A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, by Laura Taylor Namey

Matt Shipley // Culture & Communities Editor

For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Fans of cute young-adult romance will adore this quaint story of a Cuban-American girl’s journey through trauma, love and very English weather. This book, while aimed at a slightly older YA audience, reads like a bridge between middle-grade and YA fiction, making it a perfect read for anyone making that jump. It’s a quick read — doable in an afternoon — and it comes to life when paired with a steaming mug of earl grey tea on a rainy evening.

This was a delightful foray outside of my usual world of heavier tales, more grandiose worldbuilding and weightier subject matter, and given everything that’s happening in Canada and the world right now, it was exactly what I needed. Now, looking back, I get to see what I liked and what I didn’t.

First off: this book is exactly as it seems. It’s a cute, quaint story about a girl who feels intensely un-at-home in a new place (insert past events here), and is slowly and reluctantly convinced to love it by a charming boy and his patchwork of friends. It’s warming, it’s quiet, and it’s small, but it’s also very formulaic. I love small stories, I really do, and this one came so close to hitting the mark for me.

The Good: I actually think the best parts of this story revolved around the characterization of the side cast. Jules and Flora were great additions, as was Gordon, though I wish I got to see him more on the pages. It was the ragtag group of Orion’s friends that made this story feel better than just a shallow teen romance novel, the likes of which I’ve seen so many times. It gives Lila (our MC) more reasons to love her environment than just the charm of one boy. I also like the flashes of strength that kind of hide behind Lila’s focus on her past – her excellence and determination in baking, her commitment to her running, etc. Those things give her purpose beyond her pain, and it was refreshing to read.

The Bad: As I mentioned earlier, this novel is formulaic. It’s not quite as bad as tales like Breathless or (dare I say it) Twilight, but there were very few moments in the book that gave me that refreshing “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.” The goal of a romance novel is to make the reader feel, viscerally, throughout the whole book, but I don’t remember anything causing that signature pressure on my chest until around page 170 (more than halfway through the book.) I didn’t really feel a sense of tension and forward motion, and that kind of disappointed me.

All in all, I’d call it a very decent read for enjoyers of small-time narratives. I wish more page space was given to the way Lila’s past affects her present and her future outside of just running away from it, but I think that in general, the book was well done. I liked it. I’ll never have nothing bad to say about a novel, and I’ll never have nothing good to say, either. This novel gave me a healthy dose of both, and in a way, that was refreshing as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *