{Review} Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Fangirl squeal!!!

I’m a bigtime Sarah Ockler fangirl. Big. Time. Her books just speak to me—she writes about family, and places, and relationships and life in a way that makes me think, “That is my life/family/hometown/whatever.” Plus, one time I “talked” to her on Twitter about Friday Night Lights (as well as her editor and Melissa C. Walker), so she’s completely rad simply for that reason, natch.

I have a feeling that Bittersweet will be one of those books that people read in very different ways. Some will read it as a “cute” book with a cupcake theme, some with grasp onto the sports themes or the small town story, while others will see it more as a divorce novel. It certainly took me by surprise—I loved Sarah Ockler’s other books, but since most of the early reviews I’d read of this one had focused on the cupcake/bakery theme, I was expecting something less emotional—Bittersweet has a lot of depth and it really surprised me. 

Lovefest

First off, Bittersweet is quietly a sports novel—and handles the sports stuff so much better than most of the YA novels I’ve read that are marketed as sports stories. This made me so, so very happy

It also encapsulates the feeling of growing up in a small town in which people feel stuck so very well. By the time kids in those towns (and I grew up in one just like Watonka, minus the snow) reach Hudson’s age, there’s a division between those that are leaving and those that are staying, and it’s largely unspoken. This was brilliantly depicted in Bittersweet. 

For as long as I live in this crazy, lake-effect, chicken-wing-capital-of-the-world town, that old train howling up at the moon will always be the sound of someone leaving, the promise of another place.”


Bittersweet’s secondary characters were fabulous. This is one of those things that makes Sarah Ockler stand out. In this novel, Dani (best friend), Will and Josh (two boys on the hockey team), Bug (little brother) and Hudson’s mom all feel so real. None of them are caricatures and all have depth. And the season and place are captured so well, so much so that upstate New York feels like its own character.. I’ve never been to upstate New York, but the exurbs of Buffalo and the miserable winter came alive for me. 

The humor. So much wonderful, wry humor. Love it. 

W.W.H.D (What Would Hester Do)? I wonder. Then I totally laugh at myself, because Hester didn’t have it so hot, either, what with all the public scorn and sneaking around. Not to mention the fact that I’m seeking advice from a four-hundred-year-old fictional character about high school boys—never a good sign.
Attention, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a test. I repeat, this is not a test. This is a bona fide, break-the-glass cupcake emergency.

Alert! Alert!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this small fact on a blog called, Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: There is a Friday Night Lights reference in this book!!!!! 

 
 

Memorable Moments Etc

There are so many things that stuck with me from Bittersweet, but this one reminded me of my own hometown of Canby, Oregon, 

But there’s something about Watonka, they say. Something that pulls us back, the electromagnet that holds all the metal in place…

Sarah Ockler’s Bittersweet is so very recommended. I’ve loved all of Sarah Ockler’s novels. Twenty Boy Summer made me cry and will likely be considered a YA classic at some point. Fixing Delilah warmed my heart. But Bittersweet impacted me on a personal level the most. I buy mostly ebooks, because I live in a very small house with limited space for bookshelves, but upon finishing Bittersweet, I immediately ordered myself a hard cover as well. 

Verdict: Must Read

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