The Sugar Queen
by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by Bantam
2 Out of 5 StarsThe Sugar Queen is a book clearly written for a particular type of woman. And that woman is not me. I'm not immune to the charms of chick lit, but I do require it to be witty, have quirky characters, present a plausible and realistic relationship (notice I did not say a "romance") that is not the axis upon which the main character's world turns, and a strong female lead. After reading Garden Spells by the same author last year, I knew that Sarah Addison Allen did not meet this criteria. Alas, I had bought The Sugar Queen from the bargain bin before my disappointing experience with Garden Spells and felt compelled to at least give it a whirl. After dutifully trudging through it, I can report that I was every bit as underwhelmed as I expected to be.
Josey Cirrini has a secret--a deep, dark secret. One that could ruin her life. She's embarrassed and humiliated by what she hides from the world. Want to know what it is? Come closer and I'll tell you. It's--are you sure you can handle this? I'll understand if you're not ready for such a shocking revelation. Okay, well, you're still here, so it's . . . a closet full of candy and romance novels. Hey, don't blame me if you weren't ready for that kind of dark and twisty. You were forewarned! And now Della Lee Baker, the lovable town skank has claimed squatter's rights on Josey Cirrini's closet. You see, Della Lee is on the run from a man that she can't resist and, like one does in such a situation, she immediately runs to the nearest stranger's closet. Della Lee professes her desire to help the shy, awkward Josey find a way to free herself from her overprotective mother and take charge of her life. Secrets are revealed, new loves are forged, old loves are rekindled, and a kind of awkward magical realism is sprinkled throughout. I could go on, but if you're rolling your eyes by now, then I think you get the gist of what Allen is peddling here.
Allen's books have been described as "light" and "fluffy"; I would add "saccharine" and "predictable" to the list of adjectives. I did not like nor identify with this group of characters and, while there's nothing offensive enough to warrant a one star rating, the novel certainly isn't exceptional in any way. It's a romance, plain and simple, written for women in their 20's and 30's who have forgotten the thrill of a first love and want to vicariously reconnect with that, but preferably not in a way that involves a creepy emo vampire. And, if that's your bag, baby, then groovy--go ahead, pick up a copy, make yourself a nice cuppa tea, grab a blankie and have an estrogen fest. Right now, I'm going to try to restore balance in my reading life by seeing if there's anything on my bookshelf that might involve someone's jugular being ripped out.