Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Sugar Queen by: Sarah Addison Allen

       If you aren't familiar with Sarah Addison Allen's world let me tell you, it's simply delightful. I love the characters she creates and the whimsical, magical worlds she infuses her stories with. Even though this is Ms. Allen's second work, it was the first one I read of hers, after which I of course quickly searched out her first novel Garden Spells and literally devoured it.
       The Sugar Queen is about a friendship between three girls, Josey, Chloe, and Della Lee. The story focuses on Josey, a 27 year old girl who loves snow, sweets, and her lucky red cardigan. Josey grew up well-known, not only for her well accomplished and rich father but also for her legendary tantrums as an unruly child. Though she has grown up to become an even tempered, devoted daughter to her ever disapproving mother, the town still looks upon her as that same unruly child  she used to be.
     Josey often escapes her mother's numbing disapproval and hum-drum life with lovely sweets (lots and lots of yummy sweets!) paperbacks and travel magazines.
     When Della Lee, a local waitress and the towns female philanderer is found in Josey's closet making herself right at home, Joey is miffed beyond belief. Della Lee, determined to push Josey beyond the four walls of her closed in existence encourages Josey to take her life by the reigns and go. Not too long after discovering Della Lee in her closet Josey meets Chloe, a girl who owns a small sandwich shop and seems to have an odd phenomena with books, they happen to follow her around, popping up around her in the oddest places. Together these three help each other through harsh truths that are uncovered and are also there to smile and pat each other on the back for the triumphs they each are able to achieve.
     This is a light fairytale read that I quite enjoyed. The reparte between Ms Dela Lee and Joey always had me smiling. Here's a little example of it
    She took a deep breath and walked to it (her closet). Maybe she'd imagined the whole thing.
    She opened the door.
    "You should wear makeup," Della Lee said.
    Josey reached up and grabbed her lucky red cardigan off the high shelf, then closed the door. She put the sweater on and closed her eyes. Go away, go away, go away.
    She opened the door again.
    "No, really. Mascara. Lip gloss. Something."
    Josey sighed. The sweater was probably just rusty. It had been sitting there all summer, after all. Della Lee wouldn't be there when she got home. Good things happened when she wore this sweater. She'd had the best haircut she'd ever had while wearing it. When she'd slept in it once, it snowed for three days straight.
    And she'd been wearing it the day she first met Adam.
    She closed the door, paused with her hand on the knob, then opened it one last time.
    "Eyeliner?" Della Lee said.
    Josey turned and walked away.
    There's also a part where Della Lee sneaks down stairs at night when the house is sleeping to get something to eat when Josey's housekeeper, a very superstitious women chases Della Lee around in the dark suspecting that she's an evil spirit. The scene that played out in my head had me rolling with laughter.
    I liked the magical element of the books following Chloe around and popping up in the oddest places, it added to the whole fairytale whimsical feel of the book. Adam  (Josey's Mailman and love interest) was such a charming character, I wish there was more depth to him. I feel that there was so much to be explored there that simply wasn't.
    Josey's mother on the other hand was such a lovely character to dislike. The ending took me by surprise, I wasn't expecting it, but I really enjoyed it.  Josey was a character that I enjoyed getting to know, see change, and grow.
    As for cover talk, the cover at the top takes the cake for me. While Josey does start out as a bit of a recluse she never came across to me as an overwhelmingly depressed or sad character, which is what this cover to the right seems to portray. That is why I love the cover at the top left hand corner. I love the way the girl is posed, the relaxed feel, the slight hunch of the back eluding to a timid maybe shy girl. But over all what gets me, is the way her head is turned not slightly to the outside but with such full attention, maybe longing. I can see that girl being Josey, a girl who collects travel magazines in her closet, who wants more, who has the desire to get out and live but maybe just doesn't  know exactly how to go about doing it.  For any of you who have a sweet tooth and are in need of a light read and enjoy whimsical worlds with charming characters I would encourage you to settle in The Sugar Queen.
Mrs. Ferguson was a nitpicker. Her husband spent a lot of time at his club, which was really a cigar shop downtown, to get away from her. It had taken Adam neraly a year to get her mail delivery exactly how she liked it. Flats together, folded and secured with a rubber band. Letters always separate. The two things placed in the mailbox side by side, never stacked.
    "Hello, Mrs. Ferguson," he said as he opened her box and put the mail in.
    "Nice to see you, Adam," she said. "That happens every day, you know."
    He stopped and reached into his bag for the mail for the next couple of houses. "I'm sorry, what?" he asked absently.
    "Josey. She watches you walk across the street every day."
    Adam looked up.
    "She's a nice girl." Mrs. Ferguson lifted herself to her feet with a grunt. "It's too bad no one sees it."
    "What do you mean?"
   "You aren't from here. You don't know the reputation Josey earned when she was a child."
    "What sort of reputation?"
    "That girl was the meanest, rudest, most unhappy child I've ever known. She could pitch the loudest fits when she didn't get what she wanted, so loud I could hear her from inside my house. I think she broke just about everthing her mother ever owned. And she threw tantrums in public just as often. Ask anyone if you don't belive me. Every store owner in town has a story, and a bill. she used to steal candy. Her father was the only one who could control her, but he was hardly ever around. Her mother had her hands full. That's why Margaret never sent Josey to school. She hired tutors to teach her at home."
    "Josey?" Adam said incredulously.
    "I know. If I hadn't seen it for myself on man occasions, I'd find it hard to believe too. She grew up to be so pleasant. But she looks sad, don't you think? She reminds me of Rapunzel. You know, like in the fairy tale. The only time she leaves that house is to take her mother to her few social activities, or to run errands for her."
    No, Adam thought. That's not the only time she leaves.
    He turned to look at her house, more curious than he wanted to be.
        Rapunzel had been sneaking out of the castle.

Other Sweet Tooth readers:

Stephanie's Written Word 
Busy Bookworm Reviews
Book Addiction
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Christine said...

Oh! oh! OH! I just read Garden Spells last month and I ADORED it. Obviously, The Sugar Queen has been on my library loot list since. I can't wait to read it! What a wonderful review, too, Kika. =)

Angiegirl said...

LOL. I just finished this last night! Loved it. LOVED it. It just made me happy. Great review. I'll be sure to link to it in mine.

KIKA said...

LOL Christine! :D I too just ADORED Garden spells, and the Sugar Queen? I'm sure you'll adore it as well! My skiing/snow boarding class started last Thursday, but this Thursday we start on the slopes at Sundance woohoo! LOL I'll be sure to tell you about all soreness, bruises, and continual tumbles down the mountain that I am sure to have :)

Angie! It's always lovely to have you stop by, I'm glad you enjoyed Sugar Queen, it is such a comfy sweet read :) and linkage? total awesomeness!

Christine said...

Sundance! Yay! I loved it there. Very beautiful and serene. And very green, too! Even way back in .. omg was it 1992? Were you even born yet??! ... you couldn't drive your car into the mountain area in order to protect the environment from pollution. I think we took an battery powered bus from a parking lot outside the valley. Anyway, I do remember it being very peaceful. Actually, every ski area we went to in Utah was beautiful.

Have fun! :)

Juju at Tales of said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am positively itching to read more SAA. She's SO amazing.