Heather Hepler

The Cupcake Queen

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The Cupcake Queen Summary

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The Cupcake Queen is a children’s novel by American author Heather Hepler. Set in the fictional New England town of Hog’s Hollow, it follows teenager Penny who adjusts to life away from her previous home in New York City following her parents’ separation. When Penny’s mother, Lizzie, starts a bakery business that specializes in snazzy cupcakes, Penny immerses herself in the art of baking to pass the time until her parents (she hopes) get back together. Eventually, realizing that her future is independent of the outcome of her parents’ relationship with each other, Penny embraces her new life in Hog’s Hollow.

The Cupcake Queen begins shortly after Penny graduates from eighth grade. Lizzie takes the opportunity to move them both out of Manhattan and into Hog’s Hollow, the town where she grew up. To Penny, the town is impossibly tiny: everyone knows everyone else and intimate details about their lives. Elated to return to Hog’s Hollow, Penny’s mother tells her nostalgic memories about her childhood. She sets up a bakery in a tiny storefront in the middle of town.

At first, Penny is angry with her mother for taking her away from her friends in New York City. She enrolls at the local high school and is nervous about attending. Penny and Lizzie move into Penny’s grandmother’s house; Penny eagerly awaits the day when they move back to New York. She fantasizes about her parents getting back together, though there is no evidence that they will.

As Hog’s Hollow gets ready for its yearly festival, in which the people elect a Queen, Penny discovers that her mother won Queen all four years of high school. Hoping to help her adopt a constructive hobby, Lizzie nominates Penny as her cupcake boutique’s head designer. Penny enjoys inventing new methods for decorating baked goods. One day, the cupcake store caters Penny’s classmate Charity’s fourteenth birthday party at the Hog’s Hollow Country Club. Penny helps Lizzie set up. After the party starts, Charity’s bumbling father knocks over the refreshment table. Rather than accept responsibility, he blames Lizzie and Charity for improperly setting up the table. Penny and Lizzie take the blame, and Charity vows to take revenge against Penny for “ruining” her party.

In the coming months, Charity and her friends bully Penny to no end. On the bright side, Penny makes two friends at school, Blake and Tally. She crushes on a classmate named Marcus, a shy person who likes to run on the beach. Slowly and cautiously, he returns her affection. When the day of the festival finally comes, Penny’s effort at the cupcake store is rewarded: she wins best design for the store’s parade float. Though Charity wins Queen, Penny and her friends barely care. Tally wins First Runner-up, and the friends decide to celebrate their accomplishments instead.

At the end of the novel, Lizzie breaks the news that she is not getting back together with Penny’s father. She gives Penny the option of whether to stay in Hog’s Hollow or go live with her father. Penny realizes that Hog’s Hollow is now her true home and decides to stay. A coming-of-age story, The Cupcake Queen shows that home and happiness are not singular memories that one must cling to, but rather are continuously renewed as one moves through life.