Hi Virtually Readers! It’s another busy week in the life of Shar, but luckily I have a review to post.
Title: The Secret of a Heart Note
Author: Stacey Lee
Genre: YA magical realism?
Themes: Friendship, love, family, belonging, having an amazing nose.
Blurb: Mimosa, like her mother, is an aromateur. She knows to follw all the rules, including never charge for your services, press every ingredient freshly, and the quintessential never fall in love (lest your nose stops working and your skill is rendered useless.) Her job is to manufacture ‘love potions’—combinations of smells from her abundant garden that, in the right conditions, can open the mind to love. But Mim’s just started high school and when one of her teachers becomes a client, she might just get herself into more trouble than she can handle.
I loved the concept of this book. I don’t know if aromateurs were ever a thing (I doubt it, but it would be cool), but I liked the semi-magical way smell entwined with Mim’s life in the real world.
The sensory imagery in this book was amazing. I learned sooo many words for smell (edit: I have now forgotten them all, but that’s what happens when you’re a forgetful munchkin) and it was really interesting to imagine all the amazing smells that were described. Most books focus on visual imagery, but this went above and beyond with the smells. One of the points of the book was Mim learning that she is more than a nose, and I really liked the visual and audible imagery that came with that realisation.
The entire setting rocked. I could picture Mim’s jungly house, her school, the ocean and botanical gardens. That aspect of the book worked really well.
The characters were awesome. To be honest, Mim fell a little flat to me. She narrated the book, but she was a bit bland. At the same time, she was okay to read about. The love interest didn’t really wow me, to be honest. It was one of those typical shy-girl-with-no-friends-lets-white-jock-who’s-hiding-his-depths-befriend-her kind of stories, which is pretty clichéd. What I did like, though, was the characterization of the relationship between Mim and her mother. And as for secondary characters, Kali (Mim’s best friend) was my favourite.
In general though, I felt like there were too many secondary characters being developed. From the love interest’s mother, Mim’s mother, Mim’s aunt, and mean girls Melanie and Vicky, there were so many characters that the plot got a bit lost.
As for the plot, it was your typical character-gets-themselves-in-a-mess-and-must-set-things-right, which is definitely a trope, but one I don’t usually mind and haven’t seen for a while. It was partially, if not entirely, predictable, and the ending satisfied me while perpetuating the idea that once you fall in love it’s all okay, which is dumb.
In terms of diversity, having a super sensitive nose (and associated stigma) was kind of representation, and Kali the best friend was Samoan and queer. There certainly could have been more representation though.
While the prose sounded nice, I often found myself losing track of who was speaking or missing a key piece of action. It may have been just me, but having to go back and reread the last few paragraph was frustrating. I also felt like useful details, such as Mim’s grade at school, weren’t included, which made me a confused bean.
Despite a few problems, I really enjoyed this, especially all the smells.
Have you read this? (or any other Stacey Lee books-I really liked Under a Painted Sky) Do you plan to? How is your sense of smell? How do you feel about nice sounding prose versus understandable prose?