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Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  252 ratings  ·  101 reviews
I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans -- leaving Pen to choos
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 6th 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.48  · 
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Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a tough book to rate and I waffled between three and four stars because there were some things I really liked and some things that I didn't like quite as much. (For the record, three star reviews are the hardest to write because how do you say "yeah, I liked it, but I didn't REALLY like it and here's why?") This is the story of two Latinx teens with very different problems, who come together because
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
I absolutely loved this YA contemporary. It was so sweet and quick to read while also packing in some hard-hitting topics like being undocumented, moving out of your parent's house, struggling with a mental illness, dealing with strained familial relationships, and going after one's dreams.

I also loved how soft Xander and Penelope's romance was and how their aspirations and relationships with their families took center stage in this story rather than focusing solely on their budding relationshi
Katie B
3.5 stars

I'm not quite sure how to classify this YA read because it falls into more than one category. There's some romance but it's also a coming of age story. Regardless of how you want to label it, I enjoyed this book and was impressed with the different real world subjects the author was able to tackle in the story.

Penelope "Pen" Prado is an aspiring pastry chef and has worked in her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos, for years. Her dreams don't exactly match up with her parents' expectatio
Elysian Fields
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs, favorites
Oh my heart!!! This story is AMAZING! Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a story (and it is a story, not just a book) full of beauty, real issues, heartfelt moments, and courageous characters among many other things. My favorite read of the year buy far! I am so in love with this story. 💜💜

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a breathtaking, emotional and heart warming coming of age story that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues or sugar coat life. The pages are filled with real and raw mo
Elena L.
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[4.5/5 stars]

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET follows Pen, a young Latina who works at her father's Mexican restaurant Nacho's Tacos and has a dream of opening her own pastelería. However, her Mexican-American parents have different plans for her. When she meets a new hire at Nacho's, Xander, they navigate into a journey of self-discovery and belonging.

What a beautiful debut YA novel! To begin with, I really loved the cultural aspects in this novel as I felt like swimming in a sea of Mexican
Laekan Kemp
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition

Enter the PRE-ORDER Campaign:

This story is a little piece of my heart & soul & a kaleidoscope view of so many important people & moments in my life.

Pen's mental health struggles mirror the mental health journey I've been on since my late teens & the conflict with her parents comes from those same late teen / early college years when my father was sick, m
Laura H.
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am so excited for the release of this novel! I have several teenagers in my life that would benefit deeply from the discussions of passion, identity, and mental health. Penelope and Xander come across as incredibly relatable. Their struggle to deal with their emotional lives is taken with great care by the author, showing that fear and anxiety aren’t meant to be swallowed. Their relationship is a great example of how important it is to be willing to reach out, which is an awesome lesson in its ...more
Ben Beach
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, Kemp has managed to capture the way that "between-ness" is truly a part of our world. Life, love, family, friends, food - nothing is all sweet, all the time. Nor would we actually want it to be. Although we might at times wish for a little less of the bitter, reality often has other ideas.

And so it is for Pen and Xander, as they face the bitter of real life and search for the sweet. They find just how unexpected it can be to encounter both. In the process,
Sam Taylor
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED THIS. A marvelously well-written YA contemporary about family and becoming an adult and finding your place in the world. The food descriptions are phenomenal and the characters are well-developed and will carry you through their dreams. I was sucked right into the story from the start. Yet another outstanding book to watch for in 2021!
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful, “coming of age” love story. It is refreshing to read a story about a beautiful, young LATIN woman! One of the main characters, Pen, is struggling to find her true self. While, Xander is looking for a sense of belonging. I like how the author switches from Pen’s perspective to Xander’s. It allows the reader to dive deeply into each character and fully understand their internal conflicts. Additionally, the story helps the reader understand the man ...more
Keri Burns
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every night that I picked up this book, the clock had hours pass before I could convince myself to finally put it down for sleep. The characters are so wonderful and strong and sincere that I had to know what would happen to them. I loved everything about this book but especially the dual POV. I want to be Pen! She is so brave and fierce and loving and honest and imperfect and real. I hope every girl finds her own Xander! He is selfless and gentle and strong and smart and lives with his heart wi ...more
Stephany Gaines
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This beautifully crafted story is told from the first-person perspectives of a female and male protagonist. Pen and Xander are both trying to navigate the transition between dependence and independence, adolescence and adulthood, and self-discovery with tight familial ties. Their stories stem from American born and immigrant experiences and an instant connection between their passion for food and culture. The author's masterful use of imagery brings the sights, tastes, sounds, and raw emotions t ...more
Halli Gomez
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was very lucky to get an eARC of this book. It was such a wonderful read. Told in dual POVs, Pen and Xander, we learn what a family really is. This book is filled with heart and struggle as these two young adults fight against society, family, and themselves as they figure out what the future holds for them. Readers will be able to relate to both characters.

The characters in this story were well-developed and had such unique feelings and voices, yet they came together so beautifully. And the f
Toya (the reading chemist)
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is that book that transported me back to my restaurant worker days and being surrounded by the magic of the food in New Mexico.

