The book is set in modern times, or the very near future, aboard The Extravagance, a luxury cruise ship that appears to be even more magnificent that the Titanic. The brilliance of the ship provides a striking contrast to the grotesque events that take place in the book, which is interesting to observe as a reader. In addition, a cruise ship is an unusual setting for a horror novel, which provides uniqueness to the story. The fact that the book is set in the present also develops a sense of tension in the reader, because it suggests the possibility that the events that take place in the story are not far off from events that could happen in real life.
I felt like the characters in Sweet were not believable at all. For example, Laurel, one of the book’s two main protagonists, is just generally irritating to listen to. The chapters that are written in her point of view started off as snarky and quirky at the beginning of the book, which is acceptable at the beginning of the book because the tone is a lot less intense. Her immaturity comes off as endearing, and as a reader, I overlooked it. However, later in the novel, once the action picks up and the scary events begin to take place, she still remains just as immature and annoying. It’s frustrating to listen to her state obvious facts and sigh about how attractive Tom is when she really should be more worried about the literal murders going on around her! I did find it refreshing that she, as a character, was legitimately comfortable in her own shoes and confident with her body type, but I think she doesn’t develop throughout the story at all. She starts out as an immature, teenage girl who swoons over hot celebrity personalities, and this is basically the same way she ends the novel. She doesn’t learn anything about herself, she just falls into a couple lucky situations and somehow lands a famous boyfriend in six days. There was almost no change in her, and this layered on top of her unrealistic reaction to the events around her makes for a character that I didn’t want to pay any attention to at all. The other protagonist, handsome television star Tom Fiorelli, really wasn’t much better. I found him boring and cynical of everyone around him, which made the chapters written in his point of view unpleasant to read. His so-called “love” for Laurel is extremely unbelievable. The two have only known each other for six days. Six! That is nowhere near enough time for these two polar opposites to fall in love. It makes sense that they would be allies in this situation, since neither of them had any Solu, and I may even be able to see them becoming friends because of the sheer amount of horrifying experiences they go through together, but the whole relationship felt out of place. Why are they worrying about kissing each other in Laurel’s closet while there are multiple mass murders going on just outside? The romantic aspect of their relationship was too hurried, too unbelievable, too fast, and ultimately unnecessary to the plot of the novel.
This book was tolerable, at best. I wouldn't call it good.
The writing style of this book were overall immature. It was incredibly frustrating to read. The author overused parentheses, using them to cut off thought processes, include unnecessary information, or just separate information that really should have been put together. The terminology used by both characters felt childish and disjointed, which made it hard to get to the story’s actual plot. For example, Laurel uses the phrase “My God” about 900 times throughout the course of the novel. I wish I was joking. Not only does she say this out loud in her dialogue, but she also ccrams it into every piece of her narration! It’s childish and an inaccurate representation of how a teenager would act in this situation. The switching viewpoints between Laurel and Tom didn’t help either, because I felt like it was unnecessary. It separated the plot between two characters I didn’t really want to hear from, which made me lose interest in the book. In addition, the book takes on a sort of satirical attitude towards its own story, creating a paradox where the scenes being portrayed are horrific and serious, but the attitude of the narrar was flippant or just over exaggerated. The book made fun of itself, and not in an intentional way, and this really help back the potential of the book. All the errors with the writing style made his really made the book hard to read, and the concept of what might have been a very interesting story was lost.
As I’ve made very clear, this book had several weaknesses. The immaturity of the writing style, the unrealistic characters, the underdeveloped characters, the overly casual phraseology, and the forced romantic relationship between Tom and Laurel all dragged the seemingly interesting concept of the book down and made it hard to read. This was disappointing for me, because I was actually very excited to read this book. I loved the idea, and I wanted so badly to like it. But overall, it just didn’t work. Honestly, it seems like it was written by a semi-talented thirteen year old, who had a really good idea for a story, but couldn’t quite carry it out. The concept had potential, but it was drowned in the childish writing and hastily thrown together characters with no real depth or opportunity for change. It seems like a waste to let a story with so much potential get completely destroyed by the author.
Sweet by Emmy Laybourne is a horror novel that tells the story of a diet sensation gone wrong. Aboard the Solu Cruise to Lose, the nation’s largest soda corporation, Pipop, launches its new diet sweetener Solu, which promises to get rid of spare weight without ever having to diet. Passengers are promised to lose over 5 percent of their body weight in just six short days, which sounds like a dream come true to the overweight upper class of America. Enter our first protagonist Laurel, who was dragged aboard the cruise by her binge-eating, weight-obsessed, and conveniently rich best friend Vivika. Although Laurel has always been very happy with her size fourteen body, Vivika would do anything to get thin, and the two end up on the cruise together. Our other protagonist Tom Fiorelli is a rising television personality that is looking to use this cruise as a way to shake of his embarrassing memories as a childhood tv star and secure a more serious career. When the new diet sensation is finally revealed on the first day of the cruise, both Tom and Laurel refuse to eat it. Over the next few days aboard the cruise, the passengers are delighted as the sweetener works wonders on their weight, transforming them overnight from obese to model-worthy. However Tom and Laurel are skeptical because it appears the Solu may be working too well. The weight transformations go from drastic to devastating, and the pair soon realize that Solu is not just a trendy sweetener, but a highly addictive drug with eerily grotesque side effects. As Tom and Laurel are hunted down by the bloodthirsty passengers, they struggle to find the truth behind Solu’s nature and the way to save themselves and those they love from the deathly circumstances aboard the ship. Two significant events include the introduction of the Solu at the beginning of the book, where the sweetener appears to be innocent and even magical, and the mob near the end of the book that tramples a man and hangs the creator of Solu in a desperate attempt to obtain more of the diet wonder-drug.
The ending of the novel, sadly and unsurprisingly, didn’t save the book from its downward spiral. It felt rushed and hurried, like the author was trying to force feed a half-baked conclusion down the throats of her characters and her readers because she had to run out and get groceries later that night. Laurel and Tom are both severely injured by their own stupid decisions, and the way they ended up escaping the ship was ridiculous. They ended up creating more problems than they solved. The cliffhanger ending in the last chapter was especially unsatisfying, because it was just completely unnecessary. What was supposed to be a chilling end to the novel was, in reality, a cheap grab at a cliche cliffhanger that didn’t feel like it matched up with the rest of the book, except that it was equally ill-written. I believe the author was trying to send a message to her audience about the importance of a positive self-image and the seriousness of weight as a worldwide issue, but honestly obesity is not a worldwide problem. It’s not something that we need to write horror novels about, because it is so rare and insignificant when compared to other, more pertinent world issues like, say, world hunger. Sweet, in the end, just came off as a badly written, unbelievable, and irritating book to read.
Do you recommend this book?