Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Review of "Bittersweet"


Cathy Marie Hake

To Be Released
Spring 2007

When this book arrived in the mail, I was very excited. Cathy Marie Hake's freshman book in this series, "Letter Perfect", was one of my favorite books of 2006. It was fresh, humourous, entertaining, and an all-around great read. I expected no less from "Bittersweet". When an author can write so well, you just expect further attempts to be good. Unfortunately, I was vastly disappointed by this book.

I feel that Hake tried to make "Bittersweet" as much of a hit as "Letter Perfect" was. Perhaps her downfall came there, as her characters are, perhaps, less interesting than in the first book. "Bittersweet" is very disappointing. The plot is predictable, even formulaic. Boy notices girl next door, they begin to fall in love, boy gets in trouble, they are separated, and, in the end, all the strings are tied up in one neat little package.

"Bittersweet" had the right mix for a great book for much of the story. Unfortunately, it feels artificially contrived for the last 3 chapters. Everything just works out too well for the main characters in the end. All of the charm and unusual characters in "Letter Perfect" is missing in "Bittersweet".

The storyline, while in no means unique, is a sweet tale of love and heartache. Galen, a young farmer, views Lacey, a neighbor girl, as his little sister for years. Lacey, however, finds herself herself strongly attracted to Galen, who, over time finds himself recognizing that Lacey has grown up into a beautiful young woman. At nearly the same time, a rough and tumble family squats on Galen's land. The father, a alcoholic lazy bum, plans on setting up a still on the land. Ishmael and Ivy, the twin teenagers, work for Galen's family for food. Galen feels pity for the family, and supplies them with food and blankets. This backfires disatrously, as on the very day Galen plans to propose to Lacey, Ishmael steals Galen's gun, confronts Galen, saying that Galen has taken Ivy's honor and caused her pregnancy, and forces Galen and Ivy to wed. The well-read reader can guess nearly everything that follows.

I had high hopes for this book, and while it had lofty aspirations, it failed to truly be a classic piece of fiction, or perhaps even one that most readers will remember more than a few days or weeks. My advice? Read this book, but wait until it comes to your local library or bargain table.

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