The Secret of a Heart Note
As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of using her extraordinary sense of smell to mix base notes, top notes, and heart notes into elixirs that help others fall in love—all while remaining incurably alone.
The rules are clear: Falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mim doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of having a normal high school existence, including a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman, Mim has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation. As she races to set the lovers straight, Mim quickly realizes that when it comes to falling in love, the choice isn’t always hers to make.
This book needs a LOT of TLC. The idea of love potions is a new popular theme in books coming out right now. So I was interested to read Stacey Lee’s interpretation of this idea. After all, she’s written a lot of good historical fiction books. However, this book in every way felt rushed. The characters, the ideas, all fell flat. This book started out good and interesting. I liked the quotes at the top, to get an idea of the history of them. It also followed how spells are done by some witches today. However, it started to fall during that first and second chapter.
The interactions of characters were horribly awkward and forced. Even what they were talking about weren’t needed. It wasn’t in the awkward ‘oh we’re teenagers’ way, but in the writing itself. It didn’t make sense how Court would become Mim’s love interest after seeing him once and him basically being the only teenage boy until about 30% into the book. They talked a few times, she fringes lack of interest and he creepily shows up where ever she is. It simply feels completely forced.
This book often fell under a lot of tropes that are becoming unpopular with readers. Sometimes you can get away with it when written well, however, this wasn’t. Right away there’s girl on girl hate that again, feels forced. It has the ‘Tom boys are good’ but turn ‘evil’ when the girl starts caring about her looks. Mim herself falls under the ‘not like other girls’ trope, though thankfully she didn’t say it, Court did in so many words.
Speaking of Mim, her character is rather under developed (as is Court and many others) despite being the main character. She’s naive despite having traveled the world at 15 years old. Traveling tends to help teenagers understand the world around them more, instead, she’s more oblivious to it. Everything about her screams someone far younger, someone who is in middle school. She’s ‘smart’ but confuses the meanings of simple words like ‘vegetarian’ for having a strict diet instead of only eating nonmeat products. And sadly she does things like this more than once. She wears bucket hats and cowboy hats and then judges people for trying to wear whats in fashion or wearing perfume. The first boy she see’s, she falls for, despite having nothing in common with him and the fact he doesn’t listen to her (he knew what she does but freaks out when she accidentally does it to his mother and says that she liked gardening, not making potions (despite having cornered her about it in their first conversation)).
Her abilities were interesting and cool at first. I enjoyed reading the different emotions and scents. But it quickly became the whole book. There is more time describing these than there’s real interaction within the book or real plot. What had been interesting and different quickly became boring and you simply wanted more of the story, not constant descriptions of emotions and flowers. The author also started at points to describe the biology of flowers that most people don’t know, nor do they want a biology lesson in their YA books. It read textbook-esq. It didn’t make sense that high schools (though smelly as they are) were described as worse than being in a crowded street in the most populated country in the world. You would think that wouldn’t be the case. Instead, you would think her power for smell and emotion would have been overwhelmed while in India, seeing as it seems to be the case when she’s in small groups as it is. Another thing that didn’t make sense was the part about swimming. Pools, yes. But fresh water and sea water, no. There are far more overwhelming things that mess with the ability to smell than swimming. That part simply didn’t make sense. It was small things, but with them, the ability to have a super smeller just seemed to fall apart for me.
I DO believe this book could have been good if the author had taken a bit longer on this book. If she had proof read a few more times, thought of her audience, and developed her characters more. Because the idea is good, even if the plot is lacking. I think this book could work better as a middle grader book than a YA book. The writing is horribly cheesy, the characters one dimensional. But if she maybe rounded the characters more, it would work out well as this. The writing truly feels like it should be directed this way instead. Its something I can see younger readers enjoying more than older readers and I found myself thinking this throughout this book. Even the swearing (though used very little) felt almost wrong and I had to keep telling myself they were 15 years old and older, and yet my brain couldn’t grasp that because teenagers don’t really act this way. Younger kids do.