bloom

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: First Second publishes great graphic novels. I consistently adore their titles (Check, Please! Shattered Warrior! The Prince and the Dressmaker!), so it’s no surprise that I was looking forward to Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau’s Bloom as soon as I heard about it. Umm, also, it ticks several of my “favorite things” boxes?? A of all, it’s a book about cute boys working in a bakery, and B of all, it is a sweet LGBTQ+ romance with lots of heart. Oh gosh, I loved it a lot.

bloom by kevin panetta and savanna ganucheau cover
Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band—if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Writer Kevin Panetta and artist Savanna Ganucheau concoct a delicious recipe of intricately illustrated baking scenes and blushing young love, in which the choices we make can have terrible consequences, but the people who love us can help us grow.

Ari has just finished high school and is looking forward to moving to the big city with his band. Meanwhile, he’s trying to manage his family’s expectation that he’ll keep working at the family bakery. To assuage his guilt, he settles on the idea of hiring a replacement for himself, and that’s how he meets Hector Gallea, in town from Birmingham to close up his grandmother’s house. Hector’s steady presence and love of baking draws Ari in bit by bit… but will it be enough to keep him in tiny East Beach, or will his big city dreams take precedence? Ari will find out this and more over one fateful Maryland summer…  

You know how there are stories that just feel like food for the soul? They may make you cry a little, but they mostly fill you up with that bubbly, content feeling of that-was-just-what-I-needed? Bloom is one of those stories. Panetta and Ganucheau have collaborated to create a beautiful book, and luckily it’s a *good* one too.

Things I liked (get ready, there are many): Ari’s family is part of the story. Young adult and children’s lit gets dinged a lot for having absent parents to build plot, so it’s absolutely wonderful to see whole family and realistic parent-kid relationships in books. Conflict in Bloom builds out of differing expectations for Ari’s future: his dad wants him to help out in the struggling family bakery, and he wants to follow his friends out into the unknown. To add to that, Ari’s family is solidly working class, and not sure if their business will survive. There’s no college-bound future here, and I can’t think of the last YA book I read that included a family like Ari’s, where economic uncertainty is part of the story.

I also really loved how Ari’s relationship with his high school/band friends played out. It was authentic in a little-tough-to-watch kind of way. Those moments when you realize you’ve outgrown your friends, or they’ve outgrown you, or maybe you were never really friends to begin with? Super poignant. The title of the book really points out what’s happening here: not only a sweet love story, but a real growing up and turning your face to the sunshine kind of maturing. And it’s illustrated to match! I adored that certain panels (no spoilers!) had flowers creeping over the edges.

Speaking of illustration, Ganucheau really hit it out of the park. I mean, gosh, it’s a gorgeous book. And the two-toned illustrations in shades of teal really worked in a way I wasn’t expecting. And the baking collages! *heart eyes* What can I say, I am a sucker for cute boys + baked goods.

On the note of baked goods, there’s a recipe at the end! If you can finish this book without wanting to go whip something up in the kitchen, you can safely say you have a will of iron! So it’s very convenient that there’s one just at the end, how nice and thank you v. much to the authors. Also p.s. I adored the nods to Hector’s Samoan and the Kyrkos family’s Greek backgrounds with the food they made. Ugh, I loved all of it. I think you will too.

So if you’ve ever swooned over a fictional boy throwing bags of flour over his shoulder (and I know you all have – don’t lie to me! Peeta from The Hunger Games happened, we all remember that right??), and/or just want to read an adorable slow-burn romance with lots of flirting and blushing, this is the book for you.

Recommended for: fans of Check, Please! and Heartstopper, and anyone who likes comics about finding yourself and finding your way, with a little romance baked in.

Fine print: I received an ARC of this title for review from the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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