I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to read outside my wheelhouse. Somewhere along the way, I got stuck in Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Dystopian/Romance/YA, or WHATEVER MADE UP WORLD GENRE I could find because why read unless you can escape to a better or more interesting world than the one you’re currently inhabiting?
The problem there is that I sometimes fall into a book rut and need to dig my way out by way of something different. At that point, I usually decide to read a book based in reality (ugh). And every time I do, I remember that I DO actually like books about real people. Well. “Real” people.
Sweetbitter gave me a glimpse into another world, but one a bit closer to earth than I’m used to reading about: the NYC restaurant scene. I’ve never had a job in a restaurant. When it came time to get a part-time job in high school, many of my friends went the restaurant route. But the thought of working in such a high stress environment, dealing with lots of people (sometimes angry), all while trying to not spill plates of food and drinks on said people? I knew that wasn’t for me. (Instead, I went to work at a library, which, let me tell you, has its own brand of angry person.) As I continued down my career path, it never took me into the restaurant world. I mean, other than to eat in them. Sweetbitter gave me a glimpse of what I was missing, though I imagine it was just a bit more sensationalized than what I would have experienced in Dayton, Ohio.
Tess moves to NYC for no particular reason…really just because that’s what she felt pulled to do. She’s in her early 20s, from small town Ohio, and wants something more. Something bigger. She ends up getting a job at a restaurant she is sure will change her life, and it does. Unlike many of her service industry compatriots, she doesn’t have dreams of becoming an actress, a singer, a writer, an anything really, other than a fully realized adult-type human who knows and respects herself. And she gets there, or at least close to it.
Remember being in your early 20s? It’s all job uncertainty, drinking and partying until dawn (or later), and being obsessed with the wrong people. I don’t miss it at all and, in fact, reading someone else go through them made me downright cringe-y at times. Tess is going through all of that. Drinking too much. Partying too much. Sleeping with the wrong people. She eventually makes friends with her coworkers, who are awful to her and themselves a whole lot of the time. They won’t be her forever friends, most likely. But that’s OK. Part of growing up is trying out relationships to see if they stick. Whether that’s with friends, boyfriends, or jobs, Tess is gonna try them all.
Read this if: you need a break from all the flights of fancy you’ve been reading lately, or you want to cringe through your early 20s again.