The first sentence of my novel Bittersweet reads, “Before she loathed me, before she loved me, Genevra Katherine Winslow didn’t know that I existed.”

My first was made in a small village in Senegal. She’s in nearly every memory I have from those rich days of early childhood when my father’s fieldwork took my family across the Atlantic.

The smell of her dusty skin, the bright twinkle of her laugh, the rascally way she’d set me up to get caught instead of her—all those bits of her still live deeply, fundamentally inside of me.

The next few came in quick succession, a new one for nearly every town or school or house I moved into in the years my family and I bounced around the States, looking for our home.

Nearly each of these best friends, made over the course of my growing up, helped me feel at peace in my own skin and mind, as though breathing the same air as them could help me understand more about myself than I could ever learn on my own—from the girl who drew permanent-marker cartoons of every person in our class on her pull-down blinds to the one who taught me how to lip-sync to Madonna, to the one with whom I secretly played pioneer well into my eighth-grade year, when no one else wanted to play anymore.

Yes, there were devastations too: the girl who punched me once when we fought, the one who dropped out of high school to join what I called a cult in a combination of bragging and fear, the one who told me off in the lunchroom and never spoke to me again.

When I look back on these best friends as a whole, I can see that I have hardly known greater passion, heartbreak, loyalty, fierceness, envy, and need than I did with them. Throughout my girlhood, my best friends taught me who I wanted to be, who to trust, who to listen to; they’ve made me who I am today.

The first sentence of my novel Bittersweet reads, “Before she loathed me, before she loved me, Genevra Katherine Winslow didn’t know that I existed.” Every girlhood best friendship I had half existed somewhere between loving and loathing.

I’m grateful to every one of the best friends who offered herself as inspiration; without them, I’d have never been able to write about Genevra and Mabel, the best friend who tells of loving and loathing and everything in between.

Congrats to Jessie F., Kathy L., Betty Z., Elsa A., Sheila L., and 195 other members of the Read It Forward community! Their entries were selected at random to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.

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RIFers! Do you still remember your girlhood best friends? Do you agree with Beverly that “my best friends taught me who I wanted to be, who to trust, who to listen to; they’ve made me who I am today”? Share in the comments!

  • Bigred

    My gosh, I won a copy! I will anxiously wait for my copy so I can take a break from packing and read Bittersweet! Thank you!

  • Beth Brown

    I’m thrilled to have won a copy of “Bittersweet”! I can’t wait until it arrives. My best friend from childhood and I are still going strong. I’m not going to say how long that has been, but she is a grandmother now. I am so thankful she is still in my life. Thank you, again. I’m sure this is one book that will make the rounds of ALL my friends.

    • http://www.readitforward.com/ Kira, editor @ Read It Forward

      Aww, that’s terrific, Beth! Thank you in advance for reading it forward!

  • Lynn Demsky

    Sounds like a really good read, congratulations to anyone who won!

    • http://www.readitforward.com/ Kira, editor @ Read It Forward

      That’s sweet of you, Lynn! This is a terrific page-turning read – I hope you’re able to read it, too!

  • Nadia McDonald

    Is this a memoir? The sequence of events strike me as bittersweet life experience with bullying friends.

  • Debbie

    So excited to have won a copy, can’t wait to get it!

  • jenxy21

    I received Bittersweet as an Early Review Copy from Goodreads.
    Intriguing, mystifying, heart-wrenching….these words seem inadequate when describing Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. Mabel is so “every girl.” The relationship between Mabel and Genevra is one that most women have experienced at some point in their lives, and it is detailed with such grit and emotion that the reader experiences that heart-ache and hope over and over. Just as the characters draw you into their lives, Beverly-Whittemore throws a twist that keeps you turning pages and staying up reading way too late. I couldn’t put this one down! Bittersweet speaks to a woman’s heart. It is brimming over with love, laughter, and life lessons. A gutsy tale of mystery and discovery, with a little murder thrown in for good measure. This one is a must read!

    • http://www.readitforward.com/ Kira, editor @ Read It Forward

      We’re thrilled you got an early copy of BITTERSWEET from Goodreads! Thank you so much for sharing such a thoughtful review. Wow, I couldn’t have described it better myself!

  • Adminofficer

    I received Bittersweet as an ARC and liked it right away.

  • Melanie

    I received an early review copy of Bittersweet and was quickly drawn into Mabel and Genevra’s friendship and struggles. I thoroughly enjoyed the plots twists and turns. Dealing with family and its secrets a classic coming of age issue while the specifics vary, the struggle is universal. I loved this book

  • Renee ‘Nordland’ Hunter

    Just finished reading my free copy. Loved this book. Real characters, mystery, and romance.

  • Anne

    I received a free copy and thoroughly enjoyed this book.
    The characters were detailed, and likable – even with their faults.
    The twists and turns kept me guessing until the end. I have passed this one on to my husband. I think he will like it too.

  • Deb

    I just finished the advanced copy. My Mother grabbed it first ;) We both really enjoyed it. Characterizations were spot on. I always try to figure out how a book will end, I did not get this one right. I am glad my bf is nothing like Ev…the rich are different. Good read!

  • Linda

    I received an early review copy of Bittersweet. Wow! Just when you though you knew where this story was going there’s a curve in the road you didn’t expect.
    Mabel is a girl that most of us can relate to in someway.
    This book will be shared with my college aged daughter and a few other family members.
    Definitely will keep this author on my list of ones to watch for.