Enter the hockey team and co-captains Will and Josh, AKA one of the very few love triangles I will actually spring for. I seriously don’t like love triangles, but the one portrayed in Bittersweet was realistic and genuine as opposed to fake and gimmicky. As captains of the hockey team (which is on a ten-year losing streak), Will and Josh recruit Hudson to help train their players, using techniques she learned as a figure skater. In exchange, Hudson scores free ice time so she can get back in shape and compete for a scholarship.
Hudson is a confused, flawed, but likeable person. She’s internalized a lot of bad things and she blames herself for things she shouldn’t. She chases after Will even when her ex-best friend (also Will’s ex-girlfriend) warns her off. She gives Josh mixed signals because she can’t speak openly with him. She alienates her new best friend, Dani, because she’s self-centered and imagining herself anywhere but home. By the middle of the book, Hudson’s entire life is in pieces, and that’s where the perfection of Sarah Ockler’s storytelling comes into play.
More than anything else, Bittersweet is about how Hudson figures herself out and starts heading down a path that she wants to be on. It’s a book about self-discovery and acceptance, of letting the past go and looking toward the future. And don’t we all need books like that in our life?
Relationships play a huge role in this book. Hudson’s relationships with her mother and little brother. Her relationships with her former best friend and current best friend. Her relationships with the two hockey captains, Will and Josh. Watching the dynamics between Hudson the various people in her life, how they stick together or fall apart, was unbelievably realistic and touching. I fully applaud Ockler for that.
It also should be noted that Bittersweet is, above all, a fluffy, cutesy novel. In my opinion, I found Hudson’s story to be substantial and authentic, but this is cheesy contemporary nevertheless. However, because the book isn’t romance-centric, and because the protagonist is actually someone I could stand behind and root for, I wasn’t put off by the fluff. Simply because, by and large, Bittersweet is too adorable not to love.
On a final note, I’d like to mention that the ending—the final three chapters—are spectacular. Ockler really found a way to give everyone involved a happily-ever-after that didn’t cloy or seem false. Hudson showed that she had truly grown as a person, and I was seriously impressed with the young woman she became over the course of the novel.