‘Do You Speak Chocolate’ is an unusual story about friendship developing in the most unexpected of ways. When new girl Nadima arrives at school speaking very little English she struggles to make friends until Jas reaches out a hand of friendship by sharing her chocolate. Refusing to let this small obstacle get in her way Jas tries to communicate in a variety of different ways and she quickly discovers a mutual love of pizza, cake and of course chocolate through the power of emojis in text messages. For Jas this is her opportunity to have a friend who is exclusively her own, after her best friend has seemingly acquired a new best friend. And so a special friendship is formed but when Nadima’s troubled past comes to light, Jas’s misguided efforts to help her friend put a strain on their friendship.
This is a wonderful story that manages to capture the highs and lows of teen friendship dramas, whilst dealing with an incredibly difficult subject in a sensitive and empathetic way. Cas has a genuine understanding of how girls interact and the pressures that they feel at secondary school. It’s reassuring for the reader to know it’s absolutely fine not to feel like you fit in or to worry about every decisions you make, even if things do go wrong. Jas is like a bull in a china shop she rushes in determined to do the right thing and then when everything turns into to a disaster she does pick herself up and try to carry on. We need to see children in ordinary every day life situations in books to help them make sense of their world and how they feel about themselves within it. In stark contrast Nadima’s experiences as a refugee are incredibly difficult for her friends to relate to, they can never truly understand what her life was like in Syria. Cas very cleverly captures this fear and brutality Nadima has experienced towards the end of the story and it’s incredibly powerful and moving. I loved the characterisation, both Jas and Nadima’s families feel very honest and real making the story feel incredibly believable. Accessible and engaging this is definitely a story that I will be recommending in my library.
Thanks to Cas and Piccadilly Press for sending me a copy of this book, ‘Do You Speak Chocolate’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.