I am so, so pleased to bring you this post today! Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of the tour for this amazing book coming out April 6th!
Forgive my rambling friends, but there is just so much to say about this book!
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Genre: YA Fiction
As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.
Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.
Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home.
~ ABOUT LAEKAN ZEA KEMP ~
Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicanx grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health. Her debut novel, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER & SWEET is forthcoming from Little Brown in spring 2021.
*Thank you to the publisher, HBG Canada, for an advanced copy!*
~ REVIEW ~
To put it simply, THIS BOOK IS INCREDIBLE!
Now let’s elaborate on that, shall we?
The writing is EVERYTHING! I know I talk a lot about being “immersed in an author’s writing” and well friends…I am speaking my truth! It was wonderful to be totally immersed in Kemp’s writing! That first kitchen scene! Just wow. I felt the heat and sweat building up inside of me as I read about the chaos that was cooking up. Every written word sprouted emotion within me. Every feeling that Pen and Xander felt, I felt too. It was just such incredibly engaging and heartfelt writing.
The second best thing about this novel was certainly the characters! They came for my heart! Pen was a brilliant and complex character. The ferocity in her coupled with the hardships she deals with on the inside and outside create such a well-rounded and rich personage. Her voice is so raw and relatable. Stunning. And then there is Xander! Honestly, he is perfection! Well, no he is not perfect, but close enough. He is sweet, adorable and so caring but he is also so caught up in the question of who he is and what his past is all about. He does the most for the people he loves and reading his journey to finding himself just crushed me in the best way possible. And I have to do an honorary shout out to the supporting cast! They are dubbed “the most faithful and fucked up family” and it is a very accurate description. There is so much love and loyalty within this Chicanx community and characters and they deserve your attention!
With Pen, comes the portrayal of a teen living with mental illness. Reading about her past and current battles with depression and anxiety gave readers a much deeper understanding of how Pen sees herself and why there was so much tension between her and her family, especially her father. I like how it was imagined as a cacophony of voices in her head. While I cannot comment on the accuracy of its portrayal, it was such an integral part of Pen’s journey.
As with any book that deals with cooking and food, I was a) HUNGRY ALL THE TIME and b) reminded of my absolute inadequacy in the kitchen. Remember that immersive writing? Yeah, immersive writing coupled with the theme of food makes me salivate with every turn of the page! (TMI? Maybe, but I speak my truth) Alongside food, this book covers so many incredible themes like love and loyalty for the Chicanx community, found family, lost family, fighting corruption and seeking passion. Every aspect of this book is full of life. And all of these themes come collectively under the bigger theme of dreaming! This book holds so many dreams, so many hopes. Stunning” is the only way I can put it.
THE ROMANCE HAD ME SO SOFT. I cannot explain it to you friends, you’re just going to have to read it for yourselves. I ship these two so hard, y’all don’t understand! *Breaks down into sobs*
And since I’m already sobbing, I might as well state it plain and clear: This book is very emotional. (See the exploration of depression, anxiety and self-doubt) Past mistakes whether self-made or otherwise really impact how Pen and Xander navigate their lives throughout the story. In searching for acceptance they often face the fear of never being enough and falling victim to false hope. I love how this books talks about facing fears. I love how it dissects the effects of swallowing fear. Avoiding it and thinking about fear like its a game to win will only lead us down some even darker roads. I like that the book really advocated for seeking support from others even though everyone is on their own path. Pen and Xander both have a not so easy time dealing with fear individually, but reading about how they help one another in big and small ways warmed my heart so much!
The title is BRILLIANT and we just have to contemplate it for a second. All in all, the title really encompasses the moments and spaces these characters inhabit. They are literally always somewhere between bitter fears and sweet hopes. And reading about how these characters’ move between these two emotional poles was a tender and endearing experience no matter the flavour.
I cried maybe a little at the end. It was an ending that just *phew* just brought everything together so beautifully! My heart squeezed and I loved that feeling so much!
TL;DR This book is absolutely beautiful and you need to read it.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend: YES, GET THIS BOOK ON YOUR TBR NOW.
~ FAN ART! ~
Please enjoy this illustration of Pen and Xander sharing a very special and sweet moment together! This is definitely one of my favourite scenes from the book! Read it to find out more!!
Let me know what you think! What are your favourite emotional reads? What are your favourite books about food? Are you looking forward to reading this?