Review of “Bittersweet” by Sarah Ockler

This charming confection of a story features, as the author writes in her Acknowledgments, “cupcakes, figure skating, cute hockey boys, and lake-effect snowstorms.” It also is about growing up and facing real life, even when you make the wrong choices, and even when life gives you the bitter end instead of the sweet.

Hudson Avery, age 17, lives in the small town of Watonka, New York, and dreams of getting out one day by virtue of her skill in figure skating. But it’s hard to get time to practice, since she has a lot of family responsibilities. Her father left them three years before, and she has a little brother “Bug” who is only eight. Her mother works ceaselessly at her diner, Hurley’s, and expects Hudson to help out there whenever she can. Hudson has carved out a niche for herself at the diner, baking killer cupcakes that are so good the press has dubbed her The Cupcake Queen.

[Each chapter is named for a cupcake concoction made by Hunter, and includes a description of what is in it. They all sound pretty delectable! You can watch the book trailer, which is basically nothing but cupcakes, appended to the bottom of this post.]

Hudson feels like her heart is cracked down the middle. On one side she sees the hurt and regret in her mom’s face and she wants to stay with her and help her. But the other half of her heart is full of pain about her own future:

“…the right side of my heart looks at the lines in her face and sees the map of my future. Today I take the waitress gig. Next I’ll be managing the schedule. Then in a few years or a decade or maybe even two, I’ll inherit the restaurant. Cement my crowning achievement as Beth Avery’s daughter, the proud-but-struggling new owner and sometimes-cupcake baker of a forgettable old diner off the I-190, a pair of scuffed-up ice skates dangling from a hook in the staff closet, a bittersweet memento of another life.”

Hudson schemes to escape, practicing in secret for a $50,000 scholarship awarded to the most promising local figure skater. She is also approached by the two co-captains of the struggling high school hockey team to help them skate better, and finds herself attracted to both boys. As the story builds to a perfect storm – huge cupcake order, championship hockey game, diner inspection, and ice skating scholarship competition, Hudson needs to decide once and for all which side of her heart will take precedence.

Discussion: There is some good characterization in this book: Hudson is very self-absorbed, but still has a good heart. Bug is adorable and by far the best character of the book. Of the two hockey co-captains, Josh is wonderful and Will is slimy, but neither of them is so one-dimensional as to be uninteresting.

Evaluation: I was especially pleased by this book, because I loved the author’s first book, Twenty Boy Summer, and then felt very disappointed by her second, Fixing Delilah. This one makes me feel vindicated in my faith in her as a go-to author for young adult stories.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster, 2012

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14 Responses to Review of “Bittersweet” by Sarah Ockler

  1. You’ll understand why I don’t watch that trailer. As I sit here and eat my diet yogurt and pineapple. (When will I ever hit this goal?) But the premise sounds charming. I store these reads away for my daughter, although at the moment she is obsessing over Divergent.

  2. I’m afraid to watch that trailer, too! Love the cover…

  3. Heather says:

    I enjoyed Twenty Boy Summer quite a bit, so I think I’d like this one too. And who doesn’t love cupcakes??

  4. This does sound good and the characters sound true to live. I haven’t met very many 17 year olds who aren’t self absorbed.

  5. I’ve heard good things about this one. You’ve made me want to read it even more!

  6. zibilee says:

    This sounds a little bit like a book I reviewed last year, but better because it includes cupcakes! I bet this would be a perfect read for my daughter. She is very into baking cakes and cupcakes and is a voracious reader that I think would be really interested in this story. I usually get them a couple of books for their Easter baskets instead of all that candy, and I think this one is making it’s way in the basket this year!

  7. Sounds a bit sweeter than my norm..but I must say I am very interested in those cupcakes.

  8. I have Twenty Boy Summer on my tbr list. I should get to it soon. This one is also on my wishlist. I’ve heard so many good things about it.

  9. Vasilly says:

    This sounds like a great book. I might have to check this one out.

  10. stacijoreads says:

    Yay! I have a new book to recommend to some of my older girls who loved 20 Boy Summer!

  11. Jenners says:

    I like that cover!! Glad to hear she “redeemed” herself with this book. And I’m not sure I have the willpower to watch that trailer.

  12. Trisha says:

    And here I am…still not having read Ockler even though I’ve heard such good things…

  13. stacybuckeye says:

    So, this one will make me hungry? I’m trying to LOSE weight! This one does look good. I wasn’t that interested in her first 2, but this one is a possibility.

  14. bookingmama says:

    Just great! Now I’m two behind for this author. This one looks like a good one though! Maybe I should just skip the second one?

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