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Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

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I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong. 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 choos I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong. 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.


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I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong. 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 choos I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong. 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.

30 review for Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a tough book to rate and I waffled between three and four stars because there were some things I really liked and some things that I didn't like quite as much. (For the record, three star reviews are the hardest to write because how do you say "yeah, I liked it, but I didn't REALLY like it and here's why?") This is the story of two Latinx teens with very different problems, who come together because Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a tough book to rate and I waffled between three and four stars because there were some things I really liked and some things that I didn't like quite as much. (For the record, three star reviews are the hardest to write because how do you say "yeah, I liked it, but I didn't REALLY like it and here's why?") This is the story of two Latinx teens with very different problems, who come together because of food-- and oh my God, the food descriptions are one of the best things about this book, because food is one of those things that sparks joy and brings people together and the author perfectly captured the emotional experience of eating something that your parents taught you how to make, and watching your loved ones consume something that you prepared with love. Pen, the heroine, wants to work in the restaurant business. She doesn't want to go to college. Some people might not like this but I actually did because college isn't necessarily a path for everyone, and sometimes it's better to go to a school to study the trades, and I think it's nice for kids to see rep where other paths are explored. Xander, the hero, is an undocumented immigrant who is searching for his father, and he's currently living with his grandfather while also lying low. He meets Pen when he's hired to work at a restaurant, cash under the table. They end up becoming friends and then, maybe, something more? Guess you'll have to read to find out. (And you should.) I liked how the struggles of each character were represented although, like another reviewer, I was a little surprised that Pen could afford to live on her own on a fast food salary in a nice-ish apartment. I thought this was set in Texas(???) and from what I understand, Texas real estate is almost as pricey as California, so I wasn't sure if this would be feasible. It certainly wouldn't be here (in California). There were also a LOT of plot strings and it felt like a lot of them were resolved pretty hastily in the last act, and I think part of that might have been because of the time spent on developing the romance (which didn't really work-- their connection felt forced to me, you might disagree). I also felt like the subjects of depression and (CONTENT WARNING: self-harm) were pretty glossed over, which surprised me because this was compared to the book I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER, and even though this explores the same themes of how depression can manifest as anger (something that REALLY isn't talked about enough), I didn't feel like that comparison was very fair to either book because this book didn't feel quite as developed in terms of fleshing out characters. (IANYPM is one of my favorite young adult books, so I may be biased.) BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is definitely a YA for older teens because of its focus on what happens after school and also because of some pretty grim content, including an evil loan shark type character who is very terrible and some scenes of police discrimination. Nothing is over the top and everything is handled with care, but I think it will be intense reading for some (even though it serves a purpose). At the end of the day, this is a story about making mistakes, forgiving family for being imperfect, and how the things that can make a community vulnerable can also make it strong in times of need. And also, of course, FOOD. I would definitely read more from this author. (Also, the author's note at the end was very sweet. Read it.) 3 to 3.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Olivia (Stories For Coffee)

    I absolutely loved this YA contemporary. It was so sweet and quick to read while also packing in some hard-hitting topics like being undocumented, moving out of your parent's house, struggling with a mental illness, dealing with strained familial relationships, and going after one's dreams. I also loved how soft Xander and Penelope's romance was and how their aspirations and relationships with their families took center stage in this story rather than focusing solely on their budding relationshi I absolutely loved this YA contemporary. It was so sweet and quick to read while also packing in some hard-hitting topics like being undocumented, moving out of your parent's house, struggling with a mental illness, dealing with strained familial relationships, and going after one's dreams. I also loved how soft Xander and Penelope's romance was and how their aspirations and relationships with their families took center stage in this story rather than focusing solely on their budding relationship. This book was full of Latinx culture, the love for food and how it can heal the hearts of others, quirky side characters, and left the biggest smile on my face. TW: Self-harm, anxiety, fire, ICE, police brutality

