Sugar made me feel like I had been run over by an emotional dump truck. I have never been so angry, sad, and happy when finishing a book. Needless to say, this plot is going to wreck you. I’m not a big fan of books that take me through an emotional wringer, but I don’t begrudge those of you who are. In the end, it reminded me of Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone, which I was fascinated by in my own young adulthood. I gave it four stars despite its turmoil because I really had trouble putting it down. If you need a good cathartic cry, this will do the deed.
I’m the fat Puerto Rican–Polish girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs in her skin, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always been too much and yet not enough.
Sugar Legowski-Gracia wasn’t always fat, but fat is what she is now at age seventeen. Not as fat as her mama, who is so big she hasn’t gotten out of bed in months. Not as heavy as her brother, Skunk, who has more meanness in him than fat, which is saying something. But she’s large enough to be the object of ridicule wherever she is: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at school. Sugar’s life is dictated by taking care of Mama in their run-down home—cooking, shopping, and, well, eating. A lot of eating, which Sugar hates as much as she loves.
When Sugar meets Even (not Evan—his nearly illiterate father misspelled his name on the birth certificate), she has the new experience of someone seeing her and not her body. As their unlikely friendship builds, Sugar allows herself to think about the future for the first time, a future not weighed down by her body or her mother.
Soon Sugar will have to decide whether to become the girl that Even helps her see within herself or to sink into the darkness of the skin-deep role her family and her life have created for her.
First,this book is paced to develop the character of Sugar. I thought there were some lulls created by repetition of events, so it could have been more tightly plotted, but since the lulls coincide with low points in Sugar’s life, they can be passed off as metaphorical. As far as characters go, they are going to wreck you almost as much as the plot. Even is very thing a romantic interest could be, and Sugar is someone readers can genuinely get invested in. I usually have problems with characters like Sugar, and I did find her passive acceptance of everything very irritating, but she did grow and develop into someone I could enjoy. I also usually have a problem when a book equates weight loss with being happier because usually weight is a symptom of something much bigger than just a lack of self control. The author did address Sugar’s emotions as part of the problem, and the weight loss was something Sugar liked, but she liked her emotional life worked out more, so I’m not going to complain about it this time. Some of the weight loss stuff felt like it was from a guidance counselor pamphlet rather than personal experience – who uses the word nutritious as a teen? Overall, I liked the book, but it took a lot out of me, and I wasn’t really happy with the way everything worked out in the end – the big blow I took at the climax was never going to let me recover. This is a book for someone who likes emotional books, so if you want to laugh and cry and rage, this book is for you. I personally want to repress everything, so it wasn’t my favorite read. However, I think everyone should have to read something like this as part of empathy training. I’m not sure why people feel like they are allowed to taunt people openly about their weight – once when I was working at a bank, a total stranger told me I could be quite pretty if I wasn’t so chubby – and I think it would do the world some good to see what it really feels like to be playing a game of tug of war with food and happiness.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.