The Corner of Bitter and Sweet

The Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Robin Palmer, Speak (June 27, 2013). ISBN: 9780142412503. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

Corner of Bitter

What happens when the draining and unnatural role you’ve had for years is pulled from under you. Meet sixteen year old Annabelle Jackson. She had to assume the role of parent when her actress mother grabbed numerous psychoactive prescription drugs and crawled inside the bottle. Since then, Annabelle has had to run interference, check to see whether bills are paid and cringe every time her mother appears in public under the influence. This doesn’t leave any leeway for boyfriends or hobbies, leaving her life pretty bleak. When Mom’s arrested for DWI while driving the wrong way on a major California highway, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Mom ends up in rehab, Annabelle in utter humiliation. Her fancy friends dump her, she alternates between anger and depression and, just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse. She learns that their financial manager killed himself after blowing all their assets. Goodbye fancy home and the questionable freedom of her parent role, hello cheap apartment and Mom suddenly trying to run her life.

Things look pretty bleak until Annabelle convinces her mother to audition for the role of an alcoholic college professor. Mom’s angry, but when she gets the role, it’s perfect and the chemistry between her and the leading man, even though he’s sixteen years younger, is off the charts. When she’s dragged from L.A. to upstate New York for the shooting, Annabelle is resentful until meeting Matt. He’s an art student who is struggling with creative block. Their mutual attraction is sweet and intriguing, but he has his own secret issue. Meanwhile, Mom’s co-star and Matt push her to do something with her secret passion, photography.

What follows meeting Matt and the budding romance between Mom and her leading man makes for a magical read. I particularly like how the author wove recovery, especially Alateen, into the story. They’re done in a very realistic way. Teens who love secrets, romance and family dysfunction with a happy ending will really like the story.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12

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