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An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs
Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.
At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.
Stacey Lee has fast become one of my favorite YA authors. She pens stories that are real, raw and hopeful, the kind of stories that anyone can relate to no matter what cultural background they come from. Every time I pick up a book by her, I know I’m in for a treat. The Secret of A Heart Note is a veering from her past historical novels, but it was just as beautiful of a story as Under A Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon were.
Like with Lee’s other stories, there are prevalent themes throughout The Secret of a Heart Note, one of them being family, as you can tell from the title of this post. She excels at developing relationships and at showing all the nuances and complexities there are to relationships. Here, we are privy to the complicated, yet heartfelt relationship between a mother and a daughter. Mim and her mother come from a long line of aromateurs – they can smell heart notes and figure out people’s personalities and make love potions for them. With that kind of family legacy, comes a lot of expectations. This story is about Mim’s struggles with these expectations. While she enjoys creating these potions, part of her desires a normal teenage experience and she battles with that throughout the story. Family expectations can be rough on teenagers and I loved how deeply Stacey Lee explored that here. There were tense moments between Mim and her mother, but there were also those scenes that portrayed the pure love and respect they had for each other. It was a complicated and messy relationship, but it was inherently very authentic.
Mim, herself as a protagonist, was more on the quiet side, her abilities not really allowing her to find her place in life. After a drastic mistake on her part, she goes on an incredibly journey, discovering her true self along the way. I loved her growth throughout The Secret of a Heart Note. She also finds love on her path, with a sweet-hearted boy who challenges her all the way. The romance, while very very subtle, was heartwarming. I would have liked to know Court a little better, but this was Mim’s story and I didn’t really mind that. The love story, while a crucial part of the story, wasn’t the main focus. I have never quite read a story like The Secret of a Heart Note. It was very quirky with all the elixir-making, and surprisingly, those were my favorite scenes of the book. I loved all the descriptions of the scents, the process of making the elixirs and the effect of using these potions. There was something very magical about the whole thing.
With the amount of books I’m lucky enough to read in a year, I don’t remember every story that I’ve read, but I can wholeheartedly say that The Secret of a Heart Note is going to be that exceptional book that I will remember for a long time. If you’re looking for a special YA story, then this magical realism book might be right up your alley.