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    3.5 stars I'm not quite sure how to classify this YA read because it falls into more than one category. There's some romance but it's also a coming of age story. Regardless of how you want to label it, I enjoyed this book and was impressed with the different real world subjects the author was able to tackle in the story. Penelope "Pen" Prado is an aspiring pastry chef and has worked in her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos, for years. Her dreams don't exactly match up with her parents' expectatio 3.5 stars I'm not quite sure how to classify this YA read because it falls into more than one category. There's some romance but it's also a coming of age story. Regardless of how you want to label it, I enjoyed this book and was impressed with the different real world subjects the author was able to tackle in the story. Penelope "Pen" Prado is an aspiring pastry chef and has worked in her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos, for years. Her dreams don't exactly match up with her parents' expectations and that leads to Pen taking a sink or swim course on this whole adulting thing. Xander Amaro was raised by this grandfather after his father left him behind. Due to his immigration status Xander needs to fly under the radar and hopefully his new job at Nacho's Tacos will allow him to do so. Pen and Xander each have their own set of problems and after meeting, they form a connection. What could happen next? The story alternates between Pen and Xander and I liked both characters. I do wish more time was spent on Pen's mental health issues as it could have been explored more in depth. Xander's storyline of wanting to search for his father did tug at the heartstrings as well as some other parts of the plot. I received an uncorrected copy of this book and I do hope the derogatory term "bums" is edited out of the final version. It pops up in a conversation about potentially being homeless and people who dig cigarette butts out of public ashtrays. So much of the heart of the story is being a part of a community and helping others in need and it just did not make sense for the character to say it. One other issue I had with the story is there were a few things that didn't seem realistic. The apartment was something I questioned for a couple different reasons. I also thought one of the plotlines wrapped up too nice and neat in regards to one of the characters. Trying to be vague so I don't give away spoilers. Overall, this book is a pretty solid read as the cultural issues were fascinating and definitely underrepresented in ya fiction and really all genres. I received an advance uncorrected proof but was not obligated to post a review here. All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elysian Fields

    Oh my heart!!! This story is AMAZING! Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a story (and it is a story, not just a book) full of beauty, real issues, heartfelt moments, and courageous characters among many other things. My favorite read of the year buy far! I am so in love with this story. 💜💜 Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a breathtaking, emotional and heart warming coming of age story that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues or sugar coat life. The pages are filled with real and raw mo Oh my heart!!! This story is AMAZING! Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a story (and it is a story, not just a book) full of beauty, real issues, heartfelt moments, and courageous characters among many other things. My favorite read of the year buy far! I am so in love with this story. 💜💜 Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a breathtaking, emotional and heart warming coming of age story that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues or sugar coat life. The pages are filled with real and raw moments, both lovely and agonizing, both personal and social. This is a must-read story for all, one that needs to be celebrated and shared repeatedly. (I could praise this book for pages and pages, hours, and days but I will do my best to be concise. LOL.) Something Between Bitter and Sweet is an elegant story about two young people, a community, and people in general. Pan, a young adult, who is trying to find her place, not only in the world, but within her family and within herself. Xander, and undocumented young man, trying to find answers to life and family where he belongs and is wanted; as well as a community that might struggle at times, but at the heart knows how to respect and support each other. The story shows readers both the favorable and the more difficult aspects of life and growing up but also what it is like for people trying to change their circumstances within the world, their community, their family roles and with in themselves (so, all of us). This is all accomplished around a taco restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, that has been part of the community for years; and the restaurant is a formidable character itself. Helping wherever they can and with the most universal way of gathering and supporting food. The myriad of dishes mentioned made me both hungry and nostalgic. This story highlights amazing dishes, desserts and the love that goes into every bite. However, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is more than a YA story of first love and growing up. The issues mentioned in the story are universal and affect us all; ones that all readers can relate to on some level: mental health, family structure and expectations, cultural and social issues, and romantic and friendship relationships, among many others. I found myself relating to the characters, their struggles, wanting to help (and wishing I could slide me number to them so that we cold talk and support each other). As I was reading this story, I found this entire cast to be not only my friends but by the end, part of my family. The beauty of this story is not only in the development of the characters, their hearts, and actions but also in the inspiration the community provides for each other. There is a moment within the story (an entire chapter, chapter 21 to be exact) where I want to join in, I want to celebrate, I want to live in that moment for a while. I want to experience what it is like and to gather strength and support from it. It is truly an outstanding moment and written with such heart and beauty. The language, the culture, the heart and the joy, the pain and the fear and the uncertain moments, the community and the love, the struggles and the trust, the respect and the beauty all come together to make this a must-read experience. I really hope others read this story and I really hope this becomes a story, a book that is required reading for all students. There are so many wonderful lessons within these pages, it would truly be a loss to miss out on this read. … There were a few words that came to mind while reading: Family, friends, food, human, relatable, heart, courage, emotional, vivid, real, raw, engaging, hope, faith and community. If you need one more push to check this story out, here it is, the quote that stood out to me, that I think really defines the “bones/heart” of this story is this: “Because in life, sometimes the only way to move forward is to do the scary thing. Especially when it’s the right thing… Courage isn’t a currency, and claiming it isn’t a game. The things that scare us aren’t roadblocks but mirrors, and bravery isn’t about shattering our reflection, it’s about having the strength to look.” See, pure beauty! Check out this book for more here information or to pre-order: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F4ZTGHC/...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elena L.

