Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: January 3, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“When you're out here alone, contemplating all the things you didn't do and the person you didn't become ... if you think about it too long a hush seeps into the gray space, and the wind will hollow out your bones, and the purest kind of loneliness comes up from the inside to swallow you like an avalanche.”
It is very rare that I give books 5 stars. I only give a perfect rating to books that I could definitely relate to and/or make me think a ton even after I read the book.
This is Sarah Ockler's third novel, after Twenty Boy Summer and Fixing Delilah. In Bittersweet, protagonist Hudson Avery is trying to find her passion in life and is having a hard time deciding which path to take for her future. Three years ago, she was training to become a professional figure skater, but all of that went down the drain when something happens in her family. She has multiple issues going on in her life-from her mother's failing business at their diner, Hurley's, to her dad abandoning the family to go frolick around in Southern California with Shelvis (a female Elvis impersonator).
The first 50 pages of the book were rather slow, but once Hudson meets Josh, it's like bam, everything starts picking up and the pages start turning at lightning speed!
The characters were very much alive in this book! I knew and understood each one of them, and they all had very good humor that had me laughing out loud, which returned a couple of stares from various family members. Hudson is especially witty, and hilarious when nervous. Since you can see all of her internal monologue, you know what she is thinking about and you can get a better understanding of her personality.
However, my favorite characters are that of Bug (her 2nd grade brother) and Trick (the chef at the diner). Bug was super super adorable, and everytime he said something I just wanted to pinch his cheeks and hug him. At 8 years old, Bug was very intelligent, but still had that little kid-ness to him, which made him even more adorable! You could look at him as a comic relief character that would lighten up the serious tone of the book. On the other hand, Trick was just wise. I liked how he was like a father figure to Hudson. He knew her from the inside out, and he always gave the best advice. You could tell that he genuinely cared for Hudson.
Some people will argue that Hudson made some pretty bad choices. And it's partially true; she did let her best friend down (twice, with two different best friends), as well as the hockey team that she helped coach, but I can't really blame her. She had one goal in life, and she was focused on it so much because it could totally alter her life. She didn't realize how she had been treating everyone around her. It was super important to her, and she thought it was her dream, so I would have encouraged her to chase it.
Of course, what you have all been waiting for: the romance. What Contemporary doesn't have some sort of love interest? In this case, there are 2. One of them I didn't really feel any connection or chemistry with Hudson (Will), but Josh, oh my, Josh. He is the definition of perfection. Ockler took her time with the building of Hudson and Josh's relationship, which made me more anticipated to finally witness them as an item ;).
Overall, Bittersweet is a very memorable and intriguing read. It covers much more deeper subjects towards the end, and I could totally relate to the main character when she had to make an important decision. I do not blame her one bit for her decision, because I actually went through something strikingly similar to what she went through just a couple of months ago. Sometimes when you don't know what you want in life, when you either have to pick one thing or the other, you are going to disappoint at least one person. You think doing something new will be exciting and a fresh start, when in actuality you just miss the people that were in your life before.
The title represents Hudson's choices in life: everything will always be bittersweet. Meaning, nothing is perfect; there will always be a cost to something. You will always have to pay to receive in turn. Hudson finally comes to realize that she could deal with the bitter part that comes with the sweet parts of her life.
Combining love and hate together, Ockler successfully portrays the story of a girl who has to make a big choice in her life and go against everything she knows. What really shines through in this book is the gripping reality of life and dedication. I will definitely be reading more of Ockler's work.