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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Review: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet 
by Laekan Zea Kemp
Narrated by: Andy Aragon & Arami Malaise

Huge thank you to & Hatchette Audio for this listen.

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
8 hrs 45 mins
Genres: Contemporary, Romace, Young Adult

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelerĂ­a 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 newfound family and himself. Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.This stunning and poignant novel from debut author Laekan Zea Kemp explores identity, found families and the power of food, all nestled within a courageous and intensely loyal Chicanx community. 

My Review:

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.  


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