Review by MacKenzie Sewell
Penguin Random House, April 5, 2022
368 pages, eBook, eBook ISBN 9780593506516, $23.99
Ages 12+, Grades 7+
The camera’s red light comes on.
“Hey, y’all, I’m Reese, marketing intern here at Friends of Flavor,” I say with a wave. I’m shocked that I’m even saying words. I have essentially mimicked the way my favorite Friend, Katherine, does her intro on Fuss-Free Foodie. Plus a “y’all”, because I can’t help it.
“Hey, y’all”, Benny says in a high-pitched, exaggerated Southern accent. My eyes dart to him and my jaw drops, but he just laughs and eases back into his normal voice. “I’m Benny, culinary intern. We’re stepping in today because Nia and the other Friends had to run off to tend to some very important… food… things. But don’t worry: we are total nonprofessionals with very little experience, and they left us with zero direction.”
New to Seattle from Kentucky for an internship the summer after graduation, Reese works in marketing for Ultimedia’s Friends of Flavor, a channel dedicated to cooking videos and series. Hoping to do her job diligently and earn a place in the fall internship once the summer is over, Reese wants to do anything but make waves at her new workplace. But when she gets volun-told to step in for one of the show’s stars, accompanied by culinary intern — and her only real competition for the fall position — Benny, the two of them attract too much attention for the channel to ignore. Suddenly thrust into a spotlight that she never wanted, Reese is forced to face her fear of judgment online while also contending with the industry’s sexist biases.
Things go awry when Reese’s annoyingly hot costar starts shamelessly flirting with her, and her heart starts to get away from her. While a possible romance develops, their series, Amateur Hour, continues to be the most popular on the Friends of Flavor channel. And though Reese is no stranger to negative comments online, she certainly isn’t trying to relive her high school years. A misunderstanding with an ex in freshman year cumulated in such severe insults and threats online that Reese was chased off social media, and the boy involved came off totally clean. Now on the precipice of a similar scandal magnified ten-fold, Reese finds herself wondering if this genuinely kind boy — and her own happiness — are worth it.
Kaitlyn Hill’s debut novel Love From Scratch captures romance under stardom while confronting the rampant sexism in the workforce. She accurately describes, using Reese’s colourful narration, what it is to be a working woman in love — especially when both work and romance are posted online for any person to see. Hill creates an interesting backdrop for the romance, a channel reminiscent of Buzzfeed’s Tasty, where the protagonist’s desires and fears inevitably collide. As Hill tackles the subject of sexism in the industry, she sets up the reader with a number of infuriating events. The sleazy CEO of the company ogles Reese at a company party, only to ignore her once the conversation turns to work. She watches Benny get nothing but praise on their videos while she gets called a myriad of names online; her mansplaining boss keeps reminding her to smile and be cheerful. Finally, Reese is left wondering if her efforts to win the internship are even worthwhile when Benny is offered his own spin-off, and she’s left in his dust. Though we know that it is unlikely for Reese to realistically change the minds of everyone who has ever wronged her, Hill still manages to give the reader a satisfying payoff that doesn’t violate the realism of the setting.
Love From Scratch is an easy-to-read, easy-to-love romance full of Southern charm and mouth-watering descriptions. Appropriate reading for ages 12+, Hill provides a valuable perspective for new adults entering the workforce.
MacKenzie Sewell lives in Coquitlam, BC with her girlfriend and their two cats. Somewhere in between studying creative writing at UBC and working as a barista, MacKenzie loves to read — novels, cereal boxes, you name it.