Saturday, 14 March 2015

Book Review: Bittersweet

BITTERSWEET by Kimberly Loth
4 Stars
Verdict: A story of survival and maturation of a troubled teen.

After reading the book, the blurb seems inaccurate, so I’ve edited it. It’s not my best work and might not sounds as enticing as the original, but I hope it fits the book better:

Every Sunday Savannah Ray gets an email from her dead dad. She doesn’t know how the emails work but she’s finally ready to start looking for answers and she doesn’t mind either as she’s not ready to let go. To find those answers Now that her mum is fed up of her rebellious behaviour, she has to go to the one place she swore she’d never set foot in after he died—Haunted Valley, the amusement park. Once there and on the hunt for answers bullied by co-workers & customers, she is distracted by the charming Dallas and falls hard for him. When the answers she finds aren’t what she expected and Dallas betrays her, Savannah must make a choice—succumb to the insanity that destroyed her father or find the strength to rise above it. But Savannah and Dallas both hold secrets that threaten their new relationship. Will Haunted Valley help her move on, or will it destroy her from the inside out?

The cover is also perplexing because Savannah has a shaven head, pierced eyebrow, and wears normal clothes. Seeing as I decide whether or not to request a review copy based on the cover and blurb, I feel mislead. I’ve tried to ignore this when writing the rest of my review.

Savannah was a difficult character to like. She starts off struggling with her dad’s passing. While I felt sorry for her, I found her attitude only made things worse. At the same time, I could feel her pain. She really does have it bad. Her dad is dead, her best friend has betrayed her, her mum is nasty, some of her colleagues hate her, and even the season ticket holders are out to get her.

What I really like about this book is that Savannah grows as a character. A third of the way in, I warmed up to her. Her new best friend, Julia, makes Savannah’s life bearable. Designated love interest, Dallas, lifts some of the grief from her shoulders and allows her to open up. Through her encounters with them, she shares more of her story as she starts to mature.

I didn’t like how a lot of back-story was purposefully withheld yet discussed in front of me. For example, she shows another character her tattoo but we don’t get a description of it. We see his reaction, but it’s hard to know what it means without seeing the tattoo. Other sections discuss how what her best friend did was terrible, and if it was ‘that incident’ that went too far, and so many other vague, deictic references. I felt left out at times. I wanted something solid and specific to latch onto. However, if we knew all the details, there wouldn’t be much point in reading the book so I’m still in two minds about it.

We spend a bit too much time at the park learning Savannah’s job with her. There’s a lot of detail on all the rides and how they’re run, so at times I felt I prepared enough to step in for Savannah if she fancied a quick break. I found some of it interesting, but perhaps there was a bit too much detail surrounding the mundane.

After reading the last few chapters and the author note I was almost in tears. The message is powerful, and one that I think should reach more teens. The secondary message is conflicting though. If honesty solves a lot of the issues or at least allows them to heal, then a decision a few pages towards the end is questionable.

I think this book is worth reading just to see how Savannah grows as a character. She becomes a strong individual with a very honest and difficult message to share. I respect the author a lot for writing a book like this.