Book Review: "The Summer of Bitter and Sweet" by Jen Ferguson
Jen Ferguson's debut YA, The Summer of Bitter and Sweet, released on my birthday and if that's not a sign of the publishing overlords looking out for me, I don't know what is. Because this book, which I read as an ARC courtesy of the publisher, was exactly what I needed, when I needed it.
In this complex and emotionally resonant novel, debut author Jen Ferguson serves up a powerful story about rage, secrets, and all the spectrums that make up a person—and the sweetness that can still live alongside the bitterest truth.
Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.
But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.
While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.
I loved following Lou through her summer. I loved seeing snippets of her family life, seeing her friendship and romance, and seeing her navigate the return of her dastardly father. There were things about this book that made me angry — things like the anti-Indigenous racism and violence that Lou and some of her fellow Métis friends suffer at the hands of racist, misogynistic townspeople.
There were things about this book that resonated with me — things like Lou's uncertainty about her sexuality and the fear and insecurity that brings; and there were things about this book that absolutely set my soul ablaze with joy — things like the ending, which I'm not going to spoil.
This book...this book is so wonderful. It's a soul-book, the kind that settles into you and becomes a part of you and just absolutely, wholeheartedly changes your life.
The content of this book so perfectly encapsulates the title: it's bitter in parts, sweet in others. It's like life that way.
I don't know, y'all. I just really loved this book. It was fearless and unflinching and soft and embracing. It reminded me that no matter how ugly the world gets, there are tools we can use to fight back — tools we should use to fight back. There will always be people who want to hurt us, but there will always be people who have our backs. I feel like this book helped me become a more whole version of myself.
Please do yourself a favor and order a copy of The Summer of Bitter and Sweet (keep in mind that's an affiliate link so if you use it, I may get a commission at no extra cost to you). It's highly worth it!