Genres: YA | Horror | Contemporary
Published: June 2nd, 2015
*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.
I know I was promised "horrifyingly wrong" in the synopsis, but I was not expecting to headdesk and mumble in frustration and confusion the number of times I did whilst reading Sweet by Emmy Laybourne. A plot that no reader can deny is plain weird, coupled with a massively trope-tastic insta-love romance and shameless body-shaming? Yeahhhh, no. Sweet fell flat for me in every way.
(Warning: sass and semi-ranting ahead).
Let’s tackle this mess one-by-one. There were practically two separate plots happening in the same book. It started off as your typical somewhat funny, splash-of-romance contemporary with an interesting take on the way modern pop culture values a thin body type. Then suddenly, it turned into a zombie/cannibal/vampire (I’m not exaggerating, there is actual blood-drinking of fellow humans) thriller-action plot, which was just confusing. Maybe Laybourne was going for a creepy, dark twist, but I actually found it comical how starkly the two halves of the book contrasted. I can’t really get into the ending without spoilers, but let’s just say it solidified my already low opinion of the book.
The random insta-romance only made things worse. For starters, a gentle reminder that the entirety of this book happens during a one-week crash diet cruise. I don’t know about you, but I certainly am not on board when a girl starts calling a guy her boyfriend within all of, like, three days of meeting him. *cue another Neil deGrasse Tyson eye roll*
To make matters even worse, before the events of the book, Laurel had had a celebrity crush on Tom. Can you get any more cheesy-romance-trope than *~normal girl~* meeting a *~hot celebrity~* and falling in love instantly? It was not working for me on any level.
Just a note, this isn’t a problem exclusive to Sweet, but there was a serious problem about kissing people without consent. I’m not sure why, but a lot of book characters don’t seem to grasp that you’re kind of maybe sort of supposed to ask before completely encroaching upon someone’s personal space?? (This was particularly irksome to me because later Tom asked if it was okay to bring Laurel TEA. You’re going to ask if you can bring someone a hot beverage but not if you can invade their personal space? Uhm.)
Now let’s talk about the more subtle, but most disturbing element of this book: its flawed portrayal of body image. This was especially disappointing since the premise of the novel made me hopeful that it would tackle fat discrimination and self-love well. Instead…
“You’re beautiful the way you are.” ~self-confident Laurel to her self-conscious friend Viv. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy that our female main character was already comfortable in her not-particularly-skinny body prior to any male validation. But when her similarly curvy friend Viv expressed discomfort with her size, Laurel acted as though her singular bland sentence of peer validation should’ve been enough to quell Viv’s self-doubt. It often takes a lot more than one good friend saying you’re beautiful to get over the pervasive fat discrimination of our society, unfortunately.
“She’s pretty. Not too skinny at all.” ~Tom’s thoughts as he first lays eyes on Laurel. *huge sigh* I shouldn’t even have to say why this is problematic, but Tom literally said that people are ugly because they’re “too skinny.” Later, Tom calls Laurel’s body “real” as though all people who are skinny are “fake.” Hey, here’s a radical idea… how about we stop stepping all over one body type while trying to empower another? Thanks.
So yeah.. I would pretty much recommend this to no one unless you desire reading something that you can rage and rant and sass about (which I have to admit is actually slightly fun).
Thanks for reading. :)
Have you guys ever read a book that seemed to totally change course in the middle? Am I alone in being seriously fed up with the lack of asking for consent before kissing in books? If you’ve read Sweet, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!