ARC Review: The Cilantro in Apple Pie by Kimberley Nadine Knights

The Cilantro in Apple Pie by Kimberley Nadine Knights Book Review blog header

Published: May 5th, 2016 by Ravenswood Publishing | Series: N/A | Length: 310 page | Genre: YA contemporary | Source: I received a copy to review from YA Bound Book Tours. | Possible Triggers: violence, suicide attempt, death (not suicide)

Amazon (Available w/ KU) | Book Depository | B&N | Goodreads

Summary from Goodreads:

Fragnut. Confused? Well so is everyone else at Lumiere Hall Prep when sixteen-year-old Rubie Keane rolls in from Trinidad and Tobago talking her weird lingo. Not that she minds the culture confusion; she’s determined to leave the past behind her and be overlooked—but a certain stoic blue blood is equally as determined to foil her plans.

Gil Stromeyer’s offbeat personality initially makes Rubie second-guess his sanity, but she suspects his erratic outbursts of violence mask a deeper issue in his troubled, charmed life. Despite his disturbing behavior, a gradual bond forms between the two. However, on the night of the annual Stromeyer gala, events unfold that leave Rubie stripped of her dignity and kick Gil’s already fragile world off its axis.

Both their well-kept secrets are uncovered, but Gil’s revelation proves that sometimes the best remedy for a bad case of lost identity, is a dash of comradery from an ally packed with flavor.

Reading the synopsis, The Cilantro in Apple Pie sounded like it’d be a great book for me to read. I’ve been on a huge contemporary kick lately and this seemed like the perfect choice. While I still enjoyed the book overall, there were, unfortunately, a lot of things about this book that left me annoyed and frustrated.

The first issue was that I simply had a hard time liking Gil. He’s one of the focal characters of the story, so this posed a bit of a problem for me, considering I have a hard time enjoying a book if I dislike a lot of the main characters (and one out of two main characters is a lot). I love a good broody character, but Gil was so over the top at times that I was literally rolling my eyes at him. As I got further into the book, I did find myself liking him more, but my initial distaste for his character made the beginning quite difficult to get through.

There were also a lot of things that were said throughout the novel that came across as subtly and/or vaguely sexist (or otherwise problematic) and, once I picked up on it initially, I found it incredibly hard to ignore. For example, there’s a lot of talk about how teenage girls and guys “can’t” just be platonic friends – from the main character, her family members, friends, etc. And it wasn’t just sexism. After Rubie and readers learn more about Gil’s troubled past, these descriptions of him as manic-depressive or bipolar start to appear except that they make no sense whatsoever. One such description, quoted directly from my copy of the book: “he nodded matter-of-factly and pulled at his straggly hair with both hands as if he had a bipolar disorder.” What on earth is that supposed to mean????

the cilantro in apple pie quote 2

Rubie’s character is, in my opinion, the redeeming part of this novel. I really loved her. She’s stubborn and independent, yet caring. She’s strong but struggles with opening up to other people. Basically, she was a very well-rounded, well-written character who I found to be realistic and relatable. Had it not been for her character, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this book even half as much as I did.

One other thing that I really enjoyed about The Cilantro in Apple Pie was the way in which the author incorporated elements of the culture of Trinidad and Tobago into the novel. Rubie has just immigrated to the US but you still see the language, food, etc. of Trinidad and Tobago. Obviously, I can’t speak to the authenticity or accuracy of the representation, but since the author grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, I’m not really concerned about it.

the cilantro in apple pie quote 1

While I wish I had enjoyed The Cilantro in Apple Pie more than I did, there were still redeeming things about the book that saved it from being a total letdown. If you like broody characters (really broody characters) and YA contemporary, then you might like enjoy this.

Thank you to YA Bound Book Tours for providing me with a copy to review. This has not affected my opinion of the book in any way.

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2 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Cilantro in Apple Pie by Kimberley Nadine Knights

  1. It does sound like an interesting contemporary, but I’d have a hard time getting over the sexist/problematic things that come up. That is a surefire way to turn me off a book FAST. Happy to hear that you didn’t completely hate it and found some redeeming qualities in it, though. 🙂 Great review!

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    • Yup, I agree. The book really seemed to reinforce traditional gender roles in a lot of ways and it really bothered me. I can totally understand why you and others wouldn’t want to read it. Honestly, if I had seen a review that said this before I agreed to review it, I probably would’ve passed on it, too. 😛

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