Review: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love

Reading Hungry Hearts was a mouth-watering, delicious, and (mostly) sunny experience. It was perfect as a laid-back read to take my time with, and I ended up learning so much about the culinary traditions of many different cultures.

TITLE: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love
AUTHORS: Elsie Chapman, Caroline Tung Richmond, Sandhya Menon, S. K. Ali, Rin Chupeco, Anna-Marie McLemore, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sara Farizan, Jay Coles, Adi Alsaid, Sangu Mandanna, Phoebe North, Karuna Riazi
GENRE: Anthology, contemporary, young adult
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION: June 2019 at Simon Pulse 
RATING: ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ 


From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home. 

Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love is a YA anthology that explores all the different meanings that food can take in our lives. Refusing to conform to a single genre, the 13 short stories contained within range from fluffy romance to paranormal coming-of-age, representing cultures from all around the world through the process.

Hungry Hearts is a collection of interconnected, feel-good, multicultural — not to mention mouth-watering — short stories that brought a smile to my face as I got to know the characters and traditions of each story. This was actually my first YA standalone anthology, so I have no idea how to review this. I decided on giving you my brief thoughts on each of the stories in the collection.

“Rain” by Sangu Mandanna: A perfect introduction to the magic of Hungry Heart Row! I loved the theme of healing, as well as the gradual mending of the relationship between Anna and her father. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ½

“Kings and Queens” by Elsie Chapman: Featuring Chinese secret societies (AKA gangs)? I have to admit, I was caught off guard by this thriller-style short story, but I loved the ode to family love blended into this mixture of murder and delicious Chinese food. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“The Grand Ishq Adventure” by Sandhya Menon: A sweet, fluffy romance story that had me smiling from ear to ear. A great introduction to Sandhya Menon’s writing, especially since I have Of Curses and Kisses sitting on my loans shelf right now! ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“Sugar and Spite” by Rin Chupeco: The second person narration was really interesting to read in this one. Atmospheric and fascinating. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“Moments to Return” by Adi Alsaid: Fits a deep message about the fear of death into a few short pages, and how food can open your eyes to the beauty of the world. Puts a whole new spin on “savor the moment.” (See what I did there? Savor the moment? Like savoring food? Get it?!) ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“The Slender One” by Caroline Tung Richmond: A paranormal exploration of culture and family — how it can embarrass you, how you can run away from it, but how you always end up coming back. Loved it! ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“Gimme Some Sugar” by Jay Coles: Although a bit predictable, this story alternated between making me cry and making me smile. One of my favorites from the entire collection. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“The Missing Ingredient” by Rebecca Roanhorse: Wow. I have no idea what just happened, but if I interpreted the ending correctly, we just took a turn down Horror Lane. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

Hearts à la Carte” by Karuna Riazi: An adorable romance taking place at an halal food cart. So cute. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ½

“Bloom” by Phoebe North: Personally, this is one of my least favorite stories in the collection. The story itself was nice, but the gritty writing style and character arcs weren’t exactly my thing. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“A Bountiful Film” by S. K. Ali: I had some jaw-dropping moments reading this story in awe of the authors’ combined genius. How on earth did they coordinate this interconnected storyline?! Brilliant. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“Side Work” by Sara Farizan: I don’t have a lot of feelings about this story. I thought it was cute, what with the complex family dynamic and the restaurant drama and all, but there wasn’t really much of a central conflict. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

“Panadería ~ Pastelería” by Anna-Marie McLemore: It was lovely finally getting the POV of Lila, a shy teenager who serves as the embodiment of the magic of Hungry Heart Row throughout the anthology. The perfect story to finish off the book. ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑

I relished the chance to learn about so many different cultures through this anthology — all the stories were incredibly diverse! We have stories about Chinese secret societies, a Filipino shop with actual magic in the food, a Black teen in a cooking competition, and so much more. All in all, a definite recommend to lovers of foodie fiction. Just warning you: Have some snacks on hand while you read this book. You’re going to need it.

Abby the Christian Bookworm

Something that really sticks out to me in Hungry Hearts is the warmness and love of the community on Hungry Heart Row. Everyone is so supportive of one another, and they don’t hesitate to reach out in the form of food if they sense something’s wrong. It would be beautiful if our communities could all look like this.

This ended up being a really long review — oops. How about you? Have you read Hungry Hearts? What’s your favorite food? Chat with me in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Review: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love

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