Molly Peterson is perhaps the underachiever of all mothers, with no inclination to go up against the Laura Ashley-clad picture-perfect PTA moms at her children’s schools. On her youngest child’s first day of pre-school–and Molly’s first day to herself in seven years–she slips into the city for a few hours to herself. The opening bus ride scene and subsequent recounting of her morning sets the story’s tone with a few good chuckles at Molly’s understated observations of herself and the world around her, making her an imminently relatable character.
Later, while waiting impatiently to grab lunch from a hotdog cart before racing back to pick her daughter up from school, a would-be armed robber cuts in front of her. Molly’s “mommy-reflexes” kick in and she disarms the teenager. It’s all caught on someone’s cell phone and before long, Molly is being hailed in the media as a superhero Mom. She’s recruited by a super-secret spy agency and tasked with her biggest nightmare: infiltrate the PTA to uncover the mysterious cooling of her son’s school building.
Molly, codename “Cupcake,” sets about solving the mystery with her souped-up mini-van, enhanced “mommy powers,” and the help of a nosy neighbor and her SSO (“Super Secret Organization”) handler, the unassuming Morty Fleischman.
The plot contains very little in the way of clues, hints, or red-herrings that would help the reader solve the mystery. Everything comes together more-or-less by accident and coincidence. The ultimate solution is underwhelming and the villain’s identity predictable, and the explanation for the school’s fast-cooling temperature is particularly unsatisfactory, with no attempt at a scientifically plausible explanation (or name) for the mysterious gooey substance that’s at the root of the problem. The strength of the book is not in the plot, but in Molly’s snarky take on picture-perfect room mothers, the PTA, and motherhood in general. The character’s strong, casual voice carries the narrative and brings the reader along on her wild ride.
Codename Cupcake is an entertaining send up of motherhood, the PTA, and superheroes. Readers looking for depth and substance will be disappointed by the deus en machina plot resolution. The half-hearted effort to connect the story’s dots feels more like a rushed attempt to wrap things up than an actual, well-thought out plotline. But, for anyone looking for light-hearted read that doesn’t tax the mind and is filled with chuckles, Codename Cupcake is a good choice.
This is a fun, fast read filled with enough gadgets and wisecracks to satisfy fans of “Get Smart” type thriller-spoofs. Readers looking for well-crafted mystery with depth, plausibility, and edge-of-your-seat excitement might want to look elsewhere. Despite swinging from predictable (the villain) and implausible (the solution), Codename Cupcake is well-written and filled with plenty of humor, making it a good choice when looking for a lightweight diversion.
The Rating4 Stars (out of 5): Recommended. For the right audience, this book is a great read. It can hold its own against any traditionally published novel in its genre.
The Pros & ConsPros: Characterization, Dialogue, Humor
Cons: Plotline, Suspension of Disbelief