Stay Sweet, by Siobhan Vivian
Publish Date: April 14, 2018
Published by: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Fiction/Contemporary
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…
I picked this up on a whim because I decided I wanted a cute fun summer read to get me in the mood for the season. I thought this book was going to put a smile on my face, and while it did, there were some ups and downs getting there.
The story is sweet (obviously) but also poignant, with characters full of such great depth that they feel real and alive and so easy to understand in their motives. There is Amelia, who’s own self-doubts and worries about going off to college manifest in her desire to hold on tightly to the ice cream stand and all the traditions that go along with it. Her best friend, Cate, who seems outwardly confidant, but has her own fears about losing her best friend. And Grady, who comes off at first as a privileged white boy from good money, but who reveals and learns just who he is really and who he wants to be.
I loved how meaningful this story is, how it is about learning to hold onto the important things in life and what you love, while finding the ability to accept the need for change as well. I was pleasantly surprised about how strongly the friendship between Amelia and Cate played a role in the plot, and how their own personal fears about going off to college at the end of the summer affected their friendship during it. It made for such a strong narrative and worked well with the rest of the plot while also making for a strong connection with the reader.
I’ll admit the beginning had me a little worried about the characters in general – I could not understand why Amelia and the rest of the Meade Creamery girls would just assume the ice cream stand would have to close up after Molly’s death. At least go out with one last hurrah right? But as Amelia began to realize her own faults, I understood why they didn’t do this, too. I do think this character development happened a little late, and could have gradually started sooner in the story, coinciding with more hints at Molly’s own character development that juxtaposed Amelia’s. Both of those definitely appeared very late in the book, and because of that, there were points where I was getting worried that all the drama would never be resolved because it seemed to only get worse the closer I got to the end of the book.
Still, I really enjoyed reading it. It was a quick, fun read, that had me smiling and emotional, completely engaged in the characters and story, and left me feeling happy and satisfied. I love that there was conflict and worry and a cute romance, but that most of all it was about friendship and knowing what to hold onto and when to let go.