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The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson Review

Title: The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

Author: Jen Ferguson

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Harpercollins/Heartdrum

Pages: 384

Release Date: 10 May 2022 (US & CA), 23 June 2022 (UK)

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Hello fellow book lovers!

Today, I’m sharing my review for the incredible YA Contemporary, The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson.

It’s a beautifully written, complex and powerfully evocative debut that I found both inspiring and deeply moving. However, I do advise checking the TWs before reading as there is content/situations described that may be upsetting or triggering for some readers.

I also wanted to say a huge thank you to Harper360YA for sending me this gorgeous proof.


In this complex and emotionally resonant novel, 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.


I really enjoyed this, it’s a magnificently eye-opening (and honest) story full of rage, secrets and the bitter sting of injustice. But, it’s also full self acceptance, of exploring friendship dynamics (the good and bad) and embracing your community, there’s sweetness too,in the love, hope and support that sufffuses Lou’s journey every step of the way.

Though it deals with some hard hitting topics such as rape, institutional racism, sexism and violence I think this is an absolutely perfect summer read, that I know will resonate with readers just as much as it has resonated with me.

Lou was an absolutely compelling and multi-faceted character whose struggles with her identity (both in terms of her heritage and her sexual identity) were well crafted and really brought her to life.

I was soo emotionally invested in Lou, and found myself hearbroken and angry on her behalf soo many times, her mother’s horrific ordeal and the experiences of so many indigenous characters really brought to light just how threatening life can be for native women. Ferguson does an incredible job highlighting the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis currently being faced across Canada and the United States, and seeing soo many characters discussing it and taking action to protect one another was incredibly empowering to behold.

I loved almost all of the characters (except for Wyatt, Doyle & Lou’s Bio father who I absolutely despised) and felt they were all really compelling and full of dimension, but I definitely had a soft spot for Tyler and Cami. King was also a really interesting character and I enjoyed just how patient and understanding he was with Lou—I also loved to see a healthier, positive friendship relationship to counter the toxicity surrounding Lou’s ex, Wyatt.

I also loved the sheer breadth of diversity with Indigenous, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ / Ace and mental health rep that I felt was really sensitively and respectfully handled, I will definitely be reading more of her books in future.

Overall, this is a powerfully resonant, relevant and utterly compelling novel that lovers of Contemporary YA should definitely check out!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫/5

About The Author

Photo credit: Mel Shea & Earrings by: The Beads Knees

Jen Ferguson (she/her) is Métis and white, an activist, a feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice armed with a PhD. She believes writing, teaching and beading are political acts. Her debut YA novel, The Summer of Bitter and Sweet, is out now from Heartdrum / HarperCollins.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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