Cover of Bitter End. A boy with his arm around a sad teenage girl. Snippets of poetry are at the bottom.

About the Book

Title: Bitter End
Published: 2011

Cover Story: Giant Teen Faces
Drinking Buddy: Little Sister
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Talky Talk: A Cautionary Tale
Bonus Factors: Zany Male Bestie
Anti-Bonus Factors: “I’m so sorry”; “It won’t happen again”; “Now look what you made me do.”
Bromance Status: Life Goes On

Cover Story: Giant Teen Faces

Giant teen faces again. The dull cover kind of takes away from the effect of the faint words of the main character’s poem behind the title.

The Deal:

Eighteen-year-old Alex has had a hard life. Her mother abandoned the family, then immediately died in a drunk driving accident. Her father has become distant, not really ‘there’ anymore. She has little in common with her two sisters, and often escapes by writing poetry.

This summer, Alex, along with her two best friends, Bethany and Zach, are traveling to Colorado. This was where her mother was headed when she died, and Alex hopes to find closure there.

And then she meets the new boy, Cole. Cole, the basketball star. Cole, the guitarist who sets her poetry to music. Cole, the handsome guy. The guy who loves her.

And true, things aren’t always perfect. Like when he walks in on Alex having a tickle fight with Zack. Well, of course he got jealous, it’s easy to misinterpret something like that. Or the way he spun her on a merry-go-round until she nearly went sprawling, even when she begged him to stop. Hey, he was just fooling around.

And then things start to go downhill. The insults. The blow ups. The fights with Zach and Bethany. The shoves. The punches.

But he doesn’t mean it! Not really. Cole has such a difficult home life. And the pressures of school and basketball. She loves him, after all. Things are going to get better. They have to.

Drinking Buddy: Little Sister

Two pints of beer cheersing

I have to admit, I fell into the male ‘So why doesn’t she just leave him?’ attitude at first. If I was a woman, the first time a guy laid a hand on me, it would be the last. But it’s easy for me to say that. Alex is unsure of herself, overcome with the intensity of teenage romance, and desperate to please. And even when she realizes how unacceptable things are, she dreads the aftermath: not from Cole, but from everyone else. The ‘I told you sos’ from her friends. The disappointment of her sisters. The lectures from her counselors. Surely this will all work itself out, right?

I wish I could protect you, Alex. Wish I could be your big brother.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Violence)

This is not an action packed book, but it feels like it. Not the scenes where Cole is insuring Alex will have to use a lot of foundation tomorrow, but before. The edginess. The silent anger. The knowing that he’s about to lose it. And the praying that he doesn’t. Not this time. Not if she’s good.

Talky Talk: A Cautionary Tale

Okay, it’s fairly obvious this is an issues book. But hey, sometimes we need that. My dear sister used to work with battered women, both at a shelter and the state attorney general’s office. And sometimes women (and girls) need to be told that it’s not okay, there’s never an excuse, he’ll do it again, and there are ways out. And this book gets that message across loud and clear.

Bonus Factor: Zany Male Bestie

Cast of Three's Company

Alex, Zach, and Bethany have always been great pals. Zach is a crude kid, constantly spouting sexual harassment and bodily functions. But he’s a dear friend, one with zero romantic tension. Someone Alex can absolutely rely on.

But Cole, he doesn’t like some guy hanging out with his woman. And Zach quickly clues into the type of guy Cole is, so he does everything to push his buttons. And when Zach realizes what’s really going on, he quickly loses his sense of humor.

But locker room confrontations and drunken fist fights won’t help Alex. Only she can help herself, while Bethany and Zach sit on the sidelines and watch, helplessly.

Anti-Bonus Factor: “I’m so sorry.”

Cole always immediately apologizes. He’s just such an intense guy, you know? The love they experience is so strong, you can’t blame him for being jealous. You know he just lost control. He didn’t mean it.

Anti-Bonus Factor: “It won’t happen again.”

Really. He means it, this time. And this is when Cole is most charming, showering Alex with attention and thoughtful gifts. Making an effort to like Zach. Being the boy she fell in love with.

Seriously. It’s all in the past. Nothing to worry about.

Anti-Bonus Factor: “Now look what you made me do.”

Of course, none of this is Cole’s fault. If Alex would just listen to him. If she would just stop pestering him. If she’d stop arguing. If she’d stop hanging out with her friends, Cole wouldn’t have to do those things.

And really, whose fault is it? When he shoves Alex to the ground in a parking lot, he chides her for horsing around with her hands in her jacket. She just tripped and fell.

It’s not like that was her only tooth.

Bromance Status: Life Goes On

I didn’t deserve what this book put me through. No one does. But I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a little harder for having read it. And maybe the next time I pick up a book, I’ll be a little more cautious.

FTC Full disclosure: I received no money for writing this review. I stole the title of this article from an episode of Family Guy.

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Hate List

Another equally depressing (and relevant) book by the same author.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.