{Book review} Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Originally published on Post Grad Purpose

When I first decided I wanted to write book reviews on Post Grad Purpose, I figured I’d be writing about career advice books (see: The Big Life). Then I read Sweetbitter and before I was even halfway through I knew I’d be blogging about it.

Sweetbitter, which came out last year, is a novel about a 22-year-old woman who moves to New York City by herself in search of something, anything, new. Sounds like your classic cliched story about finding yourself, right? Wrong.

The novel follows Tess in her first year in NYC where she quickly lands a job in an upscale restaurant filled with workplace politics, drama, and the kind of kinship that only comes from working in a hectic kitchen. The story was darker and grittier than I expected, but it was honest. It didn’t hold back. Post grad life is full of anxiety, stress, and deep gut-wrenching fear – fear of the future, of the unknown, and ultimately, of failing.

What I really enjoyed about Sweetbitter was how it redefined what success is and what it means to different people. Success doesn’t have to be a straight climb up the corporate ladder. Success isn’t a cushy office job that’s easy to talk up at a networking event. Sometimes success is sweating and getting blisters on your feet while discovering a new passion for food, wine, and the people around you. It’s about being happy.

Tess definitely wasn’t happy all the time, though. A lot of the time she wasn’t. She was often confused. And often lonely. The story wasn’t tied up neatly in a perfect little package. It’s about a young woman discovering herself and coming into her own. It’s about claiming your space in the “adult world” in a way that works best for you.

Stephanie Danler has a very poetic way of writing and the novel was full of great descriptions and analogies. Also, a lot of the lines in Sweetbitter really spoke to the different emotions experienced in post grad life. I’ve included some below.

For when you’re uncertain if you should push yourself to go after new opportunities, or to create your own:

“The world is abundant – if you invest in it, it will give back to you tenfold.”


For when you tell yourself ‘once I have this job or this title, everything will be great’:

“What do you think happiness is? It’s a mode of consumption. It’s not a fixed state.”


For when you’re lying to yourself about the things you want in life:

“When you can’t see in front of you life is nothing but surprises. Looking back, there were truly so few of them.”


For when you can’t imagine not feeling this lost or confused:

“I had a blundering, lost feeling as if I had been digging tunnels, not knowing if I was going up or down, only that I had no other option but to keep going.”


For every other thought you have in your twenties:

“Was I a monster or was this what it felt like to be a person?”


For when you’re wondering what this is all about:

“There are many times in life when it’s good to live without knowing. I mean that we can allow ourselves to live and not really know what it is we’re doing. It’s an accumulation stage.”


Know of any other books about life in your twenties that would be good for me to read and review? Let me know in the comments!


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