Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitterhas been on my list for a while. When it first came out, it was on every “must read” list I came across. I actually borrowed it from the library at one point, but couldn’t get into it at the time. Sometimes our lives just aren’t in the right place for certain books…and sometimes it’s eerie just how right they are.
When I picked the novel back up recently, it just clicked so easily. That’s probably no coincidence since it’s narrated by 22-year-old Tess, who has just moved to New York City.
Danler’s writing style is beautiful. It flows and halts at the right moments. Albeit a little pretentious, her words feel both dreamlike and familiar at the same time.
Trying to find your place as a newcomer in NYC. You feel brave, but you’re quickly reminded that you’re not special—so many people have done it before you.
The pressure to be young and wild and reckless. To rack up stories of bad decisions—whether you’ll remember those stories or not.
The fact that you can never truly put your trust in the people you spend the most time with. That the “family” you create with coworkers and friends doesn’t necessarily come with familial loyalty.
The hidden underbelly of how a business is actually run juxtaposed with what the customers see. Glamour and class on the outside, indiscretions and corner-cutting on the inside.
People that are too affected by their own issues to love you the way you love them…and having to decide whether or not to walk away.
The ending is pretty ambigious—it’s not happy and it’s not sad. As cliché as I’m about to sound, it’s a lot like how you feel when you’re trying to find yourself in your twenties.
And I think I’m ok with that.
“Taste, Chef said, is all about balance. The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter. Now your tongue is coded. A certain connoisseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet.”