    [4.5/5 stars] SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET follows Pen, a young Latina who works at her father's Mexican restaurant Nacho's Tacos and has a dream of opening her own pastelería. However, her Mexican-American parents have different plans for her. When she meets a new hire at Nacho's, Xander, they navigate into a journey of self-discovery and belonging. What a beautiful debut YA novel! To begin with, I really loved the cultural aspects in this novel as I felt like swimming in a sea of Mexican [4.5/5 stars] SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET follows Pen, a young Latina who works at her father's Mexican restaurant Nacho's Tacos and has a dream of opening her own pastelería. However, her Mexican-American parents have different plans for her. When she meets a new hire at Nacho's, Xander, they navigate into a journey of self-discovery and belonging. What a beautiful debut YA novel! To begin with, I really loved the cultural aspects in this novel as I felt like swimming in a sea of Mexican culture - the authenticity of language plus portraying food as cultural identity and demonstration of love warmed my heart. Kemp dives deep into the theme of familial expectations, which Pen has to choose between her own freedom to pursue her dreams or to fulfill her parents' unaccomplished whishes. I could relate at some degree to Pen's experience while being an immigrant and also daughter of immigrants - the struggles are real when it comes to decide the better choice to your life without failing your family. In a different situation from Pen, Xander deals with sometimes harsh complexities of his undocumented status. I didn't need much effort to empathize with his relentless sentiment of being invisible in addition to the fear that daily haunts him. His interaction with Pen was organic and heartfelt; and I thought that we couldn't find a better supporter than Xander. Although I wasn't invested in all the side characters, they felt like a big family and were well-built to complement the main characters. From moments when Pen needs to find where she belongs to occasions which she/her family/Xander fights the helplessness, the story doesn't hold back showing us the many challenges that Chicanx community faces in the US. I was ultimately moved by their resilience and the last part of the book opened my eyes to a different perspective of how resilience works. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a contemporary Latinx story about first love, the power of food and the meaning of home. [ I received an ARC from the publisher - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - in exchange for an honest review ]

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laekan Kemp

    **INSTRUMENTAL SOUNDTRACK COMING SOON** http://www.laekanzeakemp.com/music PRE-ORDER: https://bit.ly/3639XEX Enter the PRE-ORDER Campaign: http://www.laekanzeakemp.com/preorder This story is a little piece of my heart & soul & a kaleidoscope view of so many important people & moments in my life. Pen's mental health struggles mirror the mental health journey I've been on since my late teens & the conflict with her parents comes from those same late teen / early college years when my father was sick, m **INSTRUMENTAL SOUNDTRACK COMING SOON** http://www.laekanzeakemp.com/music PRE-ORDER: https://bit.ly/3639XEX Enter the PRE-ORDER Campaign: http://www.laekanzeakemp.com/preorder This story is a little piece of my heart & soul & a kaleidoscope view of so many important people & moments in my life. Pen's mental health struggles mirror the mental health journey I've been on since my late teens & the conflict with her parents comes from those same late teen / early college years when my father was sick, my mother & I weren't getting along & it felt like my entire world was falling apart. The setting of the restaurant has more joyful origins & was inspired by my partner's hilarious stories of working in a restaurant in our hometown. I loved all of their quirky traditions & inside jokes & wanted to use that environment to explore this idea of found families & belonging. Then came Xander's character who is the embodiment of the resilience & bravery of my former students. I taught English as a Second Language for four years & got to see up close what it’s like for them & their families to navigate our ridiculous immigration system. I am in awe of their ability to persevere under those circumstances & I wanted Xander's character to capture their incessant hopefulness & endless compassion. They showed me what it really means to belong to & care for a community. I hope that when people read this story they will see that the Mexican & Chicanx community is beautiful. That we are resilient, creative, powerful, loving, and proud. That we take care of each other. That we fight for each other. And that we will keep fighting together whether those battles are internal & require us to break down stigmas & talk about our heartbreak & trauma or those battles are coming from the outside world & require us to stand tall, to raise our voices, to lock arms & march. We deserve to take up space & we deserve to follow our dreams. This book being out in the world is one of mine & I can't wait to share it with all of you.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura H.

    I am so excited for the release of this novel! I have several teenagers in my life that would benefit deeply from the discussions of passion, identity, and mental health. Penelope and Xander come across as incredibly relatable. Their struggle to deal with their emotional lives is taken with great care by the author, showing that fear and anxiety aren’t meant to be swallowed. Their relationship is a great example of how important it is to be willing to reach out, which is an awesome lesson in its I am so excited for the release of this novel! I have several teenagers in my life that would benefit deeply from the discussions of passion, identity, and mental health. Penelope and Xander come across as incredibly relatable. Their struggle to deal with their emotional lives is taken with great care by the author, showing that fear and anxiety aren’t meant to be swallowed. Their relationship is a great example of how important it is to be willing to reach out, which is an awesome lesson in itself. It's so refreshing to read a book in which both female and male identifying characters are treated with equal care. I found that there was little space between plot development and the internal dialogues of the character- the flow and pacing was perfect! Absolutely a delight to read. As an adult, I found myself highlighting and talking about certain lines with my partner, relating to not only myself as a teenager, but as to what kind of support I’d like to be for teens in the same position as these characters. This would be great as a book for parents to read along with their children, as a whole-class room novel, or as a book to tie yourself back to humanity if you're feeling lousy. A total accomplishment by the author, Laeken Kemp. All teens deserve to see themselves in literature, not only to develop self-worth but to also see that reading teaches you about life. This book does both! I hope to see this novel in the top 5 of best sellers lists.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ben Beach

