Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Most “coming-of-age” stories are the same. Or at least, fairly similar. Small-town girl moves to a big city. Girl gets a job in which she struggles at first. Girl falls for a boy that is bad for her while conveniently ignoring the boy that is good for her. In the end, the girl’s dreams come true and she ends up with the good guy. Sweetbitter follows that format for the first few steps, but it has the furthest this from a happy ending that I’ve ever read.

The story of Tess is a common one told in a very uncommon way. It felt like reading philosophy. The way the characters spoke to each other felt like it should have been performed on a stage. The really fucked-up relationships between characters made the story very raw. The rampant sex and illicit drug use made it feel like a teen drama. All of this combined into a great story.

My only issue was with the ending (Spoilers). I’m glad Tess leaves the restaurant. I’m glad that nothing is resolved between her and the bad boy. Stuff like that made the ending intriguing. What I didn’t like was that Tess got fucked (literally) by her boss after asking for a promotion. I lost all respect for Tess that I had gained throughout her story. And then she basically gets fired anyway. Maybe that’s what Danler wanted though. Kind of a broken ending for a very broken character.



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