About the Book

Title: The Summer of Bitter and Sweet
Published: 2022
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Beading Is Medicine
BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia
Talky Talk: Poetic and Real
Bonus Factors: Alberta Landmarks Abound!, Tasty Business
Anti-Bonus Factor: A Little on the Nose
Relationship Status: One and Done

Content Warning: This book contains traumas faced by Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people in the colonial nations of Canada, the United States of America, and Mexico; generational trauma; references to a violent sexual assault; instances of intimate partner abuse; instances of racism and physical assault toward Indigenous and Black teens; discussions of drug use; and under-aged alcohol use.

Cover Story: Beading Is Medicine

Mixed media cover art will always be a win in my books. I appreciate that it was done by an Indigenous artist (Kim Stewart) and the beaded ice cream earrings are perfect.  

The Deal:

Lou is a Métis girl living in the Canadian prairies trying to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life. This summer, everything is changing. Her best friend is off to Ireland; her other former best friend, King, is back after disappearing 3 years ago; she just broke up with her boyfriend; and now her biological white father is out of prison (a place she hoped he would stay) and trying to get in contact with her. On top of all this, her mother has gone on a much-needed healing trip to sell her beaded pieces, and her uncles are fighting over the fate of the family’s ice cream shack, leaving Lou feeling alone and resentful. Lou tries to navigate her feelings about her friends and family, save her family’s livelihood, and deal with her father and his demands.

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

I felt for Lou and understood some of her struggles, but I also wanted to yell at her to talk to her family. I know teenagers need to figure things out for themselves, but when her father showed up (big deal!) and she kept hiding it, I was very mad. I did appreciate the happy times Lou had, but she would eventually mess those up. It was a struggle for me to like her but also I love her? Humans, amiright.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Lou and King are so sweet together. King is honestly the best human and the way he helps Lou with everything is so sweet and almost unrealistic. The patience this boy has is a 10 on the swoonworthy scale. That being said, I didn’t feel any sparks or butterflies when reading about them together and the times when they were together was just cute. 

Talky Talk: Poetic and Real

Ferguson has written some incredibly beautiful lines throughout the book and I appreciated the sophistication of the writing. The characters seemed real and the dialogue was believable. There were some overused words that made me roll my eyes when I saw them: “bag with the good fringe” and “pet” from Lou’s super Irish best friend Florence. 

Bonus Factor: Alberta Landmarks Abound!

Moraine Lake with Rocky Mountains in the background

I loved the road trip Lou and King took around Alberta discovering the landmarks. It was a fun way to explore the province and bring joy to the characters. Also so many dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?!

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

tubs of multicolored ice cream

I also really loved that each chapter started with ice cream wisdom! Ice cream flavours and life lessons combined!

Anti-Bonus Factor: A Little on the Nose

The names could have been a  little more adventurous. The white father’s name is Peter England, the love interest’s name is King, the Irish best friend’s name is Florence…you get it.

Relationship Status: One and Done

I’m glad I read this book. I think it’s an important read for people young and old. It deals with real issues faced by indigenous people and I am so happy Ferguson has written this book. I won’t be revisiting it because of the heavy nature, but I am happy to have it in my life.

Literary Matchmaking

Firekeeper’s Daughter

For another book featuring an Indigenous heroine with a complicated family relationship, check out Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley.

Melt With You

Check out Jennifer Dugan’s Melt With You if you need more ice cream and road trip adventures.


For another contemporary book about dealing with racism and self discovery, check out Slay by Brittney Morris.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Heartdrum. I received no beaded earrings or ice cream (or any money) in exchange for this review, but I am going to buy both right now. The Summer of Bitter and Sweet is available now.

Amanda Bell (she/her) is a planner of events, reader (and listener) of books, a consumer of pizza and a crafter of all things! Propelled by caffeine and carbs – she found her love of reading again when she started a book club with her friends in 2019. Since then, books have consumed her life and her TBR pile is outta control. Amanda resides in Edmonton with her husband and daughter.