Sweet by Emmy Laybourne, June 2, 2015. Feiwel & Friends, 288 pages. Young Adult
Laurel has been invited to join her friend Vivika on an all-expense paid luxury cruise. And not just any luxury cruise, but a celebrity-filled "Cruise To Lose" to launch Solu, the breakthrough new artificial sweetener that enhances weight loss. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting Viv's invitation. Unlike her friend, Laurel is content with her curves, and she feels out of place among the B-list celebs and wealthy people that make up most of the passengers. Then, to make matters worse, she gets seasick and throws up on the feet of the hottest guy around, former child actor Tom Forelli.
Tom Forelli is no longer the cute, chubby child actor known for his role as "Baby Tom-Tom." Thanks to working with his personal trainer and focusing on eating healthy food, he is now a nineteen-year old heartthrob, but still waiting to be taken seriously as an actor. In the meantime, he has been booked as the celebrity host for the Solu "Cruise To Lose". Having been burned by a recent relationship with another celebrity, he is not interested in the shipboard "romance" his publicist has arranged, and instead finds himself drawn to a shy, curvy, non-celebrity passenger.
As Tom and Laurel get to know each other, they begin to notice that Viv and the other passengers who have been using Solu are starting to act strange, which reinforces their decisions not to try it. Soon they realize just how addictive Solu is, and the lengths their fellow passengers will go to in order to get it, and they must get to safety and get the word out before it is released on the open market. Can they convince Viv and Tom's publicist Tamara to join them?
Sweet is a frightening thriller because it seems so plausible. I'm sure many people would be tempted to go on such a cruise to try some type of miracle drug, and it would be truly bad if things went wrong while people were trapped together in close quarters. This story served to further reinforce my lack of interest in ever going on a cruise. It also provides commentary on society's pressure to be thin versus accepting yourself and focusing on being healthy, as well as the dangers of the lack of regulation and testing of supplements.
I would recommend Sweet to readers who enjoy thrillers and mild horror, and I think it would also appeal to the zombie crowd as there are similar elements of people being changed into monsters, either figuratively or literally. It might also appeal to those who are into conspiracies, whether corporate or government.
Other Books By This Author
The Monument 14 series, about a group of 14 kids surviving apocalyptic events, and Expelled, a short e-novella that is the prequel to Sweet and details the original development of Solu.
It is also interesting to note that Emmy Laybourne is a former character actor, probably best known for her role as Mary-Katherine Gallagher's friend Helen in the film, Superstar.