Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

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I am torn, conflicted.

Sweetbitter is beautifully written, a book I felt inclined to mark and quote and share.

But, I hated every single character. It felt like real work to get through the novel. I felt stuck. Perhaps that is what the author intended, for the reader to feel as though they are 22 again and moving through that world of flurry and uncertainty, with everything transitory and unimportant.

“Pain is what we know. It’s our barometer of reality. We never trust pleasure.”

The main character, Tess, is a conundrum. She moves to New York by herself and lands a job at a busy, exclusive restaurant. Brave, right? Strong, yes. Yet, she cannot stick up for herself, neither protecting her soul nor her body. She is beautiful, yet has no self-confidence. Full of determination, but cares for nothing. She is solitary, but yearns for love.

“The posture of a woman who had stood in a casual spotlight in every room she’d ever been in, not for gloss or perfection, for self-possession. Everything she touched she added apostrophes to.”

Sweetbitter is an uncomfortable read about a girl so unsure of herself it is painful. But, whenever I felt inclined to stop reading there would be a sweet still moment of solitude or a small moment of victory, and I would read on, mining for those nuggets of truth hidden within the text about a girl in a tough industry, tough world.

“Get out of your head. If you don’t, you’ll always be disappointed.”

You, see! I cannot decide if I hate or love this book. Have you read it? What did you think?

Rating: 85/100

Buy Sweetbitter at Barnes & Noble