in Cyd's narration -- her voice is sassy and likable and so-real-she's-almost-audible. That isn't to say that her voice is the only strength -- across the board, I love the other characters, old (Sugar Pie and lisBETH and Helen) and new (Johnny Mold and Max).
Recommended reading for teens who like realistic fiction that features off-beat characters, who embrace the swearing and the issues and who don't fear the punk rock. Do yourself a favor, though, and start from the beginning of the series -- the books are certainly readable as stand-alones, but are better together.
Spoiler-laced-freakout in the comments.
*I always thought that word had two os, but according to Merriam-Wesbeter, there's only one. Maybe because two os look like a pair of breasts (or a butt). My mind is a strange and frightening place.