    In Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, Kemp has managed to capture the way that "between-ness" is truly a part of our world. Life, love, family, friends, food - nothing is all sweet, all the time. Nor would we actually want it to be. Although we might at times wish for a little less of the bitter, reality often has other ideas. And so it is for Pen and Xander, as they face the bitter of real life and search for the sweet. They find just how unexpected it can be to encounter both. In the process, In Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, Kemp has managed to capture the way that "between-ness" is truly a part of our world. Life, love, family, friends, food - nothing is all sweet, all the time. Nor would we actually want it to be. Although we might at times wish for a little less of the bitter, reality often has other ideas. And so it is for Pen and Xander, as they face the bitter of real life and search for the sweet. They find just how unexpected it can be to encounter both. In the process, these two discover that we can never truly understand others' motivations and that the truth is often far more complex than we imagine. A timely and moving story of young adults learning to deal with the world the previous generation has left them - bitter, sweet, or otherwise.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sam Taylor

    LOVED THIS. A marvelously well-written YA contemporary about family and becoming an adult and finding your place in the world. The food descriptions are phenomenal and the characters are well-developed and will carry you through their dreams. I was sucked right into the story from the start. Yet another outstanding book to watch for in 2021!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jig

    Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful, “coming of age” love story. It is refreshing to read a story about a beautiful, young LATIN woman! One of the main characters, Pen, is struggling to find her true self. While, Xander is looking for a sense of belonging. I like how the author switches from Pen’s perspective to Xander’s. It allows the reader to dive deeply into each character and fully understand their internal conflicts. Additionally, the story helps the reader understand the man Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful, “coming of age” love story. It is refreshing to read a story about a beautiful, young LATIN woman! One of the main characters, Pen, is struggling to find her true self. While, Xander is looking for a sense of belonging. I like how the author switches from Pen’s perspective to Xander’s. It allows the reader to dive deeply into each character and fully understand their internal conflicts. Additionally, the story helps the reader understand the many challenges the Hispanic community faces here in the US. It is about young love, self acceptance, the importance of family and the need for a sense of belonging. I just thought it was lovely!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Keri Burns

    Every night that I picked up this book, the clock had hours pass before I could convince myself to finally put it down for sleep. The characters are so wonderful and strong and sincere that I had to know what would happen to them. I loved everything about this book but especially the dual POV. I want to be Pen! She is so brave and fierce and loving and honest and imperfect and real. I hope every girl finds her own Xander! He is selfless and gentle and strong and smart and lives with his heart wi Every night that I picked up this book, the clock had hours pass before I could convince myself to finally put it down for sleep. The characters are so wonderful and strong and sincere that I had to know what would happen to them. I loved everything about this book but especially the dual POV. I want to be Pen! She is so brave and fierce and loving and honest and imperfect and real. I hope every girl finds her own Xander! He is selfless and gentle and strong and smart and lives with his heart wide open. I can’t wait to read everything else this author has written and will write in the future. Her writing is so full of love and honesty and hope but also brave enough to be real and vulnerable.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephany Gaines

    This beautifully crafted story is told from the first-person perspectives of a female and male protagonist. Pen and Xander are both trying to navigate the transition between dependence and independence, adolescence and adulthood, and self-discovery with tight familial ties. Their stories stem from American born and immigrant experiences and an instant connection between their passion for food and culture. The author's masterful use of imagery brings the sights, tastes, sounds, and raw emotions t This beautifully crafted story is told from the first-person perspectives of a female and male protagonist. Pen and Xander are both trying to navigate the transition between dependence and independence, adolescence and adulthood, and self-discovery with tight familial ties. Their stories stem from American born and immigrant experiences and an instant connection between their passion for food and culture. The author's masterful use of imagery brings the sights, tastes, sounds, and raw emotions to life from the first page and continually draws in the reader with impeccable detail and charmingly relatable characters. This book explores socioeconomic struggles, cultural expectations, immigration issues, as well as anxiety, depression, and self-doubt that haunt so many young adults today. Readers of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities will relate to this novel.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Halli Gomez