I’ll be honest, I was not the biggest fan of Pen when the book started off. She’s hotheaded, impatient, and thrives off emasculating men. BUT, there’s more to her exterior shell...a deep passion for cooking and her family’s restaurant including everyone who works in it.

Unfortunately, Stella’s family doesn’t want her to bear the burden
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly could relate to the Cultural aspects of the novel. The author's message resonate with me , as an Immigrant parent and wanted whats the best for my daughters. Then again , our children do have their own dream and aspiration, so an Immigrant parent at time we have to let go of our expectation of our children, but Remember and Respect that you are not living their life. Thry are , so what made them feel fulfilled, thats all you could Hope for.
So blessed to be part of this amazing journey wit
Barbara Ixba
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp is a story about finding love and expressing that love in unexpected and meaningful ways. This is a coming of age story for the 21st century. The characters are vibrant and relatable, and the storyline is engaging. I would highly recommend this book to my students.

I received an ARC of this work.
Hilda Burgos
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kemps' characters feel so real that you can't help but sit on the edge of your seat and root for them. A must-read! ...more
4.5 rounded up.

Won a physical ARC.

This book was so good and the family dynamic was amazing.

I loved Pen and her actions during an interview with a rude person are what I feel most of us only wish we could have done during an interview at some point. Iconic!

I also liked how depression was included in being portrayed after medication as it seems I don't see that aspect much in literature.

Xander was such a sweet guy and I adored his Abuelo.

Chloe and Angel I was rooting for them, but we didn't reall
Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)
If you want a delectable young adult contemporary romance that will not only pierce your heart and get your salivary glands working overtime, but will also challenge your thinking and give readers more than just your typical romance... well, you'll want to eat this one right up.

Pen and Xander are our main characters and you immediately grow to love and root for each of them. Pen is dealing with familial expectations vs her own dreams and Xander is undocumented and looking for his father, who doe
Leslie - Shobizreads
Thanks to @librofm for the gifted audio listening copy of this book.

Fans of YA like With Fire on High, I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and We Are Not From Here will enjoy Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet.

This novel explores the story of undocumented immigrants in Austin, Texas. Penelope and Xander are brought together by working at a local restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. Pen's father owns Nacho's Tacos, where her older brother is the manager. In reality, Pen lives, eats and breathes Nacho's T
4.5 stars
Susan Ballard
Penelope “Pen” Prado has big dreams. She works in her family’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, but wants to open her own pasteleria one day. The problem is her parents want her to go to college.

Pen finally musters up the courage to tell her parents she hasn’t been going to classes, but she couldn’t have dreamed of their reaction. Her father fires her from the restaurant, the place where her heart lives.

As Pen is finishing her last shift, a new hire is being trained, Xander Amaro. Xander has been sea
Thank you LibroFm and Hachette Audio for giving me this ALC in exchange for an honest review.

This story stole my heart, I don’t know where to begin with what it made me feel.
A beautiful story about family, love, identity, culture and the power of food, Mexican food!🇲🇽🥳
This book was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I loved it and I can’t wait to read more books from this author.
FANTASTIC! This book was soooo good - the character work was superb.
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received a free audiobook copy from the publisher.
This was a great YA story about family: how family hurts you, leaves you, loves you and supports you. A great cast of fun characters added some lightness to what is otherwise a pretty heavy story. Very touching and insightful, I greatly enjoyed this one!
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

Such a feel good story!
Feb 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
I love books about/that feature food. They are also slightly torturous because food and that makes me hungry. And this book had me serious hungry for Mexican flavours and culinary delights. Of course, what sits so beautifully alongside this story of passion for food and the love that goes into their cooking is a heartbreaking story of belonging.

Penelope Prado knows where she belongs. She dreams of running her own bakery, and building it right next to her family's restaurant. Her father disagree
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-reviews
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET is a highly devourable YA romance/contemporary fiction. The story follows two young adults, Pen and Xander. Pen works at her father's restaurant and one day dreams of opening her own bakery. Her parents have a different dream for her, and they have enrolled her in college - but it is not the future she wants. When she reveals the lie she has been telling her parents, she gets an ultimatum she never anticipated - but she is ready to rise from the ashes.

Xander is
Apr 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Penelope "Pen" Prado is a strong, fierce commanding presence at her father's restaurant. Everyone runs in fear of her but that is the image she projects to protect herself. She lies to her parents over a huge part of her life and they decide it's time she leaves the restaurant and their house. 

Xander starts work at the restaurant on her last day. He's drawn to her and he keeps finding himself next to her. His search for his father his whole life has him living with his Abuelo. The restaurant is
I’d rate more as 3.75 stars.

I received an ARC from TheNovl for an honest review.

This was my first book by this author and it caught my attention because of the interesting synopsis and that food is involved- I’ll always be interested if there’s promise of food. I loved the Latinx representation, and the food made me so hungry while reading. The book is written in the dual POVs of Pen (Penelope) Prado + Xander (Alejandro) Amaro, and the story is set in Texas, but firmly focused on their local c
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Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She received her B.A. in Creative Writing from Texas Tech University and her M.F.A. in Teaching from the University of North Texas. She’s the author of the paranormal romance series, The Girl In Between, and the forthcoming young adult novel, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet. When she’s not writing she’s religiously re-watching Buffy the Vampi ...more

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