Like Pet there were so many great moments about identity, sexuality, and what I liked in particular was the discussion on disability. Despite my comments earlier about this book feeling more young adult than middle grade, I think it had some great moments of inclusivity that were also so brilliant in Pet and so often found in middle grade literature. Make sure you give these both a read!
For starters, Bitter had a darker feel with it compared with Pet; one of Pet’s allures for me was the anthropomorphism of the creature Pet itself and the relationship it has with Jam. I loved that as a storytelling device and I also loved how Jam learnt more about the world through Pet. Skip to Bitter and this gives us a lot more plot and less character development and I think for that I didn’t like it as much. However it does still have interesting character dynamics, both with the humans and the humans with the creatures.
That’s not to say I didn’t like Bitter – I definitely did – but there was a lot more to answer in the book because given that it was a prequel, it needed to explain how everything in Pet came to be. I think where it perhaps falls a little short is in its length; if there had been another 50 pages to allow some of the characters to come into their own a bit more (and elaborate on the ending too (no spoilers don’t worry)) then I think I would have been completely sold.
Bitter is Emezi’s follow-up to their utopian middle grade book Pet. Pet follows Jam, a teenager living in Lucille – a place where all the monsters have been eradicated until one day she accidentally creates Pet, a creature who is on the hunt for one. Bitter is the prequel and tells us more about Lucille and how the world that Jam knows came to be. We mainly follow Bitter (Jam’s mother) and unlike its predecessor, Bitter feels more young adult than middle grade but still has charm and intrigue like all Emezi books do!