Making the Grade / Sweet

Hello!Making the GradeHappy Monday! I’m currently enjoying my last few days of summer vacation, and I hope to fit in one more novel before I head back to school on Wednesday {I also need to write some book reviews – how do twenty novels pile up so fast?!}. Anyhoo, when I updated the Ciao Bella design earlier this month, I took the time to reflect on my reviewing styles and formats as well. In doing so, I decided to play around with my “Making the Grade” feature; you’ll see my new tweaks below!

Sweet

People would kill to be thin.

Solu’s luxurious celebrity-filled “Cruise to Lose” is billed as “the biggest cruise since the Titanic,” and if the new diet sweetener works as promised — dropping five percent of a person’s body weight in just days — it really could be the answer to the world’s obesity problem. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host, Tom Forelli {otherwise known as the hottest guy ever!} and she’s too seasick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

But will they die for it, too?

Tom Forelli knows that he should be grateful for this job and the opportunity to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. His publicists have even set up a “romance” with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get a bit wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when his celebrity hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

Emmy Laybourne, author of the Monument 14 trilogy, takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyingly, wrong. {Goodreads}

Main Characters: A-
Time and time again, I bring up diversity in YA, but for good reason: it’s important to represent a wide range of cultures and experiences. Sweet may seem like an unusual choice in this discussion, but it is diverse: it explores body image and acceptance in contrast to the societal standard. Laurel, the main character, is neither the skinniest nor the prettiest person on the cruise, but she’s happy with her body. Unlike what one may expect, this message isn’t overdone, exaggerated to the point where it’s annoying; instead, Laybourne makes the wise choice to subtly weave the theme into Laurel’s character development. It’s incredibly refreshing, and better yet, well done!

Supporting Characters: B+
Despite the number of people on Solu’s cruise, the true supporting characters are few. There’s Viv, Laurel’s best friend who struggles with her body weight; Tom, former child celebrity looking for a new image; and certain crewmembers, who grow in importance as the story continues. It’s disappointing that the creepiness of the plot pulls the attention from their character development, as I found the romance between Tom and Laurel built naturally and the friendship between Viv and Laurel realistic.

Plot: B
Squeamish readers, take note: no one does the weird, the disgusting, and sometimes, the downright horrifying better than Laybourne, a fact I quickly learned when I devoured Monument 14 in one afternoon. Here, I believe the synopsis captures the plot best when it says that Laybourne “takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyingly, wrong.” It’s an addictive story, even as it grows more and more disturbing than perhaps necessary. My other complaint? The chapters feel more like a jumbled timeline than a cohesive flow of events, but then again, once you start one of Laybourne’s books, it’s difficult to put it down.

Writing: B+
Satire is a tough sell in teen books. It’s not common, and when it is done, I find that readers are taken aback by the style. It’s no different with Sweet, where Laybourne’s satirical take on society starts from the first page; the wrong reader will dislike it, and even those who enjoy satire will need several chapters to adjust to the gory combination. Furthermore, the ending loses steam in its chaos and too fast of a pace, even if the fan in me delighted in that creepy last sentence.

Final Grade: B+
I grabbed Monument 14 a few summers ago on a whim, not thinking I would like it as much as I did or expecting to read all of Laybourne’s books thereafter. Who knew I would recommend books that take such dark turns? Sweet is by no means perfect, but it continues in Laybourne’s signature style: apocalyptic with touches of humor and insight. I’ll read Book Two, if only to satisfy my curiosity.

Have a lovely rest of your day!

Psst. I’ve joined Instagram! Come take photos of new books and yummy baked goods with me: @misschicandpetite

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5 thoughts on “Making the Grade / Sweet

  1. Fantastic review! First of all, good luck with starting school this Wednesday! I hope you get all your reviews done!
    Sweet sounds so very unique! The concept, the use of satire… It feels like something unique that I may enjoy!
    xoxo 💋

    Liked by 1 person

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