Synopsis from Goodreads: Phaedra Thorne’s goals in life are simple. Make it to eighteen so she can legally adopt her sister and hope she never becomes like her deranged mother who secretly lives in the attic. They’re not the normal hopes and dreams of a kid her age, but then again, Phaedra is anything but typical. Schizophrenia and psychokinesis go hand in hand in her genes. With things always upending or blowing up around her, she’s already halfway there and horrified one of these days she’ll be the next to go insane.
Five years have passed since Phaedra has seen her older, estranged brother. She’s hesitant about his return and even more so when he comes bearing a cure for their mother. However, this so-called antidote, having sex with an incubus, comes with a catch that’s larger than the statutory rape implications. The incubus who’s willing to help the Thornes has unwittingly been followed by beings who call themselves hags. They want to drain the demon dry of his power and don’t care if they threaten Phaedra’s desire to have a normal family. She’ll do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones, even if that means trusting her uncontrollable powers won’t kill everyone in the process.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: Being a teenager sucks but it sucks twice as hard when your mom is bat-crap crazy and has to be locked in the attic for everyone’s safety! So begins Phaedra’s story in Marcia Colette’s young adult novel Bittersweet. Any book which starts out with this kind of description is going to grab my attention.
The first half of Bittersweet outlines the life young Phaedra is forced to live as a result of her mother’s unique abilities. In a nutshell: Phaedra attends high school (BLECK); cares for her spunky younger sister Nadia; ventures into the attic on a regular basis to care for mom; and tries to keep her emotions in check so that her own abilities don’t bring death, despair, and destruction to those around her. Add to all of this: the regular trips to the ER to repair the bodily harm caused by mom; the constant fear that Child Services will show up; and the sudden and unexpected return of the prodigal brother, Kurt. And you thought your teenage years sucked – WIMP! Phaedra must deal constantly with her worry over her mother’s condition, the knowledge that the condition is genetic and already manifesting in Phaedra, as well as her anger at her brother Kurt for abandoning the family and then returning as if nothing happened. The first half of the book is good and there is plenty of low-level action but I found myself always feeling as if something big was coming and it never did. As a reader, I found this very frustrating.
The second half of Bittersweet was much more intense and fast-paced as Colette finally begins to unravel what she was leading up too in the first half of the book – something big, finally happens. And there are hags – HAGS! I must say, the use of hags is something that doesn’t appear in paranormal novels very often and I was quite glad to read something new. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some vampires and werewolves but a girl cannot live on vampire and werewolf porn alone. Colette completely devotes the last half of the book to the solving of problems: Kurt has brought a not-so-ideal “cure” back with him that can help the entire family; Phaedra is admitted to the Hub – a school which specializes in the training and teaching of people like her; and the hags, who have caused a great deal of trouble for the family are dealt with handily. It is in this half of the book that we see Phaedra get over herself and start truly fighting for her future. Phaedra unleashes her abilities in order to save her family. Phaedra becomes more than an angsty teenager: she becomes a strong lead character that will play well in future novels.
The Bottom Line: Bittersweet is a typical first-in-a-series novel. That is, the author has a lot of ground to cover in terms of establishing characters, creating an interesting plot, and setting the reader up for the future of the series. This is a tall order and one that Colette fills reasonably well. While I was frustrated by the first half of the book I found the second half to be quite satisfying. By novel’s end there is a sense of resolution but also the knowledge that the series is going to continue. Bottom line: this series has potential but only if Colette allows her characters and plot to evolve. As long as there is evolution I will continue to read this series as it becomes available but I don’t see it as a series topping my must-read list.