    I was very lucky to get an eARC of this book. It was such a wonderful read. Told in dual POVs, Pen and Xander, we learn what a family really is. This book is filled with heart and struggle as these two young adults fight against society, family, and themselves as they figure out what the future holds for them. Readers will be able to relate to both characters. The characters in this story were well-developed and had such unique feelings and voices, yet they came together so beautifully. And the f I was very lucky to get an eARC of this book. It was such a wonderful read. Told in dual POVs, Pen and Xander, we learn what a family really is. This book is filled with heart and struggle as these two young adults fight against society, family, and themselves as they figure out what the future holds for them. Readers will be able to relate to both characters. The characters in this story were well-developed and had such unique feelings and voices, yet they came together so beautifully. And the food, wow! The detail the author went into writing the cooking scenes left my mouth watering. The biggest impact in this story was Xander's struggle to find acceptance and safety as an undocumented kid. It is an eye opener for everyone who hasn't faced this challenge and a must read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Toya (the reading chemist)

    Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is that book that transported me back to my restaurant worker days and being surrounded by the magic of the food in New Mexico. I’ll be honest, I was not the biggest fan of Pen when the book started off. She’s hotheaded, impatient, and thrives off emasculating men. BUT, there’s more to her exterior shell...a deep passion for cooking and her family’s restaurant including everyone who works in it. Unfortunately, Stella’s family doesn’t want her to bear the burden Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is that book that transported me back to my restaurant worker days and being surrounded by the magic of the food in New Mexico. I’ll be honest, I was not the biggest fan of Pen when the book started off. She’s hotheaded, impatient, and thrives off emasculating men. BUT, there’s more to her exterior shell...a deep passion for cooking and her family’s restaurant including everyone who works in it. Unfortunately, Stella’s family doesn’t want her to bear the burden of restaurant life for her and thinks she’s taking classes at the local community college in order to become a nurse. I loved the chemistry between Pen and Xander. It was the perfect combination of grumpy vs sunshine one without falling prey to harmful stereotypes. I also loved what Pen’s father was able to do not for those who worked at the restaurant but his community as well. This book seamlessly blended the importance and family and community into the entirety of the plot. Overall, this is a fantastic coming of age story that really dives into the importance of family and culture. Thank you to The NOVL for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mn

    Truly could relate to the Cultural aspects of the novel. The author's message resonate with me , as an Immigrant parent and wanted whats the best for my daughters. Then again , our children do have their own dream and aspiration, so an Immigrant parent at time we have to let go of our expectation of our children, but Remember and Respect that you are not living their life. Thry are , so what made them feel fulfilled, thats all you could Hope for. So blessed to be part of this amazing journey wit Truly could relate to the Cultural aspects of the novel. The author's message resonate with me , as an Immigrant parent and wanted whats the best for my daughters. Then again , our children do have their own dream and aspiration, so an Immigrant parent at time we have to let go of our expectation of our children, but Remember and Respect that you are not living their life. Thry are , so what made them feel fulfilled, thats all you could Hope for. So blessed to be part of this amazing journey with the author. Love-Glam-ma Mim

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Ixba

    Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp is a story about finding love and expressing that love in unexpected and meaningful ways. This is a coming of age story for the 21st century. The characters are vibrant and relatable, and the storyline is engaging. I would highly recommend this book to my students. I received an ARC of this work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hilda Burgos

    Kemps' characters feel so real that you can't help but sit on the edge of your seat and root for them. A must-read! Kemps' characters feel so real that you can't help but sit on the edge of your seat and root for them. A must-read!

  18. 5 out of 5

    SweetheartSeerBooks

    4.5 rounded up. Won a physical ARC. This book was so good and the family dynamic was amazing. I loved Pen and her actions during an interview with a rude person are what I feel most of us only wish we could have done during an interview at some point. Iconic! I also liked how depression was included in being portrayed after medication as it seems I don't see that aspect much in literature. Xander was such a sweet guy and I adored his Abuelo. Chloe and Angel I was rooting for them, but we didn't reall 4.5 rounded up. Won a physical ARC. This book was so good and the family dynamic was amazing. I loved Pen and her actions during an interview with a rude person are what I feel most of us only wish we could have done during an interview at some point. Iconic! I also liked how depression was included in being portrayed after medication as it seems I don't see that aspect much in literature. Xander was such a sweet guy and I adored his Abuelo. Chloe and Angel I was rooting for them, but we didn't really get any closure there which is pretty realistic actually. Overall, definitely recommend!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)

