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Sweetbitter

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  35,742 Ratings  ·  4,455 Reviews
The bestselling novel about a young woman's coming-of-age, set against the glitzy, grimy backdrop of New York's most elite restaurants. Now a STARZ Original Series.

Newly arrived in New York City, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job as a "backwaiter" at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. What follows is the story of her education: in champagne and cocaine, love an
...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Knopf
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Cheramy While I would generally recommend supporting your local, independent bookstore; in this case I have to recommend your local library first! Many…moreWhile I would generally recommend supporting your local, independent bookstore; in this case I have to recommend your local library first! Many libraries throughout the country have excellent eBook programs so you can borrow books on your eReader, as well as borrowing physical books. We need to ensure that we support the institutions that will guarantee that future generations also have access to a wide range of literature.
Light & love to all.(less)
Gina Nope. Bloated prose, pretentious characters, and Tess remains a whiny, needy puppy. I finished it but just barely.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Offbalance
Jun 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
If Sweetbitter is the book of the summer, then clearly I need a new season. I could not find one reason to understand why the reviews of this book were as good as they were. Most of them seem to center around how well they say the author describes food. As someone who has been deeply interested in food writing since high school, I can deem her merely adequate. This book is the ne plus ultra of terrible MFA writing. The self-indulgent meandering that the reader is forced to endure as the dimwitte ...more
Frances Dowell
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This is one of those "I really wanted to like it" books. The sentence-level writing is gorgeous, and the subject matter--working in a high end NYC restaurant--is (for some of us) nearly irresistible. And at first I liked Sweetbitter very much. Young girl moves to New York, gets an amazing job, is immersed in the life of the city ... What's not to like?

But after a hundred pages or so (maybe even fewer), I started to get frustrated. While I was enjoying protagonist Tess's introduction to fine food
...more
Trin
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I work in a bookstore in an affluent neighborhood. Today, the following conversation occurred:

Customer: I want to return this book! (plunks Sweetbitter down on the counter)

Me: Okay, what was wrong with it?

Customer: It was stupid!

Me: Oh, I really liked it! But I could see how someone could find it kind of pretentious.

Customer: Yeah, all those waiters going around quoting Kant and Fitzgerald. It was ridiculous!

Me: (surprised, as this had not been what I'd meant at all) Oh...

Customer: A whole book
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Joachim Stoop
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
I apologies in advance for sounding hard and harsh in this review...

So... one of the most anticipated books of 2016 according to some (literary and press) sources.
In their reviews and in the first GR-reviews it was said to be 'Anthony Bourdain meets Jay McInerney with a sprinkling of Siri Hustvedt.'

So Anthony Bourdain? Tough luck I just read his Kitchen Confidential. Sweetbitter is supposed to 'engulf your gastronomic senses'. Except for a short episode of eating a first oyster, the first (and o
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Samantha
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Hmmm . . . Where to start when reviewing Sweetbitter? My desire to read it can certainly be attributed to the Hype Monster and a serious case of Cover Lust. People were raving about this one long before the release date, and it was hotly anticipated ever since Stephanie Danlier's book deal was announced. Also, the cover lured me in the first time I saw it. I mean look at at it; it's just so striking.

I went out and bought the novel right away because of the glowing reviews and that striking image
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Elyse
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a spontaneous audiobook pick ..... available through my library overdrive.
I never had any serious intentions of reading it when it first came out. I had pre- judged it unfairly.

I 'assumed' the writing would be amateurish. WRONG! The words that Stephanie Danler used in her sentences were invigorating- delicious-and thought-provoking.

My original thought was, "what gifted author writes about a 22 year old female looking to reinvent herself in New York City?" I wanted to change the chann
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Jennifer
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it
It's weird - I couldn't put this one down and at the same time I was slightly annoyed the whole time I was reading. The descriptions of working in a restaurant are good, as are the food and wine discussions/descriptions, and they kept me going thru all the bar scenes and bumps of cocaine and thoughts that seemed too mature for a 22-year-old who was the opposite of mature.
Enjoyable but just not my favorite.
Siena Mirabella
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have a new appreciation for this book, reading it the second time. One of my favorites. I adore Stephanie's writing, sis needs to come out with another one 🙏🏼
Diane
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished, food
I couldn't finish this book. I checked it out because the novel had been hyped, and generally I like foodie stories, but the writing in this was too on-the-nose and I was groaning by page 5. For example, in the beginning she writes about driving to New York to "escape" from her hometown and its "twin pillars of football and church." ARGH.

