Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Bittersweet

Sarah Ockler
Contemporary Young Adult
378 pages
Simon Pulse
Available Now
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.

Rating: 4/5


  1. I am glad you liked this one. I have such high hopes for it and I would be sad if it were to disappoint. I have Twenty Boy Summer by Ockler to read and I am hoping to get to it this summer- along with Bittersweet.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. I've been wanting to read this one. I've heard great things about her. Would you say it has more depth than Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen? Sounds like a little more.

  3. Yaaaaay!! I'm the exact same way: This was the first Sarah Ockler book I've ever read, but boy am I EVER going to be following her around now! x) The way you describe Hudson's relationships with each of her family members is perfect -- it's one of the things I loved most about this book! Other than Bug and the INCREDIBLE hockey boys of my dreams, of course! ;)

    Amazing review, Jenny! <3 It makes me smile that you loved this book too! :) Didn't it make you want to devour a box of cupcakes? LOL it did for me!

  4. I don't read so many Contemporay books to be honest, I just prefer all things paranormal. But this one sounds cute and you truly loved it which always tells me I would enjoy it too...

  5. Hmmm a 4 you say...and witty??

    I read this authors 20 Boy Summer and kind of wanted to choke the book when I finished...but this sounds like a right up my alley book.....I might have to give her a second chance.

  6. I've heard a lot of good things about this one. I have it on my wish list. I'm glad that you really enjoyed it.

  7. Sara - It was a really fun read, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Alison - I haven't read any Sarah Dessen, but I really liked how this story in particular dealt with more than just a romance. There was some family and friend drama that kept it from being too cute. I would say it was maybe a little more involved than Stephanie Perkins.

    Mimi - I definitely wanted to eat many, many cupcakes after reading. Yum. I also wanted to smack into a hot hockey boy:)

    Danny - I don't usually either, but this one was great. Hudson just made me laugh:)

    Tina - Really, really funny. I was dying at some of the things she did and her inner monologue when embarrassing things would happen. Super cute!

    Jennifer - Yay! It's a feel-good read:)

  8. YAY!! I'm so happy you enjoyed this, Jenny! And I love your observation about how we read it in two ways--both as Hudson in her POV and as the impartial observer. I thought the author did an excellent job of revealing enough to us to give us relevant info without going overboard and making us frustrated with the heroine.

  9. Hmm..I read two other books by this author (20 Boy Summer and Fixing Delilah) which were good but I was left wanting more. This one does sound cute so I going to put this one in my "maybe" pile.

  10. I keep seeing review after review on this book and everyone is enjoying it. Just thinking about reading about cupcakes makes,me want one!

  11. Wendy - I did enjoy it, I was just laughing the whole way through and thought Hudson was such a great heroine:)

    Rummanah - I haven't read her other books, but this one I thought was really great!

    Juju - You should read it. It's good times:)

    Heidi - I had a serious craving for cupcakes while reading, it was ridiculous. Just buy some before you start and then you won't have a problem when the craving hits:)

  12. I haven't even read this book yet, but I immediately start lusting after cupcakes every time I see it. :D All these excellent reviews are making me want to grab a copy ASAP. Brilliant job, Jenny. I'm glad you were able to appreciate an array of relationships in this book and not just the obvious one. I can't wait to see what I make of it myself. :)

  13. Bittersweet sounds perfect! I'm in the mood for something light (but not overly fluffy)! If only I was at home (it's sitting on my bookshelf two hours away! sob)! Great review, Jenny. :)

  14. I really enjoyed this one as well! I was kind of feeling burnt out on contemporary when I read it so it was a little hard to get into but once I did I really liked it. I liked that Hudson had some real tough decisions to make and was proud of her for really finding what she truly wanted. Glad you loved it!

  15. This sounds like such a sweet book! Loved the review. It's something I can read and definitely get into.

  16. I keep seeing that everyone LOVES this book, so I really need to read it. I got a copy week before last, but just haven't gotten around to picking it up yet.

    -Jac @ For Love and Books

  17. Sam - I definitely wanted cupcakes the whole time I was reading. I want them now even. It's a really fun book, hope you give it a try!

    Lauren - It's the perfect light but not too sweet read:)

    Candace - Yay! I just loved Hudson, I had a blast reading about her:)

    Savy - It's a really sweet book. Literally. I wanted many desserts after reading it.

    Jac - It's a great book for when you just want something light and fun and entertaining:)

  18. I really need to meet Hudson. Hm... I also need to put the author on my wishlist and not just this book. I am so taking that recommendation!

  19. Oh, poor Hudson! I do love a good spazzy character, especially one who's got a great personality that just hauls you into the story. I like light.

  20. Hudson is SO awesome!!!! And I just love this book so so so much so I'm glad you did too, Jenny. =)

  21. Great review of this book! I've been wondering what this one was about. I like the sound of her falling on the ice while she's trying to be graceful in front of people and inner dialogue. I love inner dialogue! They are always so funny when they talk to themselves.


  22. Okay, now I'm feeling like a complete buffoon, well, more than usual, because I have yet to read anything by Sarah Ockler! But if you think this is a good place to start, I'm in. I'm liking the sound of how it mixes lightheartedness with some drama.

  23. Oh no, baking cupcakes! Now that is gonna make me hungry ;) I am still not over my last book

  24. YAY! *jumps up and down* I'm so excited for this one. I saw it on another blog the other day and I just can't wait. I've been craving contemporary fiction and this one sounds so good, Jenny. I have like this whole crazy ass list of contemps I want to buy as soon as I cash the checks staring at me from my wallet (that's where I stashed them, away from Hubs...solely for books, LOL). This is toward the top! As is...a man in football pants.

    One word: Commando

    That is all.

  25. I so need to read this book.. I've heard so many great things about it !! Besides I love cupcakes so I definitely should enjoy this one !!
    Great review Jenny ;)

  26. Lol, I definitely like the sound of this one! I'll have to mark it down for when I want something lighter and more fun to read. I'm always weak for a book that makes you laugh! I'm really glad you liked it, Jenny. :)

  27. Awww, this sounds great! I'm definitely going to have to check this out as well. :) I've had it on my to-read list for a while, but haven't read any reviews for it before. I love books that have really great secondary characters! Can't wait to read this!

  28. I really liked this one too... it was just the perfect winter read (even though the weather is not very wintery here this year!!). I absolutely adored Sarah's debut 'Twenty Boy Summer' so you'll definitely have to check that one out as well. =)

  29. I've got this one on my wishlist and am looking forward to reading about cupcakes. And getting to know a great MC of course :) I loved Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer so I hope you check that one out, Jenny.

  30. I'm not much of a contemp fan, but this one sounds intriguing. I love the cover!