Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler(Book Review)

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A literary genre that follows the moral growth of a protagonist from youth to their adulthood. Basically the fancy schmancy way to say a “coming of age” story.

But bildungsroman sounds more nifty and smart.


Being the uneducated slug that I am, I first discovered this word while reading a New York Times article that interviews Stephanie Danler. The writer of this very bitter, very melodramatic book. Sweetbitter.

First I’m going to talk about the positives. Because I’m trying to be less of a troll and more of an optimist about the books I’ve read this year so far.

The writing is amazing. There are passages that really had me beside myself. Danler is a word wizard.

I really loved the take on food. She used words I had never thought of using to describe food before, but that’s just because I’m uncultured. Someone else might say otherwise. This isn’t a typical chick-lit. It’s sort of dark and doesn’t have any whimsical aspects about it.

What I don’t like about the book.

Tess is a hot ass mess. She’s very unlikable because not only is she a dunderhead, but she kinda has no personality. Everyone around her is more interesting.  Pretentious, but leaps and bounds more interesting. 300 plus pages and that dumpster-fire of an ending, I still have no idea of who Tess is.

Maybe that was the point of the story? Tess’s story ends so abruptly and chaotic. And I could go further into depth about this but I don’t like spoilery reviews. Tess made a lot of dumb decisions.

Tess is an unlikable female character and with hindsight that’s a great thing. I think as far as Tess as an individual, that’s the only thing about her that’s cool. She’s unlikeable but I think Danler could have given her more depth. Tess’s personality only shines when she’s reacting to people and her environment. Everything about Tess is contingent upon other people. That was my biggest problem.

And the weird love triangle. Mess. The last thing about this story that was so nettlesome was that there wasn’t a plot.

As I was reading a lot of the reviews I saw how people were glowing about how great it was that they could relate to Tess and her friends while working in the food industry.

I’ve been a server before and I didn’t do drugs or sleep with my coworkers. I mean I saw everyone else doing it, so maybe it is really a thing for the chefs, waitresses, and bartenders to bone each other.

I’m also a nihilistic ass-hat so I’m the outlier.

3/5 Stars

I would recommend this book as a vacay read. I wouldn’t say its light in content, but it’s easy to read. If you’re into profound prose and reading about food and waitresses, then this is your thing. It’s not a long book either. I most certainly would buy another book by Danler.



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