Book Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Bittersweet   by Sarah Ockler cover

Bittersweet  
by Sarah Ockler
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: January 3rd 2012
Rating: Many a cupcake

“Would 'sorry' have made any difference? Does it ever? It's just a word. One word against a thousand actions.” 

Bittersweet is the story of sixteen-year-old Hudson Avery who has given up a promising figure skating careers after her parents’ divorce and not spends her time making cupcakes for her mother’s local diner.

Okay, so my favorite part of this book was the Buffalo homage angle.  Because, honestly, the whole I-have-to-get-out-of-here- or-I-will-die is perfectly Buffalo.  As is the but-wait-things-here-might-not-be-so-bad.  Buffalo is complicated like that.  It is my hometown but I haven’t lived there since I was eighteen and I am okay with that.  I go back pretty often to visit, and the waterfront is finally being developed, but honestly the rust belt is a difficult place for dreams.

Where Bittersweet lost me was the plot.  It was rambling, convoluted, and much of it was unnecessary. The baker, run down diner, figure skating, hockey, abandoned by parent angles just proved to be too much.  None of them were satisfactorily explored, and the whole thing was both clunky and rushed.  

I wanted there to be more figure skating. I struggle with sports novels.  There are very few of them that communicate the drive and determination and love that serious athletes feel towards their chosen sport.  Hudson’s bruised hip is discussed but not much else.  I know that this can be done I just read Lessons in Falling by Diana Gallagher, and while I have issues with the book as a while, the sports bit got it right. The entire figure skating subplot of Bittersweet could have been edited out for more cupcakes, and I would have been just as satisfied.  Possible more, because of cupcakes. 

I did like the writing.  There were some interesting turns of phrase, lively conversations, and I liked Hudson’s self-talk.  I appreciated the humor in the book.

The standouts regarding characterization were Dani and Bug.  Bug managed to be cute in an overly intellectual nine-year-old kind of way.  This is such a common trope in books, tv, and movies.  It is easy to get wrong and almost impossible to write realistically.  Bug wasn’t realistic, but he was adorable and funny. Dani was a bright spot in the narrative because she told Hudson the truth and had her deal with it.  She was supportive, but she also didn’t allow her friend to kid herself.  As Hudson spends most of the novel in various states of denial and self-delusion, Dani was incredibly necessary.   

Hudson herself was kind of unlikable.  I found herself centeredness off-putting. Her desperation to get out of Wotonka while understandable was also irritating.  There are more ways to “get out” than figure skating, Hudson.  She is goal orientated enough that I had a hard time understanding why she felt so trapped.  

There is also kind of a love triangle.  Which makes me crazy. It is pretty obvious, right from the start, which way this one is going to go.  Somehow this made it more palatable for me?  I am a weirdo.  There is also a “big misunderstanding” which irritated me even more because talk to each other for God’s sake.#tropesthatneedtodie

This book is sweet, decently written, and quite readable. You might be interested in it if you like YA romance, figure skating, or cupcakes.  And who doesn’t like cupcakes?

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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...