During her first few months in a new place, at a new school, and trying to make new friends, Penny of The Cupcake Queen definitely struggles to adjust to being in this podunk small town where she never wanted to be in the first place. Hog's Hollow definitely has its bad points--cliquey mean girls in particular--but it starts to show its bright points, too: real friends and the opportunity to really be oneself. Just when she thought she'd gotten entirely fed up with Hog's Hollow, Penny finds the town has grown on her--and the folks she befriends might need someone like her as much as she needs people like them.
I really enjoyed the premise of the different types of loss we all experience; I particularly liked the strong characters with even stronger personalities who really round out the story and make the reader feel emotionally involved. Hepler's style might not involve the most compelling dialogue or the most action-packed climax, but she definitely delivers in the department of characters you wouldn't mind meeting in real life. Sometimes, that's more than enough. Throw in the pretty much ubiquitous theme of art and there are much worse ways to spend an afternoon than reading this novel. I'd suggest it to readers who enjoy realistic fiction with an early high school setting and to those looking to think a bit about how change affects us all.