(Actual rating: 2.5)I wanted to like Bitter End more than I did. On the surface it’s a good book; the prose is readable and serves the story well, and it sends out a message that needs to be told to young adults. But when I finished the book I had mixed feelings on it and I’m disappointed to say it just didn’t grab a hold of me like I had wanted. I think the biggest problem I had with the story was how it just felt like a bullet point list of what an abusive relationship is, just in novelization format. At the end of the book Brown mentions how she studied psychology and focused primarily on domestic abuse, and learned how a person’s mind works when they’re in an abusive relationship. It shows in Bitter End, which does show how an abusive relationship works, but it feels like a pamphlet telling you what to look out for at the same time. I kept wondering why I never really felt sucked into the scenes where Alex gets beaten by her boyfriend, because--as awful as this sounds--those are the scenes where we should feel like it’s happening right in front of us, right? We should be in her mind so completely at that point that we feel what she’s feeling. But I never really did and part of it is because there was more telling than showing going on. Alex would tell us how she felt but we’re very rarely shown it. It was like a textbook description of what goes on in an abuse victim’s brain before, during and after a beating, and it never felt like it was happening to the character herself. These scenes stand out because Brown actually shows how Alex’s relationship with Cole effects her friends well. Once the relationship starts they slowly stop appearing in the book as much as they did in the beginning. This was subtly done and it was done well, how they simply stopped hanging out and being as close as they once were. We weren’t really told that they weren’t around anymore because we were being shown it. I wish the scenes with Cole and Alex had been done like that as well. Another low point for me was how Zack, one of Alex’s best friends, is rather a sexist douchebag. He continually makes sexual jokes and refers to women solely by body parts--for instance at a party Alex says how he’ll probably join in a volleyball game just so he can “accidentally” trip and fall on the women playing, “preferably whichever one has the least amount of clothing.” And this is all normalized and thought of as “okay”, though sometimes Bethany and Alex do call him out for being nasty, but it’s clearly in a joking manner. It would be one thing if he kept the jokes to Alex and Bethany, who are comfortable with it and joke back, I would be somewhat okay with that. But once it’s mentioned that he inflicts it on other women who don’t know him and don’t give their consent, I disliked him intensely. I found it odd how a boy who makes sexist and misogynistic jokes and dehumanizes women was normalized in a book about an abusive relationship. Oh, and he also threatens to hit Alex and Bethany when they won’t stop laughing at him because of a song he has to sing in a school play. Jokingly, of course. Granted Alex reacts in terror and Zack immediately stops, but dude, no one should joke about that in the first place. These criticisms aside, Brown does know how to write realistic sounding teenagers without falling back on the stereotypical teenage slang. Alex, once she’s away from Cole, feels like a normal teenager with a messed up family. I liked what we saw of Bethany and Alex’s relationship, with Alex admiring Bethany for her different traits that Alex wishes she could have, and you can tell they truly do care for each other. If Zack hadn’t been irritating I would have appreciated his relationship with Alex as well, because there were scenes where he stood up for her and I actually managed to like him for a moment. The best scene in the book, though, where it actually managed to grab me by the heart and make me tear up, was a scene near the end with Alex and one of her sisters, Celia. It really was touching and it made me wish Celia had been less one note throughout the book. While I don’t hate Bitter End, I don’t love it either and I sincerely wanted to. However there were just too many problems with it that kept me from really loving it. I would recommend readers try Brown’s Hate List before they give this one a go.