The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

HarperCollins/Heartdrum. May 2022. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063086166.
Gr 10 Up–This searing story starts with a trigger warning from the author. Louise, who is Métis, plans to spend the summer after graduation with her mom, uncles, and friends while working at the family’s ice cream shack earning money for college. Her mom decides to travel the pow-wow circuit, selling her beaded jewelry. The older white man who raped her mother, resulting in Louise’s birth, is released from prison, and is now stalking her. The return of King Nathan, a friend who might want to be more than a friend, but from whom Louise keeps a huge secret, changes her summer. Multiple secrets are revealed over a few months—that Louise first passed as white when she moved to town, that her family may lose their farm, and about an act of revenge all related to the toxic violence of racism and sexism in a small town on the Alberta Prairie. Louise slowly reveals her own secrets, and the ones her family have kept from her. Brutally honest about the sexual and physical violence Native women are subjected to, this story deals with a variety of painful topics and their impact on Louise’s friends and family. Each chapter begins with a beaded image from her mother’s art and a quote from her uncle’s ice cream recipe book.
VERDICT The honesty and complexity of this book make it a gripping read; a great first purchase for libraries serving teens.

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