Sugar Scars by Travis Norwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
OY VEY! OK, here’s the takeaway: this is a great idea for a story. I actually enjoyed reading it. The pacing is great. It’s totally original. The world building is superb. Yet, it made me feel kind of icky.
The premise definitely something I haven’t encountered before. I have to give the author props for that. Sugar is in her early twenties and one of the few people who are immune to a virus that has killed all but 1 in 9600 people. The problem is she’s diabetic and has to figure out how to make her own insulin or die after what she’s stockpiled expires.
I’m giving this 2.5 stars (and not rounding up) because of the author’s originality and my overall enjoyment of the story, but I am having to shove a ton of dust and grime under the rug to do so. There are two big things wrong with this book and one of them is gigantic.
1. The character development is somewhat inconsistent and sometimes lacking.
a) Sugar’s voice seemed to shift at about 10% into the book. She all of a sudden goes from authentic young woman to old lady. Examples: “Don’t judge me. I don’t know what kind of society will have formed years from now, if the world is able to recover, or what kind of morals you’ll have when reading this.” and “We made love on the lounge chair out in the open. […] We were utterly, deliciously alone.” All of a sudden Sugar’s narration sounded like things my southern Methodist mom would write if she was trying to write a romance novel.
b) Kyle is way underdeveloped. We’re told Sugar loves him, but we’re never exposed to this process. We don’t know much about Kyle or their relationship. I was annoyed that I wasn’t in on why Sugar liked him.
2. The overall tone of this novel is ignorant and prejudiced. I felt like I was watching Fox News.
a)There is a stupid amount of talk of religion and God. Do I think the question of God’s existence belongs in a post-apocalyptic novel? Absolutely. That’s why I wasn’t super put off by it until it came up for the 10,000th time. I believe in God and I was irritated. I can’t imagine how put off any non-religious readers will be.
b) The author’s views on women and what they think about sex and men are prehistoric. He seemed to have no earthly idea what the average young women actually thinks about sex. I’m just going to leave some quotes here for you to see for yourself.
i) “If I had a future, if there could ever be a future with a man in my life, I wondered how he would react to seeing [my scars] the first time. Men want their women smooth under their touch.” Ok, well there are like 5 women left in Florida so men probably aren’t that picky any more. And that’s not even remotely true anyway. Prior to 1950’s belief, men care about more than a woman’s naked body- not that this book would do anything to convince you of that.
ii) “I wasn’t taking any birth control, and I thought it was the fertile time in my cycle. God or nature had arranged woman’s desire to be strongest when she was primed for making babies, and the night before, I had been very willing.” Just, ick.
iii) “The nakedness of a man to a woman is completely different than a woman’s to a man.” Naked men are just kind of gross, right ladies? Who would ever want to look at a naked man?????? Amiright? *eye roll*
iv) “I decided to play along and lull him into a false sense of security. Men were at their weakest when desire took over.” Men are so dumb. Show a little skin and maybe we can even earn the right to vote!
v) “John had seen all of me, but sometimes getting close to seeing everything was more tantalizing.” Nah.
I’m just going to stop there. I think you get it.
c) Without giving too much away I want to address one more thing. There’s a point in the novel where the protagonist encounters Brazilians. 99% of the Brazilian men (there is literally one man excluded) have rounded up all of the women and children, are raping them, and using them as currency. Because of course everything is A-OK in Tallahassee, FL, AMERICUH. The Americans live in peace and harmony with only one bad guy, but foreigners are evil.
So that’s pretty much it, y’all. I want to reiterate that this book would be a 5-star read without all of the bullshit I pointed out above. It truly is a good story, but there’s a lot of ignorant garbage you have to wade through to be able to enjoy it. If you’re going to read while female or feminist, you really need to strap in because it’s tough to get through. I mean, it’s not overtly homophobic. So I guess that’s something?
I also just want to leave this excerpt from the acknowledgements page here. FOR REASONS.
I am deeply grateful to Orson Scott Card for his patience and guidance. Reading his stories for the past three decades showed me what I wanted to be as a writer. His advice over the past year took my craft to the next level.
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