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Too Much Of A Good Thing

Life isn’t easy when you’re a big girl named Sugar. Especially if you're part of a family like the one in Deirdre Riordan Hall’s novel Sugar.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

BOOK REPORT for Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

Cover Story: Filtered
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Eating Our Feelings
Trigger Warnings: Bullying, Fat Shaming, Physical and Mental Abuse, Body Issues, Unwanted Sexual Advances
Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Left Wanting

Cover Story: Filtered

There’s nothing wrong with this cover, but there’s nothing particularly compelling about it either. It’s peaceful, and includes elements that do appear in the story, but it also looks like something one might find as they’re scrolling through their Instagram feed.

The Deal:

Sugar’s never been the skinny girl. And as she’s gotten older—and her life more difficult—she’s more and more often turned to eating as an escape. Living at home with a mother who can’t drag herself out of of bed (even to go to the bathroom) and a useless brother who’s getting more and more abusive (both emotionally and physically), Sugar certainly has plenty of incidents she wants to escape.

When a new boy moves into town, and becomes her friend without any hesitation or apparent ulterior motives, Sugar begins to realize that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel after all. But sometimes, unfortunately, what seems like rock bottom isn’t as far down as one can go.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

For much of Sugar, Sugar (or Mercy, her actual name) has no one in her life that treats her well. Her mother uses and belittles her. Her brother abuses and berates her. The kids at her school bully and ignore her. And yet, she is still a sweet and loving girl, who continues to go out of her way to help those around her. I can’t begin to understand all she’s experienced in her 18 years of life, but as someone who’s dealt with body issues for more years than Sugar's been alive, I’d like to think we’d be able to have some deep and meaningful conversations. Also: I’d like to give her a big ol’ hug, or twenty.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Sugar and the new boy in school immediately hit it off, even if Sugar’s a bit apprehensive at first about his motives. She soon realizes that he’s a genuinely nice person, and not out for the long con. He even has issues of his own underneath the handsome and charming exterior. Their relationship progresses slowly, and innocently. It’s also bittersweet … but I can’t say much more without giving things away.

Talky Talk: Eating Our Feelings

It’s not surprising that a book about a girl who struggles with eating issues would include a lot of scenes involving food. But Sugar features descriptions of eating that are nearly nauseating in their detail and frequency. Deirdre Riordan Hall goes to great lengths help the readers feel as though they’re experiencing Sugar’s issues along with her, and it certainly evokes emotions, albeit not the more pleasant ones.

Hall also brings to life Sugar’s terrible family and friends with as much detail as Sugar’s eating. More than once, I wanted to scream at her mother for being THE WORST or punch the living daylights out of her TERRIBLE brother.

Although her descriptions are, well, descriptive, Hall’s plot development left a lot to be desired. Three-quarters of Sugar has a circular plot in which Sugar begins to make progress toward self-love and then backpedals. It’s not until the last few chapters that the story picked up, and then it was over.

Trigger Warnings: Bullying, Fat Shaming, Physical and Mental Abuse, Body Issues, Unwanted Sexual Advances

I’ve read quite few books recently that deal with Big Issues, and Sugar is another to add to the list. (I swear I didn’t do this on purpose.) Sugar is surrounded by some awful people, and treats herself pretty awfully because of this. The book is not an easy read.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting

Sugar’s mom is unbelievably awful. And she only gets worse as the story goes on. Sometimes terrible characters end up redeeming themselves in the end, but Mama never incites even the tiniest bit of goodwill.

Casting Call:

This Torrid model as Sugar

I really tried to find her name, promise!

Relationship Status: Left Wanting

I tried so hard, Book, to like you. I understand why you are the way you are, and I appreciate your efforts at dealing with Big Issues, but I don’t think we ever found footing on the same ground. I know life isn’t always pretty; in fact, it’s more often than not ridiculously messy. But that doesn’t mean playing in the mud without eventually cleaning up is the right way of doing things. Even if we didn’t end the night on a high note, however, I do know that I’ll be pondering our date for a while to come.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Skyscape. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Sugar is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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