Friday, 20 March 2015

'Bittersweet' by Kimberly Loth - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First things first I need to say a massive thank you to Kimberly Loth for accepting my request to review this book on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

'Bittersweet' was definitely not what I was expecting after reading the blurb: 

Every Sunday Savannah Ray gets an email from her dead dad. She doesn't know how the emails work but she's finally ready to start looking for answers. To find those answers she has to go to the one place she show she'd never set foot in after he died--Haunted Valley, the amusement park. Once there and on the hunt for answers she is distracted by the charming Dallas and falls hard for him. When she answers she finds aren't what she expected and Dallas betrays her, Savannah must make a choice--succumb to the insanity that destroyed her father or find the strength to rise above it. 
 Now I don't know what that says to you, but to me it sounds like a paranormal romance: more spooky than cute. Needing to go to an amusement park called Haunted Valley, while being contacted by her dead father? I thought that all of the staff were going to be ghosts and it would have been absolutely terrifying. However, that was not the case.
'Bittersweet' is a contemporary romance that deals with themes of suicide and depression. It's been two years since Savannah's father killed himself, but she's still finding it hard to deal with, made worse by the betrayal of her best friend. In a moment of fury Savannah decides to shave her head, alienating her mother even further than she did when she was suspended from high school. Her mother think it's well past time that Savannah learns some responsibilities and maturity, so she conspires with Savannah's uncle, and they decide to send her to Haunted Valley, the amusement park that her uncle owns, for work over the summer. No, Haunted Valley is not filled with ghosts, it's just an extremely misleading name for an amusement park.
The first half of the novel was definitely the better half. Following Savannah as she learnt to deal with being in a new town and holding down a new job was written very well, as was her character development from the sullen and depressed girl to a person who had more of an optimistic outlook on life. Her relationship with Dallas was also written well - a realistic depiction of first love, even though it was a bit too insta-love with all of the trimmings.
However, the second half of the novel just fell flat. All of the exciting events happen in the last quarter, meaning that for a bit in the middle nothing really is going on - just repetitive descriptions of what she was doing where at work, and what the mean girls were doing this time. Most of the events described in the blurb actually happen right at the end, so in some ways the blurb itself is a massive spoiler, which is quite disappointing - nothing in this book is really surprising because of that. Also, the attitudes of most of the characters really annoyed me: you'll hate most of them for one thing or another by the end of the book, even if Savannah seems to be able to forgive their misgivings almost instantly.
All in all it's quite a good read, dealing with suicide in a sensitive way, but I didn't really feel connected to the characters at all, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd been hoping to. I might think about looking into some of Kimberly Loth's other novels, but I'm not feeling too inclined to do that right now.

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