Sweet is the first novel I’ve read by Emmy Laybourne, but it definitely has me intrigued to read more, including her more famous Monument 14 series. Sweet is also a novel of survival horror, although it’s set on a cruise ship instead of a superstore. The plot revolves around the Solu Cruise to Lose, a luxury cruise where a wealthy businessman is unveiling his new artificial sweetener, Solu, a week before it becomes available to the rest of the world. Solu is being touted as a “miracle” weight loss drug, and most people on board are excited to drop some pounds.
Our heroine, seventeen-year-old Laurel doesn’t really want to be on the cruise, but her wealthy best friend has dragged her along. Viv and Laurel are about the same size, but while Viv is desperate to lose weight, Laurel is comfortable with her fuller figure. She likes being curvy. Our other protagonist, former child star, Tom Forelli doesn’t really want to be on the cruise either; he believes exercise is the key to good health, not fad diets. However, his publicist thinks the cruise would be a good way to get Tom back in the spotlight. When Laurel and Tom meet, sparks fly, and things begin looking up for both of them, until they start noticing the side effects of Solu on their fellow passengers.
Turns out, Solu may be an effective way to lose weight, but it is also extremely addictive. And its side effects are deadly.
Sweet starts off interestingly enough, and Laurel and Tom make for likable heroes. I also commend Laybourne on Sweet‘s body positivity message. Laurel and Tom are some of the few passengers who manage to side step the dangerous effects of Solu, because both have healthy body images and avoid the sweetener, wary of something that sounds too good to be too true. As someone who has vacillated between super-skinny and overweight all my life, I appreciate the message and wish this book had been around when I was in high school.
Where Sweet really gets good though is when all hell breaks loose. Solu brings out the worst in its consumers. People become temperamental, then violent, before finally losing all moral inhibitions. When Solu on the ship becomes scarce, the addicts turn to murder, rioting in order to get more of the addictive sweetener. People are trampled when the kitchens get mobbed, and fights break out over the packets left. When all the packets of the sweetener are gone, the addicts resort to cannibalism and blood drinking, attempting to get the remains of Solu out of the bodies of others who have consumed it.
I’m not going to lie. This book gets pretty gory. So despite my massive amount of love for this under appreciated thriller, I can’t recommend it to those with weak stomachs. For the rest of us, Sweet is a can’t miss, fun, action packed thrill-ride that will have you on the edge of your seat as you turn the pages to see if Tom and Laurel will succeed in warning the outside world of Solu’s effects…and if they can get off the ship alive.