Reviewed by Jasmine Sov, age 16

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

To eighteen-year-old Pen Prado, the center of her life is her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. However when she confesses to her parents that she’s been skipping school and that what she really wants is to start her own bakery, she is fired from the restaurant. She is kicked out of her house and forced to find her way in the world by herself while simultaneously managing her anxiety. Xander Amaro, a new hire at Nacho’s, is an undocumented immigrant searching for his father that left long ago. Soon enough, he finds himself seamlessly integrated into the dysfunctional family of employees at his new workplace. When Pen and Xander meet at Nacho’s during Pen’s last shift and Xander’s first, sparks don’t fly right away. Nevertheless, with every encounter they grow even closer, and the possibility of romance grows and grows.

I loved the food descriptions in Somewhere between Bitter and Sweet. The author, Laekan Zea Kemp, truly succeeded in emphasizing the importance of food to one’s culture. The bustling atmosphere and attention to detail with Nacho’s staff and workflow also contrasts well to a few other restaurant settings in the book, such as a fast food joint where the staff simply reheat frozen food to serve to customers. I appreciated how multiple perspectives were elaborated on later in the book regarding Pen’s family situation, and several of the side characters prove to have depth beyond the role of “other worker at Nacho’s”. Unfortunately, Pen and Xander’s romance felt too rushed to be believable. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet explores the ideas of a cultural community, complicated family dynamics, and the role of food in human relationships. 

4 stars.

Find this book in our catalog: N/A

Catalog Number: N/A

343 pages