The thing about high school is it’s never easy. Ever. Anyone who’s gone past that phase will remember how we struggled with a number of things: puberty, algebra, the whole fitting in business, being cool/uncool and suffering the consequences, and the constant bickering with our parents because they can’t seem to understand us, among others. High school is rough, and Choco Chip Hips takes us back to that time–the time when we were awkward teens trying to find our place in the world– through the eyes of Jessie, an overweight girl who decides to turn her life around one summer.
Sixteen-year-old Jessie, a baking aficionado, is shy, overweight, and worries too much about what people think. But one summer, a family emergency makes her realize that life is too short to live it on autopilot. Taking her life by the reins, she embarks on a journey that involves ditching the apron for her tank top, as she hip-hop dances her way to new friendships, stronger family ties, and into her school’s most elite club.
My review of Choco Chip Hips is right under the cut! Word of warning: I will try my best to be as spoiler-free as possible but THERE MAY BE SPOILERS. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I was reading a lot of good things about this book as soon as it came out about a month or two ago, but I wasn’t able to buy it until perhaps three weeks ago (got mine on Smashwords for only $0.99!) and even then, it was only yesterday that I got to sit down and give it my undivided attention. And let me tell you, all the good praises I’ve read were right on the mark. If this book were a food item, it’d be adobo. (Yes, I am aware that it’s not a pastry, sue me . . .) Familiar like the embrace of a beloved family member, savory in its depictions, and memorable enough for you to ask for more.
The plot was simple enough to follow. Jessie (Jessica) is overweight, but she’s rather happy about it. She’s vice-president of her school’s baking club where her best friend Kim, who’s also in her weight range, is president. They’re obviously not the cool kids, because the Hoofers–the school’s dance club composed of the “hot” people–exist, and the international high school code states that if you’re 1) an athlete, 2) a hot cheerleader/dancer, or 3) a pretty face with zero fat in your body, you’re definitely in the Cool Club. But Jessie and Kim don’t really care, because they’re titleholders just like the Hoofers are. They just don’t have a tarpaulin displayed on campus, congratulating them for being three-time bake-off champions, is all.
But Jessie’s status quo gets shaken up when her dad, an overweight baking aficionado who owns The Baking Spoon, suffers a mild stroke in the middle of what should have been a festive celebration. The incident becomes a wake-up call for both of them, and father and daughter both take on the challenge to lose weight in order to live longer, healthier lives. They watch their diet, they go to the gym . . . and that’s where Jessie stumbles upon a class called Hip-Hop Jam. It piques her interest quickly, and it’s probably because her late mother’s passion for dancing also ran through her veins.
Throughout the story, Jessie takes on hurdle after hurdle, setting her eyes on goals she’d never even dreamed of reaching before the family emergency happened. When she decides to audition for the Hoofers, her world shifts completely. She loses her best friend but gains another, Dave, her childhood friend who’s hell-bent on getting her to ace her Hoofers audition. It’s an adventure-filled summer she definitely wouldn’t forget, and a read I will now always remember whenever I hear the words choco chip.
What I Loved
If there’s something I loved to bits about this story, it’s how Jessie and her father’s relationship were portrayed. I often found myself in tears reading their scenes because it was just so sweet how they related to each other. Jessie’s father became the catalyst for change in their lives, and he’d always been there for her every step of the way. To support, to encourage, to love.
The above quote I chose was taken from one of my favorite scenes. It was when Jessie had decided to quit her Hip-Hop Jam class after just one session because she felt like she wasn’t cut out for it. But he reminds her of how her own mother thought she wasn’t cut out to be a dancer, and yet she’d become a very graceful, memorable performer because she put her mind to it. Because she worked hard for it. It was such a tender moment, I could actually picture it in my head right now and I’m tearing up because man, to have a father like that. *wipes tears*
Jessie’s self-doubt is something I think everyone can relate to, overweight or not. In Choco Chip Hips, she struggled with her weight and the way she saw herself. She felt like because she didn’t look as lean or as perfect as the other people around her, she wasn’t good enough for anything. Until she decided she would be. And that’s an important theme here in this story, her decisiveness to stop being the old Jessie and work on becoming the new and improved version of herself. It works in the YA genre because it’s during that age when people have a lot of insecurities, but I also think that this theme is a universal one, in that it works for me even if I’m already waaaay beyond YA age.
Self-doubt is okay, it happens. But if you allow it to cripple you, then you’re never going to realize the potential you carry in you. For Jessie, it’s becoming a Hoofer. People mocked her aspiration and she took those words to heart, but in the end, she fashioned that hurt into something more positive. She channeled her energy into something productive, and she learned a lot about herself in the process. The journey was satisfying, to say the least, and I kid you not . . . during the audition scene as she took the stage, I was breathing through my mouth and calming myself down as though the challenge she had was mine to face as well. Gah, I was so proud of her for finding her footing and being comfortable enough in her own skin, to tell a story with her body, to dance like no one was watching.
And I just had to add this part, because reasons.
I saw this in my head. The white shoes, the shoelaces. I knew immediately what was coming afterward and I had to pause to get a drink of water because oh my g, my feels. <3 I just love it when things fall into place so nicely in a story, it’s like tying up loose ends in a very pretty bow and saying “Here’s a present for reading through to the end.”
Overall rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Plus points for: 1) Making feel hungry throughout the story because of all the wonderful food descriptions. I read this story in about two hours, but I feel like if I had cash on me, I’d have put it away for a bit to find some butterscotch, pizza, and everything else mentioned in this story. So yes, another word of warning: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK ON AN EMPTY STOMACH. You will drool, hopefully not on your gadget screen.
2) Also, cute boy. He could be a little intense, but he’s still cute. Because Twin Popsies <3 Addendum: mini pan de sal
Because of this story, I wish I could: Dance again. Seriously.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Agay Llanera is a freelance writer for television and video, and a published writer of children’s books. She is a member of KUTING, a private, non-stock, non-profit organization, which aims to be the Philippines’ foremost writers’ organization for children.