Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall
Series: Standalone
Published: June 1st, 2015
Publisher: Skyscape
291 pages (ARC)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: From the author as a gift, with no expectation of a review
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

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.

Sugar isn’t an easy book to read. It’s heartbreaking and bittersweet and painful, but it’s also powerful and ultimately full of hope. Besides breaking my heart, it made me angry, it made me uncomfortable, but it also reminded me that with faith, belief in yourself, and strength, anything is possible.

Sugar eats her feelings. Food, especially sweets, calm her down and help feed an insatiable need in her. Her weight, her mama, her brother, and her schoolmates are all part of the problem, and so she continues to eat to feel better, to fill that hole in her life, the ache that can only be satisfied by the one constant in her life: food. Her mother is so morbidly obese she’s bed-bound, her brother is a nasty piece of work with a hair-trigger temper, and the kids at school make sure she never forgets how fat she is, along with how stupid, ugly, and unwanted. Everyone makes her feel like she’s worthless, in the way, and will never amount to anything...until Even comes along. Sweet, gentle, kind Even, who doesn't seem to care that Sugar is an outcast or that she weighs hundreds of pounds. For the first time in her life, Sugar has someone who sees beyond her exterior and likes what they see.

The things Sugar’s mom and brother, along with the kids at school, say and do to her are absolutely disgusting, rage-inducing, and heartbreaking. There were so many times where I just wanted to take Sugar in my arms, hold her tight, and tell her that everything they said was wrong. She was so sweet and tried so hard to please everyone, but she got nothing but grief in return. She was such a good girl - she went to church every week (and not out of obligation), she took care of her horrible, cruel mother, did all the shopping and cleaning and cooking, and tried to do well in school. It’s rare to see a character who’s as good as Sugar without being a goody goody - she was just genuinely good, kind, and had a huge heart, and I loved that about her. 

One thing I really appreciated about this book is that Sugar didn’t lose weight because of or ‘for’ Even. In so many books, a big girl gets attention for the first time and suddenly she wants to lose weight because there’s no possible way she could be beautiful or what a guy wants or needs or deserves if she’s fat. Or a girl does it for revenge against an ex, a bully, or whoever. But with Sugar, she didn’t even realize she was losing weight at first, it just happened because her life was changing - she was walking to school, she didn’t need to ‘eat her feelings’ as much, and she found the satisfaction she used to find in food from Even instead. It eventually became a conscious decision to become healthy, but it was through things she learned and through personal growth rather than for or because of someone specific.

While I did have a couple small issues with Sugar - namely the believability of some things, and the fact that the painful, awful things that happened to Sugar seemed like overkill at times - I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It deals with a lot of serious issues in a mostly realistic way that has the ability to touch you deeply. Despite being heartbreaking, Sugar is ultimately a story of triumph, strength, and hope. 

~Favourite Quote~

“Sugar, I see a beautiful, creative, and intelligent girl. Yes, I see what you look like on the outside and it isn’t what little girls growing up see in magazines and movies or what girls like Hillary and Allie look like either, but if we all looked just alike or worse, acted alike, this world would be a boring place. You’ve got curves. But all of you makes you who you are, and I like that girl. In fact, you’re my favorite person in the world. You have confidence in there, but sometimes I think you just misplace it” ~ page 177

Want to win an ARC of Sugar, plus a swag pack? Deirdre stopped by The Authorteers, the blog I co-run with a group of author friends, and generously donated an awesome prize pack. You can enter to win here
 Have you read Sugar? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any other books with plus-sized main characters? Let's talk here or on Twitter!

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