Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Monday, June 10, 2013 9:00 AM
Title: Bittersweet
Author: Sarah Ockler
Published: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 378
Source: Library
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

“It takes forty muscles to frown, and only twelve to jam a cupcake in your mouth and get over it.”
― Sarah Ockler, Bittersweet
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... (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
I decided to read this book after Rather Be Reading highly recommended it. I've been making it my mission to sample more of the contemporary genre. I used to think I would never be a fan of YA contemp, but I was proven wrong. While fantasy remains my favorite genre, I've found some fantastic books in this neck of the woods. This was my first Sarah Ockler book ever, and I found it to be a cute, enjoyable read. I strongly suggest that you have sugary treats on hand before reading this! Each chapter in Bittersweet was titled after a cupcake name, followed by the cupcake ingredients, that tied in perfectly with the plot developments. The cupcake names were witty and fun, and the descriptions seriously had me drooling. 

When I first saw this cover, I mistook Bittersweet for a light, fluffy read, but that is far from the case. In Bittersweet, our protagonist, Hudson, is still recovering from the shock of her father's infidelity and her parents' resulting divorce. When it came to ice skating, her father had been her biggest supporter, always attending competitions and encouraging her to try her best. After he leaves his family in the dust, Hudson has herself convinced that she was responsible for her parents' separation. She keeps wondering if her parents would still be together if she hadn't shown her mom the bra she had found, an undergarment that was completely out of place in their house. Suddenly, Hudson finds it difficult to muster up any of the old excitement she felt for ice skating. Without her dad cheering her on from the stands, the sport is just not the same. And as her mother struggles to make ends meet as a single mother of two and the owner of the local diner, Hudson chips in with her out of this world confectionery skills and by babysitting her little brother, Bug. When an opportunity presents itself, Hudson jumps on it, terrified that if she doesn't, she will be stuck in her hometown forever.

I may not have loved Hudson, or even liked her most of the time, but I give Ockler props for creating such a realistic character. Hudson isn't the nicest of girls. She has an awesome best friend, Dani, who's full of spunk, but Hudson constantly blows her off for time on the rink with the high school's hockey team, the Watonka Wolves, or for alone time with one guy in particular. That's not cool. Dani may have trouble understanding why Hudson is so desperate to quit town, but she is still a loyal friend who is concerned about Hudson. And every time Dani tries to understand Hudson's actions, Hudson once again makes up excuses for why she doesn't want to talk about what she's going through. Yet I understand that Hudson is not exactly clear-headed in Bittersweet. She is under a lot of stress, and she's feeling that pressure constantly. And Hudson is extremely confused about what she wants in life. I mean, who isn't in high school? I'm still lost as to what I'm going to do in the future, and I'm out of college. But Hudson doesn't have to have everything figured out, and it would be ridiculous for anyone to expect her to. I'm happy Ockler portrayed a character who doesn't have her shit together and is still trying to discover herself.

Besides her hectic schedule and numerous responsibilities, Hudson also has difficulty getting along with her mom. I loved how Bittersweet didn't suffer from Absent Parent Syndrome. Hudson's mom may be busy running the diner, but she's a regular fixture in Bittersweet. She's constantly asking Hudson to put in more hours at the diner or watch Bug when she simply can't leave work. I LOVED Bug btw. He was mature beyond his years, and his oddities and mannerisms amused me. And it was touching to see two siblings that were so close. As her mother shows Hudson the workings of the diner, Hudson fears that she will never escape this town. While managing and then eventually owning the diner was her mother's dream, it's definitely not Hudson's, and she has difficulty getting that message across to her mom. But while relations between Hudson and her mom are tense, they still come through for each other. Hudson, her mother, and Bug all share some heartwarming scenes. Although, a member of their family is missing and they feel the sharp pain of that loss, they still have fun together and work as a team. It was moving to see them support each other when times were rough.

I will admit there were some aspects of the book I was less than happy with. I wish that Bittersweet had focused more on Hudson's ice skating dreams than on the high school drama. I could have cared less about the hockey team "wives" or the team's coach and his scheming. And then there was the romance. I liked Josh Blackthorne. Except it takes him forever to even make a move. It felt like their relationship kept being put off, and I wanted to scream, JUST KISS ALREADY! There wasn't enough interaction between them for me to completely buy their feelings for each other. Hudson fell for him fast and hard, and I felt like that came out of nowhere. And it made absolutely no sense for her to be with Will when she had these feelings for another guy! Will and Hudson didn't fit together at all, and I don't understand how that played into the story, besides frustrating the hell out of me. Oh yeah, and causing some serious tension between Josh and Will. It was unnecessary.

There was also just too much going on in this book. There's Hudson's cupcake concoctions, her waitressing, her ice skating dreams, her absent father, her fights with her mother, the rough spot she has with her best friend, drama with an ex best friend, that damn love triangle...and I'm going to stop there because this list is way too long. I found it difficult to keep up, and perhaps, it was meant to be overwhelming for the reader, just as it was for Hudson? But I often felt like I was reading more than one book. I also found some of Hudson's decisions absolutely maddening. I just wanted to shake some sense into her. But stuffing a cupcake in my mouth would probably be a better alternative.

I liked Bittersweet more than I expected, and I certainly don't regret reading it. Despite some complaints, I found Bittersweet to be, as the title suggests, a wonderful mix of sweet, uplifting moments and heartrending, bitter scenes. Plus, it had me wanting to bake cupcakes! Or just eat them...


  1. SO glad you gave this one a try. Totally agree... lots going on in this one but I guess the cupcakes made it sweeter for me. I agree with the romance, for sure. I was more into the friendship between the main character and her best friend, and also what was going on with her and her dad. Really honest look at being kid dealing with divorce. Please try Book of Broken Hearts. I think after reading Bittersweet, you see just how much Sarah has worked on her craft.


    1. I will definitely try Book of Broken Hearts! I've heard such great things, and I'm eager to try another Sarah Ockler book. And I'm curious to see how much Ockler's writing has matured over time. Thanks so much for the recommendation! I'm always looking for new books to try out, especially more in the contemporary genre! :D

  2. Hmmm I've heard mixed things on this one, and that actually really makes me *want* to read the book, you know? That was I can formulate my own opinions. I think the premise is sweet and enticing, and it sounds just tricky enough to keep me entertaining. Thanks for a wonderful review! :)

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I feel the same way, and I often find myself reading books that receive mixed reviews just so I can figure out how I'll feel about it. Thanks Melissa! :D

  3. Yup, same here! I really enjoyed this, though I did want more from it. ALL of Ockler's novels are like this for me, though. I enjoy them, but ultimately want more. Which is disappointing, but at least they're all enjoyable reads! Great review, Courtney! You've reminded me that I need more cupcakes in my life now! ;)

    1. haha this book make me SO hungry for cupcakes! I wish I could just jump into the book and try some of Hudson's famous cupcakes! They sounded delicious! And I plan to read more by her, and hopefully, I'll find them all to be enjoyable reads. I definitely want to read Book of Broken Hearts and see what all the hype's about. :D Thanks Keertana!

  4. This was my first Sarah Ockler novel as well, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Like you, I was kind of expecting something super fluffy, but the more serious side to the story was really welcome. I really liked Hudson's mom and brother as well—it's so wonderful when family is involved in YA, since I don't think it's done enough. AND the cupcake titles were totally adorable!

    1. I completely agree. In YA, the romance tends to be focused on more than the familial relationships. So it's refreshing to see YA contemps that highlight friendships or mother/daughter, father/son relationships...And yes the cupcake titles were too cute and had me seriously craving sweets! :D


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