The novel Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp follows the two protagonists Pen Prado and Xander Amaro through their transition into adulthood from childhood. Pen is an aspiring baker who struggles to understand why her parents don’t want to support her dream. Meanwhile, Xander is looking for his estranged father in order to move on from his lonely childhood. Together they try to live up to their dreams, even though it seems that the world is working against them. Not only do the two main characters grow throughout the story, but their parental figures are also coming to terms with the fact that they are learning to let go of their children.
The clear and strong message of the story makes this a good Young Adult book. Elements such as the search for community and character’s assimilation feel natural and work well. However, the pacing could be improved. Initially, the story is very slow as we get to know our characters, once the reader gets through half of the story major events are thrown in and feel rushed. Personally, this story reminded me of my close community and of the support I have around me.
All in all, I would recommend this book to others. The fear of adulthood and independence is articulated effectively, someone who is uncertain about their future could perhaps relate to and learn from the characters. – Lynda Otero