I finished The Summer of Bitter and Sweet a few days ago and still am lacking the words for how much I loved it. This debut is gripping and heart wrenching all at once. It’s a story about the complexity of family, questioning our sexuality, and love. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.
But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.
While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: rape (SC), assault, hate crime, racism
The Summer of Bitter and Sweet is one of those books that hollowed me out. Lou’s story focuses on her unraveling the mystery of her own past. The truths about her absent father. And the ways the secrets of her mother influences her present. I loved Lou’s family. They’re messy, complex, and flawed. They support each other, tease each other, and lie to each other. Lou’s struggles to un-weave their omissions and whispered conversations. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s definitely one of the main reasons I love this book.
At the same time, the racism she deals with in her town turned my stomach. It made me tear up. The ways that racism takes the form of insults and hate crimes, but also in friends who say nothing. Who associate with the guilty and change nothing. It takes root in insidious comments. In the comments an employee makes, the ways they follow you. And also in the large scale racism the government employs to take children away. It’s a fact of Lou’s life.
So is the way she is questioning her asexuality. All the times we think that these questions, conversations, are normal. The painful hidden pieces of us. In many ways, Lou’s summer is one of secrets and reckoning. But it’s also one of love and discovery. Of beginning to find a vocabulary that could speak to us. To acknowledge and embracing – existence as rebellion.
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Overall, I am beyond thrilled The Summer of Bitter and Sweet exists. To the teens who will see themselves in these pages, reflected not only in the racist remarks or sexuality questions, but also in the arms of family or the embrace of friendship. Find The Summer of Bitter and Sweet on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.