The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

The summer of
The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson
384 pages
published May 10th, 2022

In this complex and emotionally resonant novel about a Métis girl living on the Canadian prairies, debut author Jen Ferguson serves up a powerful story about rage, secrets, and all the spectrums that make up a person—and the sweetness that can still live alongside the bitterest truth.

Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice-cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.

But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.

While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.

The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

This is a really complex story, with a lot going on. Lots of things don’t really get the conclusion that I wanted them to have, on-page — I’m still kind of worried about Lou’s best friend, Florence, who goes off her meds and doesn’t have anyone really reach out to her. There’s also some different opinions about bisexuality on-page, and I think that it’s up to the reader to decide how to interpret them, and use their best judgements about who is ‘right’. I was so invested in Lou’s story, flush with rage and grief and confusion and being a teenager and coming of age and not really liking your boyfriend and growing up. I really enjoyed that at the beginning of each chapter, there was a bit about different flavors of ice cream. This is an intense summer read, but I think it’s ultimately an important summer read. Four stars.

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