Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2023) Featured Review of Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi

Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
ISBN: 9780593309032

Years of foster care have severely damaged Black, bisexual teen Bitter’s ability to trust anyone, but she has come to feel safe at Eucalyptus, a home for vulnerable teen artists. There, she is able to pursue her art and, occasionally, bring it temporarily to life by bringing it into contact with her blood. When Bitter starts to engage with teens from Assata, a social justice group, her fury at the wealthy white people in control of their town, Lucille, results in the creation of a monster that calls itself Vengeance. Horrified at what she has created, Bitter is forced to work through her anxieties in order to find a way to stop a bloodbath.

In this companion to Emezi’s Pet, readers will revisit a very different version of the town of Lucille – one that may more closely mirror many communities in the US today. Teens interested in social justice will find not only inspiration, but much needed nuance in the types of roles they can take on in an activist setting. Readers will appreciate Emezi’s concise, dream-like writing style, as well as the sympathetic characters they have created. 

Readers who were fans of Emezi’s Pet will appreciate this companion novel though both books can be read independently as stand alone titles. Teens struggling with their feelings about activism may also enjoy Renee Watson’s Love is a Revolution while those more interested in monsters of a main character’s making may appreciate the grittier Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis.

Courtney Waters

Other Nominated Titles:

  • What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat (22/03/2022)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.