Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler follows Tess, a 22-year-old white woman who flees her old life in favor of starting afresh in New York City and “discovering” herself. Within days of arriving in the city, she lands a job at a very in demand restaurant in Manhattan, despite only having barista experience in whatever town she was in before. The book is all about the whirlwind, yet very contained life this job lands her in.
The lead character, Tess, perpetually whines and wants people to take her seriously as a “real person”, fitting the stereotype of many people I met at this age in NYC. While Tess’s own actions are annoying, you’re not met to necessarily be rooting for her — she moves to New York to be a more exciting person than she used to be, but she spends all of her time working in a restaurant without exploring the city or her own interests while living in the city. Tess throws herself into the restaurant world, with all of the learning about fine dining and the hooking up and the drugs and alcohol that follow restaurant workers into the early hours of the morning.
The story is mostly about a young woman who immediately gets usurped into a specific restaurant’s world and the strange rules and practices of those who have been at the restaurant for years and view it as the center of the universe. These characters are pretentious and I found the story absolutely delectable. I’m looking forward to watching the TV adaptation soon.
Publication Date: 24 May 2016 by Knopf. Format: Hardcover.