Genre: Middle-grade fiction
Published: September 1, 2011 by Puffin Books
Rating: 4/5 stars
CW: parental divorce, grief, use of slur to refer to Romani travelers
Skye and her twin sister Summer have always been inseparable. However, while Summer has flourished in her talent for ballet, Skye has recently been feeling left out, and she struggles to fit in while her sister takes on new opportunities. While feeling isolated, Skye stumbles upon an old chest full of vintage treasures, and soon she begins to find a connection with an old ancestor. While Skye fills her head with stories of a past time, she begins to move further away from her sister, and the two girls must find a way to reconcile their differences despite wanting to forge their own paths.
This is the second book in the Chocolate Box Girls series by Cathy Cassidy, which I really took an interest to after seeing it recommended on Booktube. I just love light-hearted middle-grade novels, they can be the most perfect form of escapism. Since this series is native to the UK, I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series. However, I was able to find them for a reasonable price on Amazon, and now I'll be able to enjoy the rest of the books, which I'm thrilled about. While Marshmallow Skye didn't completely win me over like the first book, it was still a good sequel and encouraged me to continue on with the series.
I really appreciated how Cassidy gives Skye and Summer different interests despite them being twins. Being a twin myself, I think the common trope is to make twins mirrors of each other, both in looks and in personality. However, while Summer is extroverted and opinionated, Skye is quieter and more laid-back, and I think the dynamic between the two sisters was well developed. I could definitely relate to their fears of drifting apart, and I think Cassidy did a good job at capturing an age-appropriate representation of the struggles with finding your own interests against your best friend.
I liked how Skye took up an interest in vintage things, as her interest was unique to her and I had a good time seeing how she processes the different treasures that she finds. Once again the book is set in Dorset, England, and Skye's fascination with history mixed with the setting blended well together. I think the atmosphere, like the first book, was overall very cozy and a big reason as to why I enjoy these books in the first place. They're just easy to get through, calming, and every book is filled with some significant descriptions of chocolate, as Skye's step father runs a chocolate business.
Now something that I didn't really enjoy in this book is the overuse of the g-slur to refer to Romani travelers. A lot of Skye's fascination with history stems from this exoticized viewpoint of Romani's, which I think got a little bit out of hand. It went to the point where I could definitely see almost an objectification of Romani people, and I think Skye was very much given a white gaze, where she looked onto Romani people with a fascination that stems from exoticizing a group of people due to their skin colour. I completely understand that this book was written in the early 2010's, when the standards for acceptable language was different. Still today people are just starting to learn about the problems with the g-slur, as it is very commonly used in colloquial language to refer to Romani people. However, I do think Skye's interest in Romani people could have been handled better, and as a middle-grade book, it could have become a teaching moment for kids to learn about a culture unfamiliar to them. I still quite enjoyed the book, but these problems were striking enough that I did take notice.
Overall, I think Marshmallow Skye delivered on giving the cozy, comforting tone that I expect out of The Chocolate Box Girls series. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. While I do think the book has some issues that can be chalked up to the time period it was published, it was a satisfying sequel. Just do be aware going into the book of its issues, as reading a book in 2022, we can always do better to point out issues.
Have you read Marshmallow Skye? What did you think?
Emily @ Paperback Princess