cover image Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Laekan Zea Kemp. Little, Brown, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-46027-9

Set in a close-knit community in Austin, Tex., debut author Kemp’s exquisite YA contemporary romance follows two Latinx teens after their lives intersect at a beloved neighborhood restaurant. When 18-year-old Penelope “Pen” Prado makes the difficult decision to come clean to her Mexican American parents about having skipped a semester’s worth of community college classes, as well as her real dream of owning a bakery, she is promptly fired from her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. Mean-while, 18-year-old Alejandro “Xander” Amaro, a new hire at Nacho’s, longs to find his absent father and lives with constant worry about his own undocumented status. When Xander runs into Pen on his first—and her last—day working at Nacho’s, romance ensues. Told in the protagonists’ alternating, refreshingly candid voices (“So I have to decide what’s scarier: living a life that doesn’t belong to me, or losing the one I love”), Kemp’s novel serves up finely rendered, stirring character arcs for both, as well as an intimate portrait of two teens grappling with mental health, complicated family relationships, and newfound love. Much like Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High, Kemp has created a truly special combination of deliciously described food, expressive prose, and dreamy romance. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Andrea Morrison, Writers House. (Apr.) [/em]