I skimmed ahead and didn't see much to improve my opinion. Maybe you will like it more.
Larry H
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
"I wanted to say, My life is full. I chose this life because it's a constant assault of color and taste and light and it's raw and ugly and fast and it's mine. And you'll never understand. Until you live it, you don't know."

When we first meet Tess in the summer of 2006, she has just left home and driven to New York without any real plans, just a rented room in an apartment in Williamsburg. She somehow manages to find a job as a "backwaiter" at a famous New York restaurant, and it changes her lif
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Leigh Ellis
Jun 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club-of-one
I love a good coming-of-age story, but 98% of this book was/is unbearable.

Here's a sampling:

! ROMANCE !

""Your eyes. It's unmistakeable," he said. He thumbed my cheekbone. "Veiled melancholy has her sovereign shrine."

His hand moved up my cheek, flushing me, into my hair, where he tugged, his fingers dry, nonchalant. His other hand pressed into the bruise on my thigh, as he could intuit the blood below the skin.

When he kissed me I said, Oh my god into his mouth but that, like everything else,
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Rebecca Foster
I’m willing to go out on a limb and call Sweetbitter my novel of 2016. Twenty-two-year-old Tess arrives in New York City by car in June 2006. Two days later she interviews at a restaurant in Union Square and gets a job as a backwaiter and barista. Camaraderie makes the restaurant not just bearable but a kind of substitute home. Tess is most fascinated by two colleagues who stand apart from the crowd: Simone, the resident wine know-it-all, and bartender Jake. Try as she might, Tess can’t work out ...more
Tooter
Jul 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
I can't waste any more of my time reading this book. Ugh! Seriously, do people really talk like this?
Shasta
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book is completely full of itself and full of shit.
Dianne
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2016
I really liked this coming-of-age story set in the milieu of a high-end New York City restaurant. It does get off to a slow start and the writing style takes some getting used to but if you like complex and often unlikeable characters, this may be for you.

Tess comes to New York City as a young adult with no plans and no resources. She unexpectedly gets a job as a backwaiter (plate clearer, drink bearer, dinner deliverer, table service setter) in a very upscale restaurant. The story traces a year
...more
Nancy Singel Baker
Jun 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
I kept wanting to get to the part where I cared. The book started out promising, but then just dissolved. Much like the restaurant being condemned for its "architecture", this book falls apart because it becomes a drunken drug-filled morass.
Bonnie Brody
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Stephanie Danler, a new-comer to the literary scene, has a poet's flair for words. The only unfortunate aspect of the novel is that the narrative is extraordinarily boring. It revolves around a young woman named Tess who drives to New York City from America's heartland in order to make a life for herself. She finds a shared apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and quickly gets a job at one of the top restaurants in Union Square (think Union Cafe). From there on, the reader is informed about the g ...more
Diane Barnes
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I started this book without knowing exactly what I would find. Some reviewers considered it their best book of the year, others found it just ho-hum, some hated it, and more than a few abandoned it after a few pages. I decided to jump in because I love reading about food and wine and behind the scenes action at restaurants. I figured I could DNF it if it proved no good.

I was enthralled from the beginning. A 22 year old lands a job at a high priced Union Square restaurant in NYC. From a rube who
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Julie Ehlers
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Sometimes when I'm reading a novel I picture one of those kids' toys that's basically a rectangular box with holes in it, and the toddler is meant to use a toy hammer to pound different-shaped pegs into the holes. (This is a real toy, right? I'm not imagining it?) When I picture this toy it's usually bad news for the book, because the pegs are never all pounded in the way they're supposed to be. They're sticking out all over, and no one has bothered to take the time to make everything fit togeth ...more
Blair
It's a coming-of-age story, not the one about all the realisations that come with entering your teens, but the more painful and laborious one about becoming an adult, learning to look after yourself. It's the year of your life you learn that you can't transform into someone you idolise through mimicry alone, and idiotically debasing yourself for love will get you nowhere worth going. The protagonist is twenty-two when she drives into New York: Let's say I was born in late June of 2006 when I cam ...more
Marie
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, wine, fiction
“Appetite is not a symptom,.. It’s a state of being, and like most, has its attendant moral consequences.”

