100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen (2016)
YA Fiction | Teen | Contemporary
“Get well soon isn’t going to cut it in this quirky and poignant debut novel about a girl, her depression, an aggressive amount of baked goods, and the struggle to simply stay afloat in an unpredictable, bittersweet life.
There are only three things that can get seventeen-year-old Molly Byrne out of bed these days: her job at FishTopia, the promise of endless episodes of Golden Girls, and some delicious lo mien. You see, for the past two years, Molly’s been struggling with something more than your usual teenage angst. Her shrink, Dr. Brooks isn’t helping much, and neither is her mom who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure Molly of her depression—as if cake can magically make her rejoin the swim team, get along with her promiscuous sister, or care about the SATs.
Um, no. Never going to happen.
But Molly plays along, stomaching her mother’s failed culinary experiments, because, whatever—as long as it makes someone happy, right? Besides, as far as Molly’s concerned, hanging out with Alex at the rundown exotic fish store makes life tolerable enough. Even if he does ask her out every…single…day. But—sarcastic drum roll, please—nothing can stay the same forever. When Molly finds out FishTopia is turning into a bleak country diner, her whole life seems to fall apart at once. Soon she has to figure out what—if anything—is worth fighting for.”
Expected Publication Date: May 17, 2016
pooled ink Review:
Ohhh I loved it!
For a person who has on multiple occasions claimed to not be an exact fan of contemporary genre books I sure seem to have been reading a lot of them lately, no? Maybe I’m just in a place in my life where I need more reality and less fantasy…
Ah well, who cares? If it’s an awesome book and an interesting story then I’m down! And this book was great – a good balance of real life and tailored fiction. Were there moments where I almost wanted to roll my eyes? Yes, but weirdly enough I found myself to be far more understanding about it all than I know I would have been if I had read this book in high school.
This book does a good job of showing how depression isn’t some steady monotonous routine but rather it has its good days and its bad days. Some days you laugh and feel up to getting ice cream in the summer sunshine with a friend and other days you find yourself utterly incapable of leaving the confines of your bed, even to turn off the blaring alarm clock. You know you should smile, you know it won’t kill you to get up and go outside, and yet you simply can’t. That is depression. Everything in life is made up of choices but depression itself is not a choice. You don’t choose to feel terrible. And when you’re suffering from depression you also can’t just choose to be a happy go-lucky gal and simply embrace the world. But while depression is a legit condition it’s not a crutch or an excuse to choose not to at least try. I have high hopes for Dr. Frankel and I really hope Molly chooses to continue with her.
But it’s not like I want to be this way – the heaviest 120-pound girl in the entire state of Florida. -Molly
The concept of one-hundred days of cake is perfect. It was both symbolic and literal, and it served as far more than just cake. The cakes helped structure the book, it helped add perspective, and it helped link and reveal the characters.
Another part of this book that I truly loved was how it showed how a person suffering from depression affects those around them. Molly may be the one with the label but we see how it also impacts her friends and family. It’s a weirdly complicated thing to figure out actually. Because it is her fault but it’s also completely not her fault. A lot of character work went into this book and it was excellent. Each character felt so real and believable, complete with their own highs and lows.
I completely adore Alex, I connected to Molly, Elle is fun but crazy, Molly’s mom is awesome, Veronica is complicated, and they’re all just beautifully human characters. They all freak out, misunderstand, understand, console, love, laugh, cry, rage, and try. Dr. B I’m not a fan of as a person but I liked him as a character. I appreciate how the author added this uncomfortable element into the story but without simply tearing into him as the devil incarnate. Like I said, Goldhagen has a gift for character writing. Dr. B made some seriously critical errors for which I would not quickly forgive nor will ever overlook, but at the same time making a mistake doesn’t make that person evil. And he did do the responsible thing afterwards. So yes, he messed up. BIG time. But that mistake isn’t all he is. Just like Molly’s dad’s finalizing choice doesn’t define who he was.
So I don’t normally enjoy reading contemporary fiction I think because the characters never seem quite real to me. Or maybe I’m just weird. But even though Molly was an emotional rollercoaster over the course of the book she was always aware of that. Well, sometimes she really was just a dramatic teenager. But other times we got to see how much she struggled with her depression and just how desperately she wanted to be a smiley beauty with no problems and her whole life planned out and going peachy keen. And while it’s not like her depression magically disappears by the end of the book she does conclude the story by making some new and different choices. Honestly, with Dr. B out of the picture and replaced with the truth and her family and best friends topped with (hopefully) the continuation of Dr. Frankel makes me literally so excited for Molly.
Perhaps I devoured this book so quickly because I in some ways identified with Molly. I’m not saying I’m depressed or anything but I totally get the good days/bad days cycle and I also completely understand the whole self-blame thing. You worry too much about what other people will think or say and you’re so afraid to let anyone down and if anything goes wrong it’s completely your fault. Even if no one blames you, you somehow blame yourself.
I get not wanting to face the day. I get not wanting things to change. I get not wanting to put myself out there because the world might smack you in the face. I get that life is made up of choices and some days it’ll be easier to choose than others. So yeah, I guess I found myself relating to Molly a little. But I don’t want people to read this book and start self-diagnosing themselves. I do truly hope however that people will read this and perhaps learn a little bit more about depression and how it can affect both the person and those around them.
The plot was good and I really enjoyed reading the story but what really spoke to me were the characters. Gosh I’ve probably mentioned that a billion times already. Also, the TV show Golden Girls is mentioned at least once just about every chapter and that is 1200% awesome. So is this book perfect? Perhaps not, but I’d still recommend it. I loved the journey it took me on and I hope others will feel the same way.
100 Days of Cake is a dark chocolate spice cake of emotions topped with a tangy complicated meringue and a sprinkle of golden nuts. A confectionery ensemble of teenagers, a battle with depression, a cruelly hot Florida summer, and the love that waits beyond the fog, Goldhagen’s novel will challenge and strengthen your heart in this world.
P.S. I TOTALLY understand Molly’s issues with art and how pretentious art students can seriously be. I majored in Theatre in college and while most of them weren’t quite as eye-roll inducing as the art kids I used to be surrounded by they could still get me to feel stupid.
Purchase here: 100 Days of Cake
Meet Shari Goldhagen!
After serious pursuits of literature at Northwestern (BSJ) and Ohio State (MFA), Shari Goldhagen discovered she had a knack for sifting through celebrity trash and worked as a gossip writer for publications including The National Enquirer, Us Weekly, and Life & Style Weekly. And her articles on pop culture, travel and relationships have appeared everywhere from Cosmopolitan to Penthouse. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and MacDowell and currently lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.