For my past book reviews, I've typically started writing the review when I was about halfway through the book. I've been able to tell where the book was going and start off with a cute little anecdote to lead into the review.
Not Bittersweet. It was impossible to form opinions of this book ahead of time because you knew, you just knew, things were going to change, and it would be stupid to bother reviewing anything before you found out exactly what happened. The basic premise, without giving too much away, is that Mabel, a girl from a poor family in Oregon, befriends her extremely wealthy roommate from college, and is invited to spend the summer with the roommate's family, the Winslows, on their Vermont lakeside compound.
I liked this book in that I was dying to know what would happen next. It was fascinating in the way it's fascinating to watch reality TV shows - you have nothing in common with these people, you don't even really like or respect them that much, you wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole in real life, but you just have to see the train wreck for yourself.
Which maybe, now that I think of it, is the point of literature - to expose you to characters and worlds you otherwise would never know. However, I am a character-driven reader, and the books I cherish are the ones with narrators and/or main characters whom I identify with. My favorite books are the ones I can get lost in because I can imagine myself in their shoes.
I do not want to imagine myself in any of these people's shoes. This family deals in deceit, lies, rape, incest, theft, murder, suicide, drugs...sure, the Winslows' compound sounds idyllic, but right now I'm thanking my lucky stars I come from a loving middle-class family with some integrity. The Winslows are CRAZY. It just goes to show that what my parents have always told me is true: money can't buy class. It can buy the appearance of it, but not the real thing.
Because Mabel is the "poor girl" of the story, you'd think that would automatically make her likeable, but no. I couldn't figure her out. At times she seemed like a kind, redeeming character and then others she seemed scheming, jealous, and petty. It was also hard to figure out her motives for doing the things she does, or why she's even there to begin with.
However, don't mistake my disdain for the characters for a lack of enthusiasm in the overall book. I started this book on Monday night. I finished it this afternoon. It's 400 pages. I flew through the book, dying to know what was going to happen next. It's entertaining to hear about the life of the extremely affluent, and the book is as much a dissertation on class and social strata as it is a dark and twisted drama.
Not only did I enjoy Bittersweet a lot, I will most likely read it again. I have a feeling that now that I know how it ends, re-reading it will provide me a deeper study into the nuances and hints along the way that I have undoubtedly missed this time around. I recommend this book for anyone looking for an engrossing, dark, and at times horrifying, read - you won't be disappointed.
The verdict: I give this 3.5 out of 5 stars for Blogging For Books (rounding up to 4 on Goodreads).
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are 100% my own.