The author’s descriptions of Sugar’s day-to-day life were very gritty and disturbing. She was bullied constantly by the other students at school and also by her mother and brother at home. When Even came on the scene I was initially suspicious, thinking that he was about the make the bullying worse, but ended up being quite pleased with the way their friendship progressed.
When it came to the romantic element, I was kind of torn. Even was kind of a dreamy love interest who had problems of his own to deal with and I really liked his integrity and how he saw beneath the surface and was friends with Sugar despite what the popular crowd said about her. If anything, he was a little bit too perfect, but this was tempered by the fact that their romance was incredibly slow-burning. Usually slow-burning romances don’t do it for me (and I don’t like instalove either; I’m so picky!) but in this case I felt fitted the overall themes of the book.
However, I was unsure how I felt about his inclusion in the book at all. While I liked him and what he stood for, I would rather have read about Sugar changing her life for the better (adopting a healthier lifestyle, standing up to her family etc) on her own terms, rather than because she’d met a boy she liked. The author did tackle Even’s inclusion sensitively, and I was glad of that, but I think the story would have been stronger if he wasn’t there at all.
When it comes to themes, this book really ticked all the Teen Issue boxes. We had: body image, abuse, neglect, sex, bullying, drug use, pregnancy, poverty, school, friendship, the works. Some of these issues felt slightly shoehorned in, almost like the author literally had a checklist by her laptop of all the things she wanted to cover and it’s good that these issues get a spotlight shone on them, but I think the message would have been stronger if the author had explored fewer issues but in greater depth.
There’s kind of a twisty, dreadful bit towards the end of the book which would probably have softer-hearted readers than me (I’m pretty much an ice queen) in floods. I really admired the way Sugar healed and changed her life in the light of these events and it really showed her resilience.
All in all I thought this was a good book.