    If you want a delectable young adult contemporary romance that will not only pierce your heart and get your salivary glands working overtime, but will also challenge your thinking and give readers more than just your typical romance... well, you'll want to eat this one right up. Pen and Xander are our main characters and you immediately grow to love and root for each of them. Pen is dealing with familial expectations vs her own dreams and Xander is undocumented and looking for his father, who doe If you want a delectable young adult contemporary romance that will not only pierce your heart and get your salivary glands working overtime, but will also challenge your thinking and give readers more than just your typical romance... well, you'll want to eat this one right up. Pen and Xander are our main characters and you immediately grow to love and root for each of them. Pen is dealing with familial expectations vs her own dreams and Xander is undocumented and looking for his father, who doesn't seem to want to be found. When their paths cross it sparks a multitude of changes for them both. Yes, we get the YAY LOVE moments, but this comes across through more than just this *unlikely* couple... the author brings us so so much more. Rather than just focusing on the two of them and their romantic journey, we also receive the loves of everyone else around them. Family, friends, the community in general... prepare to pick up your emotions at the end. I think what resonated the most for me was just how real everything felt. Pen and Xander are relatable - oh the expectations our families put upon us and how hard it is to go against that. How difficult being invisible can feel even when we know we *have* to be. The emotional and mental challenges that come not only from the family within but also from the racial discrimination faced every day. LIFE. And we cannot forget to mention the food because YESSSSS. In general food is comforting and how families come together .. whether every evening, just on the holidays or whatever special occasion arises. I especially love that the romance part did come across more "organically" and without all the instalove we come to expect with YA. Kemp has cooked us up a story full of flavor, humor, life lessons and the grit life throws at us.. which we can grind down and make into our own pearl... if we so choose.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leslie - Shobizreads

    Thanks to @librofm for the gifted audio listening copy of this book. Fans of YA like With Fire on High, I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and We Are Not From Here will enjoy Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet. This novel explores the story of undocumented immigrants in Austin, Texas. Penelope and Xander are brought together by working at a local restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. Pen's father owns Nacho's Tacos, where her older brother is the manager. In reality, Pen lives, eats and breathes Nacho's T Thanks to @librofm for the gifted audio listening copy of this book. Fans of YA like With Fire on High, I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and We Are Not From Here will enjoy Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet. This novel explores the story of undocumented immigrants in Austin, Texas. Penelope and Xander are brought together by working at a local restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. Pen's father owns Nacho's Tacos, where her older brother is the manager. In reality, Pen lives, eats and breathes Nacho's Tacos. She cares deeply about the restaurant, running it well and coming up with new recipes. When she comes clean with her parents about not going to nursing classes, they fire her from working at the restaurant and send her packing. Neither her mom or dad want her working at the restaurant long-term so they enforce some "tough love" sending her to find her own living and working situation. Xander has been living with his abuelo for years as his dad disappeared and his mom left years and years ago. Despite his grandfather's care over the years, he is desperate to find his father. Xander isn't a legal immigrant, so when his status is threatened as well as his newfound "family" at Nacho's Tacos, he'll do whatever it takes to protect both. This debut is all the feels exploring the coming-of-age stories of both Pen and Xander. It explores the courageous, loyal and family-oriented Chicanx community. 4.5 Stars This releases April 6, 2021.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Effy

    4.5 stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    Susan Ballard

    Penelope “Pen” Prado has big dreams. She works in her family’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, but wants to open her own pasteleria one day. The problem is her parents want her to go to college. Pen finally musters up the courage to tell her parents she hasn’t been going to classes, but she couldn’t have dreamed of their reaction. Her father fires her from the restaurant, the place where her heart lives. As Pen is finishing her last shift, a new hire is being trained, Xander Amaro. Xander has been sea Penelope “Pen” Prado has big dreams. She works in her family’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, but wants to open her own pasteleria one day. The problem is her parents want her to go to college. Pen finally musters up the courage to tell her parents she hasn’t been going to classes, but she couldn’t have dreamed of their reaction. Her father fires her from the restaurant, the place where her heart lives. As Pen is finishing her last shift, a new hire is being trained, Xander Amaro. Xander has been searching for his father who left him behind, claiming to try to make a better life for him here in the states. As Xander begins to feel like the Nacho’s Tacos crew is family, he worries that his immigration status is a danger to them. Pen and Xander collide in a world of flavors, family, and fears in this story. But it’s not just their love story, their fierce determination, and the loyalty of family and friends shine through. Kemp uses the sweet and savory aromas of food to beautifully tell an honest story of love and struggles within family, as well as, cultural struggles with discrimination. Thank you to @librofm and @hachetteaudio for this #gifted audiobook.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Booksandcoffeepleasemx

    Thank you LibroFm and Hachette Audio for giving me this ALC in exchange for an honest review. This story stole my heart, I don’t know where to begin with what it made me feel. A beautiful story about family, love, identity, culture and the power of food, Mexican food!🇲🇽🥳 This book was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I loved it and I can’t wait to read more books from this author. http://www.instagram.com/booksandcoff... Thank you LibroFm and Hachette Audio for giving me this ALC in exchange for an honest review. This story stole my heart, I don’t know where to begin with what it made me feel. A beautiful story about family, love, identity, culture and the power of food, Mexican food!🇲🇽🥳 This book was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I loved it and I can’t wait to read more books from this author. http://www.instagram.com/booksandcoff...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pretty_x_bookish

    FANTASTIC! This book was soooo good - the character work was superb.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I received a free audiobook copy from the publisher. This was a great YA story about family: how family hurts you, leaves you, loves you and supports you. A great cast of fun characters added some lightness to what is otherwise a pretty heavy story. Very touching and insightful, I greatly enjoyed this one!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    4.5 stars Such a feel good story!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Madison

