cover image The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet

Jen Ferguson. Heartdrum, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-308616-6

Ferguson’s sweetly complex debut centers demisexual Métis Louisa “Lou” Norquay, 18, via an extended ice cream metaphor about life on the Canadian prairie. After Lou’s mother leaves to sell her beadwork at powwows, Lou’s white biological father is released from prison and returns, having served a sentence for the violent sexual assault of Lou’s mother when she was 16. Lou has also just broken up with her aggressive white boyfriend Wyatt, with whom she still has to work at her uncles’ ice cream shop. When her former best friend, King, also returns, her feelings for him initiate a realization that Lou “can’t have sex with him. With anyone.” And just when she thinks things can’t get more difficult, her uncles’ business ends up at risk, and her father’s insistence on making contact takes an even more insidious turn. In a layered first-person portrayal of a young Indigenous woman navigating the edge of adulthood, Ferguson (who is Métis and white) tackles necessary issues—of identity and sexuality alongside colonialism, generational trauma, racism, physical and sexual assault, and substance reliance—through well-wrought, complicated characterizations and prose that sings with poetry: “Summer arrives to the prairies slow—and stays for such a short time.” Ages 13–up. Agent: Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary. (May)