There’s nothing bitter about this sweet read!
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler follows Hudson Avery, a former competitive skater, who now bakes cupcakes at her mother’s failing restaurant her parents’ divorce. After receiving a letter about a scholarship skating competition, Hudson knows she needs to get back on the ice or she will be forced to live in her small town forever. However, Hudson can only get ice time if she helps her town struggling hockey team.
For me, my feelings towards Sarah Ockler’s books have been mixed. I absolutely loved The Summer of Chasing Mermaids and The Book of Broken Hearts. However, I only thought Fixing Delilah and Twenty Boy Summer were okay and I couldn’t get past the first 50 pages of #scandal. Fortunately, Bittersweet falls into the same category as the the first two books I mentioned!
The most successful aspect of Bittersweet is that the story is incredibly realistic. Hudson and her family are struggling to make ends meet. They live in a cramped apartment, constantly are behind on bills, and are forced to sacrifice their lives in order to keep the family afloat. As a result, tensions run high between Hudson and her mother when Hudson is forced to miss out on many typical teen experiences and is forced to take on more adult roles, like paying her family’s bills and taking care of her brother. The dynamic between Hudson, her family members, and her friends is so real that I even got nervous when their relationships took a turn for the worse!
Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was the overall message of the book. This book deals with being at home/part of family, but also following your dreams and making your own name. It also explores what happens when your dream is destroyed and that it’s okay if you’re dream isn’t what you expected. However, my favorite part of dreams explored in this book is how people’s privilege may give them easier or more difficult access to their dreams. One of Hudson’s love interests, Will Harper, has connections to NHL scouts. Even though the hockey team isn’t great, he can still achieve his dream. Meanwhile, Hudson comes from a poor family who could barely afford ice skating lessons. One of the most heartbreaking quotes from the novel, in my opinion, is when Hudson’s mother states, “We can’t afford the stars.”
Aside from the realistic dynamics and well thought out out theme, the book also contains a lot of great characterization. While there are several players on the hockey team, each is given such a distinct personality when introduced, it is easy to tell them apart throughout the novel. Additionally, characters traditionally stereotypes in other novels have more depth and personality. Hudson’s best friend fade into the background and provide comments about her love interests, but calls her out when she acts like a lousy friend and isn’t afraid to share when her opinion drastically differs from the main character. One of Hudson’s love interests, Will, isn’t just the hot jerk athlete, but is provided with a realistic backstory that provides his character with more complexity.
I know there may have been some red lights flashing at the two words in my last paragraph… “love interests.” However, this is one case where I think the love triangle aspect works. In this book, Hudson has two love interests, Will and Josh, the captain and co-captain of the hockey team. In this book, it’s clear who Hudson will choose in the end. However, I really appreciated both of Hudson’s relationships in this book (although both a tad bit insta-lovey) because they both reinforce the idea of Hudson’s dreams and the balance of her past and future.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Bittersweet. I’ve read this book a few times, but I appreciated it even more reading it again and catching little details that I missed the first time around. I give Bittersweet five out of five stars.