4/5 stars. Young Adult, Contemporary, Bullying, Audiobook.
Sugar likes sweets and that is where her nickname comes from. She enjoys the rush from the sugar and used eating to cope, to fill some void inside of her that isn’t hunger, but something else. With her diabetic mother trapped in bed because she is too heavy to move, a missing father, and a brother who lays on the fat jokes even more than the skinny popular girls at school, Sugar doesn’t know where to turn to for help.
That is until Even Anderson moves into town.
He likes motorcycles and the outdoors, she likes to bake and sew dresses for a thinner version of herself. She doesn’t know how a boy could ever like her, especially one so kind and attractive as Even, but he doesn’t care about her weight, he cares about who she is inside and makes it his mission to show Sugar exactly what he sees in her.
I received this book for free through Netgalley in exchange for a review a while back, but somehow ended up with the audiobook version and listened to that instead.
I loved Sugar. The character voice was beautiful, with ‘tongue’ used a lot, which I thought was incredibly cool because Sugar likes to eat, so of course that word many people don’t use often would be more common in her vocabulary. There were descriptions of the rush from the sweets, something I might never understand, but could visualize and feel with Hall’s explanations. I loved how Sugar would turn in on herself and work with sewing when everything became too much – something I am sure artists of any kind do at their lowest moments (as well as highest).
Then we have Even Anderson. First off, the name ‘Even.’ I enjoy that it is something unusual, possibly meant to be Evan, but spelled wrong on the birth certificate. I like that he embraces it, and I also like to imagine Hall named him this because Even was Sugar’s balance against all the other bad things in her life. She went through all of that to get a spark so bright as Even.
He was impossible – what boy would take you to New York on the back of a motorcycle or pay for hotel rooms and expensive meals for a holiday present?
(While there is a hotel room, the action you would think takes place in a hotel room with two teens does not happen, for any parents out there thinking of letting their kid read this. There is kissing, but more problems stem from harassment of a different boy at Sugar, the bullying and weight-shaming, and physical/metal abuse towards Sugar courtesy of her family.)
I loved Even and like how he interacted with Sugar. There certainly was no insta-love between them. Even had Sugar and myself guessing if he liked her just as a friend or as something more almost to the end.
The pacing in my opinion was pretty good and helped create more time for Sugar and Even to become friends before they end up together, which I liked. It was strange though, because a ton of time passed, several months, but it didn’t feel like that much time had passed when reading the book. The only problem I have with the pacing is that the development of the relationship between Sugar and Even was spaced by Sugar’s home life, which never really changed. While I did not get bored or anything, thinking about it later, I did wonder how the book would have been different if there was a bit more going on at home than there was, like if the situation changed at home, perhaps with Sugar’s bed ridden mother.
I enjoyed that Sugar and Even’s story was not limited to them, together. We got a lot about Sugar, her family life, her father – things that had no relation to Even. Then, through Sugar, we got to know so much backstory about Even. Why he moved, what happened to his mom, his favorite time of day, this dream of his to ride on his motorcycle from the East Coast to the West, and spread his mother’s ashes at sunrise on the pacific ocean, making stops along the way in areas that piqued his interest.
These were not flat characters (although some of the bratty popular girls and even Sugar’s best friend, Brittany, seemed to be). They were full, and lively, and felt like real people who I might strike up a conversation with on my next school day. I liked how Hall focused on how relationships with people can help us for the better and for the worse. Some make us stuck in our ways, shaming us for everything we do, scolding us even though we are helping and doing the best we can. Some can make us feel like we have the world at our fingertips and can turn out lives around, helping us to be healthier and happier.
I know an argument a lot of people have over disney movies is, “Why does this girl need to be rescued by a prince? Why does the prince have to be the one to save her? Why can’t she save herself?” I feel like some people might try to make this argument with Sugar – that the book is promoting we can only be healthy if we are loved, or that we can only see our true worth when a boy shows it to us – but I don’t think that is the point. Sure, we can do things by ourselves, but sometimes we need someone to remind us of the things we can do and the people we can be.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend to anyone who likes contemporary young adult novels or is desperately dying for something John Green-esq. It was cute and sweet and had me struggling to resist crying while driving in my car one day.