Author: Sarah Ockler
Release Date: 01/03/12
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Description: 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…
Thoughts: Bittersweet totally snuck up on me and, for much of the book, just left me feeling so charmed. Hudson Avery, the main character, is exactly the type of main character I look for. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s sarcastic, and she’s so real. Plus she’s got some issues. Hudson is a former figure skating prodigy who, after finding out that her dad cheated on her mom the morning of a big competition, threw the competition and promptly retired from skating. Her parents ended up getting divorced; she, her mom, and her brother had to move into a small apartment; and her mom is barely making ends meet with the diner she owns where Hudson is the Cupcake Queen. What is the Cupcake Queen you ask? Well, to cope with her parents divorce Hudson turned to baking and her unique (each chapter opens with a cupcake description), apparently delicious cupcakes have taken their town by storm.
Being the Cupcake Queen isn’t enough for Hudson and several years after that disastrous competition (the story starts at the competition and then skips ahead to the present day) she receives an invitation to participate in a skating competition where she could win $50,000, aka her ticket out of her dead end town. But it isn’t quite so easy. Hudson has obligations to her family and to her friends and she’s worried about what they’ll think if they find out she wants to skate again so she decides to train for the competition in secret. Meanwhile she has more and more responsibilities at the diner, she starts to make new friends, and takes on an additional skating commitment.
As the story goes on Hudson has to deal with more and more stress and things start to fall by the wayside. Every time she forgot about a school assignment or cancelled plans with her best friend, Dani, I cringed. Her mother put a lot of pressure on her to help with the diner and with her younger brother (who I loved) and that clearly wasn’t fair to Hudson, but as her mother says, life isn’t fair. The title of the book comes from a song that Hudson used for one of her figure skating programs, but “bittersweet” does such a good job of encompassing the feel of the book. It’s not a sad book, but it’s a real book that’s filled with difficult choices and lots of real world trade-offs.
There is a lot going on in this book and I don’t want it to cancel out everything nice I said or sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, I did, immensely, but after a while I thought Hudson’s problems became kind of repetitive and the length of the book, 478 pages, kind of wore me down. Also, the farther I got the less winning I found Hudson’s personality, probably because she was being swallowed up by all the stress in her life. There’s also a love triangle that thankfully wasn’t annoying or dramatic, but I never felt invested in either of the guys.
Bottom Line: Even though I thought the story tended to wander a little I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one. I totally fell in love with Hudson and, even though she was dealing with the same problems over and over again, I really rooted for her and wanted her to succeed. Plus, with the figure skating and blustery upstate NY setting this is the perfect winter book.