Review of The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet The Summer of Bitter and Sweet
by Jen Ferguson
High School    Heartdrum/HarperCollins    384 pp.    g
5/22    978-0-06-308616-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-308618-0    $12.99

Lou is preparing to spend the summer scooping ice cream at her uncles’ seasonal shop, Michif Creamery, to save money for university in the fall. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. She and her boyfriend break up (he’s “all hormones-on-fire”; she realizes eventually that she’s “ace or demi or something”), and they still have to work together. King, a former friend, returns from Toronto, and as their relationship deepens Lou is forced to face the fact that she had denied being Métis for most of the time they’d known each other. Additionally upsetting, she injures her shoulder in an altercation, a particular difficulty because she hopes to play water polo at school. The creamery is also under threats both mundane (a broken freezer) and more disturbing (intimidation from Lou’s white biological father, a rapist recently released from prison). Lou must figure out how to save her university dreams and her uncles’ business, as well as who she is as a Métis young woman. Although the book (a debut for Ferguson, who is also Michif/Métis and white) deals with major issues such as racism, rape, teen dating violence, and sexual harassment, it does not feel too heavy or overdramatized. Young adult readers can relate to the struggles Lou is facing as she navigates her transition from high school to college, and also use them as a conversation starter about race, identity, sexuality, dating, and friendship.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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