The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet cover
The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson

By Jen Ferguson
Heartdrum / HarperCollins, 2022
384 pages

Age 14 and older

Lou (Métis/white) is spending the summer before college working at her family’s ice cream stand in her Canadian prairie town. After her mom leaves to sell beadwork on the powwow circuit, Lou’s biological father–the white man who raped Lou’s mom when she was 16–lets Lou know he’s out of prison and demands to meet her. Lou tells no one: not her mom when they text or talk; not her uncles, stressing about the business’s finances; not her best friend, Florence (white), struggling with mental health issues; not her former best friend, King (Black), back in town after living in Toronto—their reconnection offering the chance to heal a sudden split three years before. Lou’s personal, family, and community history is full of trauma rooted in the racist treatment of Indigenous people. She’s made choices she regrets, like previously trying to pass as white, and has secrets she can’t imagine telling—out of shame, out of loyalty, out of fear. At the same time, her family and friends fill her life with love and warmth and laughter, even as those relationships are imperfect and sometimes stressful. Nuanced, complex, vividly drawn characters are among the many standout elements of this beautiful novel as Lou navigates a summer of challenges and promise; so is the wonderful discussion of Lou’s sexuality as she begins to realize she’s demisexual and finds support, help, and understanding from King as they explore the expanding boundaries of their relationship. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center