    I love books about/that feature food. They are also slightly torturous because food and that makes me hungry. And this book had me serious hungry for Mexican flavours and culinary delights. Of course, what sits so beautifully alongside this story of passion for food and the love that goes into their cooking is a heartbreaking story of belonging. Penelope Prado knows where she belongs. She dreams of running her own bakery, and building it right next to her family's restaurant. Her father disagree I love books about/that feature food. They are also slightly torturous because food and that makes me hungry. And this book had me serious hungry for Mexican flavours and culinary delights. Of course, what sits so beautifully alongside this story of passion for food and the love that goes into their cooking is a heartbreaking story of belonging. Penelope Prado knows where she belongs. She dreams of running her own bakery, and building it right next to her family's restaurant. Her father disagrees, and when Pen finally tells her parents she has dropped out of school and walked away from the life they wanted for her, they refuse to speak to her and her father fires her from the restaurant. Pen is an incredibly strong character - and not just because the guys in the kitchen completely and utterly fear her (which is awesome, by the way). Pen has a history of depression, anxiety and self harm. With her future so uncertainly and her risking everything to chase what feels right, but not really sure how to actually move forward, Pen finds herself wrestling with her mental demons again. Xander just wants to belong. He is undocumented and is constantly on edge and looking over his shoulder. He also wants to track down his father, who left his family and moved to the States, but doing so might break his Abuelo's heart. Xander is currently living with his Abuelo and starts working at Pen's family's restaurant. Xander doesn't see the hard exterior everyone else sees when they look at Pen. Instead, much to Pen's disgust, Xander sees her at a weak moment and admires her strength all the more for it. For Xander, the restaurant is a place to belong - even if it is among the crazy, constantly pranking (and puking, there is a serious amount of drug and gross puking in this book, just warning you) co-workers. The romance between Xander and Pen is what I am going to describe as slow burn. But my gosh, do they understand and support each other, which is so incredibly sweet. Together, and with their community, they must stand up against horrible racial discrimination and exploitation. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful, funny, uplifting story of family and belonging, food and the love that is poured into every mouthful. The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own. Find more reviews, reading age guides, content advisory, and recommendations on my blog Madison's Library.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a highly devourable YA romance/contemporary fiction. The story follows two young adults, Pen and Xander. Pen works at her father's restaurant and one day dreams of opening her own bakery. Her parents have a different dream for her, and they have enrolled her in college - but it is not the future she wants. When she reveals the lie she has been telling her parents, she gets an ultimatum she never anticipated - but she is ready to rise from the ashes. Xander is SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a highly devourable YA romance/contemporary fiction. The story follows two young adults, Pen and Xander. Pen works at her father's restaurant and one day dreams of opening her own bakery. Her parents have a different dream for her, and they have enrolled her in college - but it is not the future she wants. When she reveals the lie she has been telling her parents, she gets an ultimatum she never anticipated - but she is ready to rise from the ashes. Xander is undocumented and lives with his abuelo. He knows his father is somewhere in the United States but hasn't heard from him or seen him since he was little. He really wants to be able to find him, but it is difficult to find someone who does not seem to want to be found. When he is given an opportunity to work at Pen's father's restaurant, he is surprised at how much of a family the workers all are and the unexpected ways in which they serve the community. As Xander and Pen collide, their worlds are certain to change. What I loved: Although the romance is powerful and strong (a totally ship-worthy couple), the book really shines for its many critical and potent themes. There is a theme about mental illness that is handled fairly well, particularly in terms of insights into the way it must be culturally ignored but also in the strength of facing it and seeking treatments (in the past). There are also really strong themes about family - both blood and found families, and the importance of those relationships in life and for personal growth. There are also some deeper themes around the fear and uncertainties with being undocumented. Xander must always keep this in mind, and it's a heavy weight. The book also touches on predatory lending and the inability of law enforcement to adequately protect the people it serves around these issues as well as the ability of the wealthy and powerful to stand above it all. There is a lot of love in the book that really shines through. There is friend love, family love, romantic love, neighborly love, community love, and so many more threads that connect these characters to the people around them. I definitely fell in love with all of it. Xander and Pen felt so genuine and real, as well as those characters around them - this book really brought this world to life, and I loved every second spent in it. This was a highly emotional read and gave me all the feels. It's difficult to express all of them here, but I really enjoyed the sorrow, the depth, and the happiness that I experienced throughout. On a lighter note, I also felt pretty hungry, because the food passion also shines through the characters. Final verdict: A powerful, genuine, and touching read, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a thought-provoking YA contemporary fiction that is positively unputdownable. Highly recommend for fans of TWEET CUTE, STAY SWEET, and NORTH OF HAPPY. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Penelope "Pen" Prado is a strong, fierce commanding presence at her father's restaurant. Everyone runs in fear of her but that is the image she projects to protect herself. She lies to her parents over a huge part of her life and they decide it's time she leaves the restaurant and their house.  Xander starts work at the restaurant on her last day. He's drawn to her and he keeps finding himself next to her. His search for his father his whole life has him living with his Abuelo. The restaurant is Penelope "Pen" Prado is a strong, fierce commanding presence at her father's restaurant. Everyone runs in fear of her but that is the image she projects to protect herself. She lies to her parents over a huge part of her life and they decide it's time she leaves the restaurant and their house.  Xander starts work at the restaurant on her last day. He's drawn to her and he keeps finding himself next to her. His search for his father his whole life has him living with his Abuelo. The restaurant is under threat by a local loan shark since Nacho helps everyone out and that's not good for his business. Pen can't see that the more her Father pushes her away from the restaurant, the more he's trying to shield and protect her. She's taking it inside and letting the depression pull her down, that she isn't good enough. It's so hard being a parent! Your make choices for your kids and you don't tell them why but there's always a reason to protect them. You don't want to fill their heads with all the junk out there.  This is a coming of age romance between two people that don't feel they are good enough but have helped eachother find the beauty in each other. There is no steam which is totally fine I loved the way they stripped apart eachother souls, their "imperfections", insecurities and still loved what they say perhaps more so.  TW: depression, talk of self harm, parent leaving, ICE. Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 Thank you @TheNovl for my gifted copy for my honest and voluntary review!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daphne

