Contemporary Young Adult
Received through Teen Book Scene for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.
So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life…and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.
It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last…
Cute and endearing, Bittersweet is a highly entertaining light read that retains just enough of an edge to keep it from being overly fluffy, proceeding to serve up just the right combination of humor, romance, and family drama. Instead of focusing on a single relationship between Hudson and one of the hockey boys she’s helping to train, we get to thoroughly entangle ourselves in her connection to her precious and precocious younger brother, her strained relationship to her mother, and her evolving friendship with a girl from whom she’s been inseparable for years. As a result, we get so much more than a sweet-but-angst-ridden tale, with Ms. Ockler granting us the opportunity as we read to dig our fingers through the surface layer and into the dirty and messy but richly engaging layers underneath.
Hudson is absolutely hilarious and adorable, often finding herself in an embarrassing sprawl of limbs on the ice in front of those she most wants to impress with her grace and skating prowess, causing us to roar with laughter at the same time we pat her on the fictional back for how well she handles the mortification. Her inner dialogue feels genuine, the things running through her mind seeming as though they could have been plucked straight from our own rapidly flowing stream of consciousness, allowing us to feel as though little pieces of us have found their way into her and pieces of her into us. She’s written so well that at times it’s so easy to get entirely wrapped up in her little world–her problems becoming ours and her stresses taking up residence on our shoulders–that we almost find ourselves as clueless as to how her actions are affecting those around her as she is.
Part of the fun of reading Hudson’s story is the fact that we can so easily slide back and forth between two roles while reading: that of intimate participant, gliding seamlessly into Hudson’s shoes which seem match our own perfectly; and that of outside observer, able to take a step back and make note of the subtle changes in friends and family that Hudson is too close to to see clearly. We can feel the tension vibrating through her with every added pressure exerted on her both externally and internally, noticing the fine fissures in her tough exterior forming long before she does, however we can so clearly relate to her that we find ourselves ignoring the warning signs that might give us a little distance from the action, choosing instead to experience the ups and downs of life, love, and responsibility right along with her.
Bittersweet is definitely recommended for those who love contemporary fiction, a witty and refreshing protagonist supported by a well-developed and varied cast of secondary characters just two of the many reasons to pick this story up. This is the first of Ms. Ockler’s books that I’ve read, and I will certainly be devouring her backlist until I’ve read them all.