Sexy, racy, indulgent.. .an enlightening dive into life within a restaurant. It felt authentic and raw, a full sensory & gustatory experience.. for which reason, I recommend this book be read accompanied by a glass of wine. With all the drinking, drugging, and embarrassing mistakes made by the protagonist, you will need it. She bares her soul and the soul of the restaurant industry. I ha
...more
Taryn Pierson
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-release
I am not the kind of person who cheerfully serves people. I discovered this when I worked my first secretarial job, which I like to think of as the piece of driftwood I clung to as I abandoned the sinking ship that is public education in Kansas. After four years of grading papers, chaperoning dances, and (once) breaking up a girlfight, I was delighted to work in an office staffed with professional, sane adults. Mostly my tasks involved answering the phone and moving papers around, but one day ou ...more
Jeannie
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
4.5 This was great, I loved it! I could not put it down. Great characters, great writing! I can't wait to watch the mini series. I also look forward to more from this writer.
Sarah
Jun 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
You know how sometimes you can't stop hearing about some fabulous restaurant in town, that one you have to try and have to get reservations really far in advance if you don't want to go at 9:30 on a Wednesday night, that one with the famous chef who's really a white girl but makes amazing Spanish tapas and has changed the food scene forever? And then maybe you go and it turns out it really does taste like food that was made in a gas station, and not in an edgy way but in a gas station way?

This
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Theresa
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book just wasn't for me. Stephanie Danler shows promise as a writer (this is her debut novel), but she's not a natural storyteller. "Sweetbitter" has zero plot, and the characters were as thin as paper. The protagonist, Tess, lands a job in an upscale restaurant in New York City, and that's pretty much the whole plot. "Sweetbitter" was pretentious as hell. Ugh. Tess basically speaks in a bunch of random, confusing thoughts about herself, her job, and her bland co-workers. Big whoop! I didn' ...more
Christine
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: debut-novels
I was invested in the beginning of this book, but quickly lost interest. The characters didn't do anything for me. I couldn't find any character growth, and the writing style was quite choppy (fitting perhaps since the book is focused around food, I don't know). I kept waiting for the moment that I would care about the characters, but I mostly felt like I spending time with people I didn't want to be around. I was so disappointed in this novel.
Tyler Goodson
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
Sweetbitter has bite. Our heroine, Tess, moves from nowhere to New York, where her life is going to officially begin. Yes, she's had a childhood and been to college, but none of that counts. Nothing starts counting until she crosses the river and starts working at a restaurant downtown. While she's there, she falls in love and obsession, she finds a life, and starts to find herself. The writing is sharp, and the story is fierce and electric, like you have to read carefully or you might hurt your ...more
Fareya
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Sweetbitter is a coming of age story set in NYC , full of sweet and bitter experiences of a young Ohio girl Tess, as she works her way through life as a backwaiter in an upscale Union Square cafe.

With fluid and evocative writing, mesmerizing descriptions of food and wine and funny, spot-on dialogues Stephanie Danler certainly managed to charm me with her debut. Although, I was hoping for some more depth in the characterization (other than the lead character), and also a deeper plot line.

If you
...more
Book Riot Community
This novel about a young woman learning about life, love, and wine in New York City gave me the worst book hangover. Tess moves from the Midwest to the city with no job and no money in her bank account and by sheer luck, gets a job at a posh foodie restaurant. She quickly becomes tangled in the complex web of her co-workers, but particularly Simone, the accomplished, worldly server who takes her on as a protegé, and Jake, the damaged bartender in a motorcycle jacket who Tess quickly falls for, d ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I included this book in a speed-date in 2017 but then never went back to it. I felt more inspired to knowing the tv show was coming out, and due to a little reading ennui. Sometimes a foodie memoir can clean the palate!

Only... this isn't a foodie memoir. Doh. I always have to remind myself it's a novel because at times it seems like it's trying to be the front of the house version of some of the gritty kitchen memoirs I've read over the last 20 years. Except usually, those are written by men who
...more
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Stephanie Danler is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School. Sweetbitter is her debut novel.
More about Stephanie Danler

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“It’s an epidemic with women your age. A gross disparity between the way that they speak and the quality of thoughts that they’re having about the world. They are taught to express themselves in slang, in clichés, sarcasm—all of which is weak language. The superficiality of the language colors the experiences, rendering them disposable instead of assimilated. And then to top it all, you call yourselves ‘girls.’ ” 44 likes
“I wanted to say, My life is full. I chose this life because it's a constant assault of color and taste and light and it's raw and ugly and fast and it's mine. And you'll never understand. Until you live it, you don't know.” 36 likes
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