Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Rating: 3/5

What It’s About:

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet Goodreads


  • strong language
  • excessive drinking
  • depression, self harm
  • some violence

What I liked

The book, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, got me out of a bit of a reading slump. I was sick with COVID and struggling to do anything while I was quarantined with lots of fever and congestion. I picked up this book from my TBR once I finally started to get better. It was a fast and entertaining read. First, I enjoyed experiencing the story from two different points of view. Both Penelope (Pen) and Xander brought unique perspectives to the events and situations that occurred in the story. The characters in the story were so realistic and I could imagine actually coming across some of these characters in real life. The dialogue, banter, and arguments between characters really made the story shine and enhanced the relationship building.


I am a sucker for contemporary fiction that focus on themes of family and relationships. Especially in YA fiction because developing and navigating relationships is such a big part of being a teenager. This is one of my favorite parts of the book. The family and found family dynamics that are portrayed between the Prado family and the employees of Nacho’s Tacos were dynamic! I loved seeing Pen work her way through the weight of there parent’s expectations, becoming an independent adult, dealing with depression, and pursuing her dreams. Xander was also interesting because he is the first character I’ve read in a book who is undocumented. I appreciated experiencing life through his point of view.

The food and culture was ALOT of fun! Pen’s passion is cooking and there is an abundance of descriptions of food, cooking and restaurant life. The descriptions of the restaurant, music, and crazy shenanigans that the characters got into while working at the restaurant brought plenty of flair and spice! This book highlights the Mexican American culture and it’s set in Texas, so I had an extra connection to it. 🙂


What I didn’t Like

The only thing that I did not like in this book was the relationship with Pen and Xander. They are both portrayed as very private people when it comes to their personal lives and struggles. So when they meet on Xander’s first day at the restaurant, they just magically click and open up to each other so easily. They just seem to fall for each other too quickly and do/say things that were hard for me to believe.

This book reminded me of several different books and shows and I’ll list them here:

I Am Not Your Prefect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez – YA book – my review – Goodreads

With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – YA book – Goodreads

Gentefied – TV-MA show on Netflix

Vida – TV-MA show on Starz

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought.


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