Monday, October 15, 2012

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler


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..

I'm embarrassed that I've never read Twenty Boy Summer (I will put that right!), it just got swept away by my tbr pile. I basically  made room for Bittersweet though on the strength of the synopsis - and the promise of cupcake talk. The book opens with a snippet from three years previously where Hudson makes a discovery that blows her family apart and ends what she thought were her dreams. Back to the present day and Hudson's turned her back on her old life. She's no longer training to be an Olympic figure skater but making cupcakes in her mum's diner. Hudson is seriously good at making cupcakes, I mean - she's Watonka's Queen of Cupcakes according to her local paper. However, all isn't well at the diner; waitresses regularly quit, money is tight and Hudson is being lined up to be the next owner even though she's pretty sure that isn't what she wants.

 In amongst all of this angst is a sliver of hope though that comes in the form of a letter. What with that and Hudson's secret trips to a patch of desolate ice by the coast it's obvious that she still has big dreams despite her penchant for hiding out in the kitchen. Hotness is added to the mix in the form of Will and Josh, boys on the ice hockey team who both seem interested in Hudson. Bittersweet is full of wonderful secondary characters. There's Hudson's mum who's desperately trying to keep the diner and her life on track. She's become pretty single-minded in the last few years. There's Dani who became Hudson's best friend after her life fell apart and she's loyal, smart and no push-over. Even little brother Bug is completely adorable - watching him adapting to his new life is both touching and heartbreaking.

Bittersweet is a masterclass in how to build tension in a novel. Seriously, Hudson starts of with a dream and a few obstacles but the author piles up the pressure and problems until it's almost impossible to see a way out. The ending was not at all what I expected but that's definitely not a bad thing. After racing through the book so I could see what happened I took a few days to think about the ending before writing this review. I've decided that, for me, Bittersweet is more about coming to terms with the past, grieving over things that need to be grieved and taking stock of what's good in life. It's not often you read a YA novel about serious life-choice regrets that are bone deep - the sort that haunt your every living moment for years. Bittersweet grabs that subject and deals with it with both sensitivity and realism.


iffath said...

Oh Sarah, you must read Twenty Boy Summer! I finally got around to it in December last year and loved!

Fabulous review. I totally get what you mean about the tension! What did you think about the little cupcake names at the beginning of each chapter? So lovely!

Essjay said...

Thanks Iffath :-D I loved the cupcake names - especially as they got more manic and crazy as the story unfolded. I will DEFINITELY read Twenty Boy Summer - heard so many good things about it.

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

OOH! I've only just finished this book the other day! I adored it. I'd been putting off reading it because I haven't yet read Sarah Ockler's two previous books, but after this one, I'm sure I'll get around to them sooner rather than later..