    I’d rate more as 3.75 stars. I received an ARC from TheNovl for an honest review. This was my first book by this author and it caught my attention because of the interesting synopsis and that food is involved- I’ll always be interested if there’s promise of food. I loved the Latinx representation, and the food made me so hungry while reading. The book is written in the dual POVs of Pen (Penelope) Prado + Xander (Alejandro) Amaro, and the story is set in Texas, but firmly focused on their local c I’d rate more as 3.75 stars. I received an ARC from TheNovl for an honest review. This was my first book by this author and it caught my attention because of the interesting synopsis and that food is involved- I’ll always be interested if there’s promise of food. I loved the Latinx representation, and the food made me so hungry while reading. The book is written in the dual POVs of Pen (Penelope) Prado + Xander (Alejandro) Amaro, and the story is set in Texas, but firmly focused on their local community. Both main characters face difficulties in their personal lives, and their paths cross when Xander starts working at Pen’s father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. Pen loves cooking, specifically baking, and hopes to open up her own pastelería in the future. She cares deeply for the restaurant, loves it, yet her parents don’t want that life for her. Her and her parents’ differing visions for her future causes a wedge between them, and she’s thrown into a new direction of life early on in the book, forced to make “adult” decisions for herself because of that. Pen struggles with self-doubt, insecurity, and depression, and mental health is one of the main topics covered by the book. It was hard, reading of her feelings of hurt and betrayal caused by her parents’ decision, and that extremely “tough love” mentality, especially from her father. Pen is stronger than she knows though, and resilient despite her inner doubts. She tries to act tough and takes no nonsense from anyone else, but is secretly vulnerable, and I rooted for her through the difficult times she faced. Xander felt like a calmer presence compared to Pen, and is sweet and considerate. He’s searching for his father and hasn’t had any answers or closure as to why his father disappeared years ago. He lives with his abuelo, but is in the country illegally, so has to continuously live with that fear of being discovered by law enforcement. His parts in the book are mainly about his search for his father, that fear of deportation, and his interactions with Pen and his newfound family from his workplace. The book kind of throws you into the thick of things from the beginning, what with the chaotic energy of the restaurant, the introduction of the messy family made up of Nacho’s Tacos employees, and Pen’s roiling thoughts. It was a little disorienting at first, and the writing a bit weird to me in the beginning, but it seemed to flow more smoothly later on. As for the romance, it ended up being sweet, but the way the two characters fell for one another didn’t feel organic/natural the way romances that are written well do. It wasn’t bad, but I felt like it was missing something. For me, the highlights of the book were the feelings of community and togetherness from all the interactions between the main characters and the more minor characters— all the myriad personalities and their presence and function in their tight-knit community, and the way Pen and Xander grow as people and overcome their problems. On top of both of the MCs’ individual issues was the threat of JP/ El Martillo, who is a danger to their community and a man without conscience. He brings a layer of drama to story. The book ends in a way that still has uncertainties and doubts to the future even though it ends satisfyingly enough, which made things feel more realistic. It’s not all magically wrapped up in a completely perfect solution. The book is about the struggles and difficulties of growing up, changes to your evolving self and the world around you, and of family, love, community, and covers two instances of Latinx experiences growing up in the U.S. Overall, a great diverse read, and full of quotable lines that hit you in the feels.

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