Sweet (Sweet #1) by Emmy Laybourne
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: eARC provided by NetGalley and Hardcover (purchased)
Goodreads link: (click here)
What's it about?
Laurel is about to embark on the cruise of a lifetime. Not only is The Extravagance filled with celebrities and the talk of all the gossip shows and even the news, but it's supposedly a "Cruise to Lose". . . weight, that is. This vacation promises a lot more than sun and fun. It is the exclusive, first taste of Solu (short for Solution), a new diet sweetener that guarantees at least a five percent drop in a person's body weight. Since it's not even on the market yet, this is a huge opportunity, and most of the passengers on the ship are rich and famous. Of course, Laurel definitely doesn't feel like she fits in. Sure, she could lose a few pounds, but she never really wanted to. She's always been happy with herself the way she is. She's also a borderline hippie who wears combat boots instead of heels and travels with her guitar instead of a purse full of make-up. The only reason she's there is because her best friend Vivika invited her along. Viv is more insecure about her weight (even though they are basically the same size) and her rich father offered to pay their way onto the ship, so how could Laurel turn down a free vacation? How could it possibly be a bad thing?
Laurel quickly begins to regret getting on the ship, though. It starts out with a horrible bout of seasickness and a very embarrassing moment in front of the host of the on-board festivities, Tom Forelli, aka, her childhood celebrity crush who's all grown up and hotter than ever. She's too sick to even try the Solu (not that she really wanted to) and she's finding it very hard to fit in on a ship full of beautiful people. She's trying to make the best of things, but as the days go by, Viv and the other passengers who are taking the Solu start acting very strange. Yes, they're losing weight, but they are beginning to act like scary addicts. Laurel is suddenly glad that she never tried the Solu. She tries to convince Viv to stop taking it, but she can't. Soon, it may be too late.
Tom Forelli is trying to shed is childhood image of "Baby Tom-Tom". Years ago he had a huge hit television show and that's all he's remembered for. Since then, he's grown up and slimmed down with hard work, diet and exercise. Now, he's trying to change his image and get his career going again. He took the job as host to the exclusive Solu launch cruise because it would get him back into the spotlight, but his heart just isn't in it. His publicist set up a "showmance " with a Sabbi Ribiero, a sexy reality-TV star and Brazilian heiress, but he's not really into her. He's not even interested in trying the Solu because he's been on a strict health regimen and his trainer would kill him if he messed with it. No matter how he feels about this gig, when the cameras are on, so must he be. The trip is looking like a bust until he has a run-in with a cute seasick girl on deck. Their meeting was, well, memorable, and he keeps seeing her around after that. For some reason he can't get her out of his head. Soon, this girl may be his only chance for survival.
Laurel and Tom are two of a small handful of people who didn't try the Solu, and they are about to witness how it's side effects turn this cruise to paradise into a cruise from hell. When you're adrift at sea, nobody can hear you scream.
I loved this! Horror, madness and mayhem at sea on a luxury cruise ship? Yes, please! I don't know why I love horror books and movies about disasters on ships or at sea, but I do. I love movies like Ghost Ship, The Poseidon Adventure, Sphere, Leviathan, Triangle and Deep Rising. Out at sea is a perfect setting for bad things to happen because of the isolation factor. This is definitely horror, by the way. It does get pretty gory. It starts out as a cute romance but quickly turns into a horrible, zombie(ish) filled nightmare. The story is very fast paced and it kept me furiously turning pages. For me, this was a perfect summer read. I love to read "summer beach books" but I can only take so much contemporary. Every once in a while I like a sweet summer romance or drama, but I NEED to have summer reads that are a bit more. . . interesting. Sweet has a summer theme, a vaction, best friends, romance, great characters, a cool story and it's wickedly twisted.
One note I have is that the characters were fantastic. I absolutely loved Laurel. She was a strong person with self confidence. She was happy with who she was, which ultimately ended up saving her life since she didn't feel the need to try the miracle weight loss cure because she loved herself just the way she was, and Tom liked her for who she was, too. That's one of the reasons I loved him, as well. He was a celebrity, but he seemed more like a normal person inside. His image was not who he was, and he did the best he could to stand up for himself. He faced a lot of pressure from his publicist, but in the end, he was his own person. The rest of the characters were perfectly despicable (Sabbi, the people behind Solu, the ships passengers) except for poor Vivika. She was so insecure and she provided an important, yet unfortunate, lesson about body image and accepting yourself. She would do anything to be thin and part of the "in" crowd. Anything.
The ending also definitely left me wanting more. I can't wait for the next book. I will be stalking Goodreads for a release date and info about it. I actually JUST NOW discovered (and purchased) the prequel short story, Expelled (Sweet #0.5), and I can't wait to read it!
Basically, Sweet is a whole lot of B-Movie fun. If you're looking for a creepy and fast paced summer read guaranteed to make you scream (and possibly never want to diet or go on a cruise), this is your book!