Having read and really loved Hate List, I was really excited to see what she would come up with next. I was even more stoked to find my library had this in circulation! =D
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.
My Expectations: High, except I thought it would be really... predictable
Delivery: It was really, really good!
Here’s the thing. This book made me angry, it made me emotional and pissed off and it made me want to throw the book against the wall in hopes that the collision would trickle through the pages and hurt Cole in some way. That’s how much I hated him.
Okay. Bitter End is a great book, it’s one that delves into and in between the layers of an abusive relationship, and reaches through to the core of it. Alex has never felt the same way she does when she’s with Cole, and it’s this love and eventual dependency that defies the “why does she stay with him?” thought that’s running through every reader’s mind. Her characterization made it obvious to why and I think this "love" was the base of the book and why she couldn’t just walk away from him. For example:
I was so embarrassed. I couldn't even imagine telling anyone those things. Those things made me look stupid and gullible and needy, and I knew I wasn't those things. I knew it was more complicated than that. But nobody else would understand.
I invite you to compare this to Dreamland by Sarah Dessen, I found the two startlingly similar in the portrayal of abuse, mainly regarding the honeymoon period, self-blame and constant fear. I felt Bitter End did a more complete job in fleshing out the characters and motives, along with including Alex’s best friends without turning them into stock characters. I appreciated the way they had a strong presence in the book, not just making random appearances for the plot’s sake. Both Bethany and Zack were well developed and completely realistic and their changing dynamics were one of my favourite aspects of this book.
The entire relationship that ends up consuming Alex is done extremely well. Like I mentioned, Brown managed to evoke some pretty strong feeling from me and I swear, I had this scowl on my face whenever Cole popped up; I had some violent thoughts. The big thing is that even though I had these horrid thoughts, Cole really was a wonderful character. He had redeeming qualities and gave Alex a good reason to be in love, he wasn't just a tyrant. I felt so strongly against him though, because I cared for Alex. I cared for her character and her situation and being able to connect with this book made me like it so much more.
What I disliked though, was the ending. I’m not sure what it is that I didn’t like but I found the epilogue to be… lackluster. But not bad in any way, I just wasn’t feeling it, or the ending itself. I can’t really understand why, I just didn’t like it.
Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: Contemp fans, YA readers, pretty much
8.9/10 – because it’s an evocative read regarding serious issues in society; the domestic abuse portrayed in this novel isn’t glossed over and very prominent throughout, and because of this, I think this is a very important read. I was able to see things from Alex’s point of view, and understanding her character and her love for… security and comfort from Cole (but obviously not supporting it) separated this book from just the typical ‘issue’ book. I’m not sure why the ending didn’t sit right with me, but apart from that, I thought the plot, characters and writing were all superb. Jennifer Brown’s second book does not disappoint, and I'll read whatever she publishes next!