Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall is one my picks for the best books of 2015. I have to read a ton of books as member of the Georgia Peach Book Award for Teens, and Sugar was one of our best loved books. We’ll see if the teens of Georgia feel the same way as they vote for the 2016-2017 Book of the Year.
Sugar (Skyscape, 2015) is the tale of Mercy Legowski-Gracia a Junior in high school who is struggling literally and figuratively under the weight of her mother’s abuse. Sugar, who got the nickname because she loved sweets, is constantly ridiculed by her mother and brother for being fat. Morbidly obese herself, her mother is confined to her bedroom, which leaves Sugar the woman of the house. Desperate for love she endures the name calling and insults because she believes that she is being a good daughter. To couple the abuse at home she endures abuse at school through constant bullying. While she does have at least one friend, the girl is wrapped in her own issues and doesn’t really offer Sugar much help in the way of recognizing her situation or helping to alleviate some of the pressure. And then she meets Even. Even likes Sugar as she is and through a budding friendship-that-could-be-more she begins to come into her own.
I won’t give away more than that, but I will say that while this book did get really depressing at times there were a great many bright spots. The imagery surrounding how Sugar feels when she’s eating sweets and the physical and emotional reactions she has to eating are really vivid, and I can’t say I’ve seen food addiction depicted in such a way. There are also some fantastically romantic scenes that are rarely written for girls who aren’t thin and perceived as beautiful. Fans of romance will want to re-read them over and over, but I wouldn’t peg this book as a romance. It’s a coming-of-age novel and it’s a journey of self-actualization. In the end it just makes you feel good. It isn’t that the book has prose that makes you weep or a thrilling page-turner plot-line, but about the very real warmth the book gives you after reading it. It was a joy to read and a joy to share.
One caveat for librarians, I read this using my Kindle Unlimited subscription, but I know that one of my book jobbers had a hard time finding the book so they could order it for my library. I’d check around to make sure you can get a copy. It really is worth it.