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3 of 5
1 rating
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list price: $21.95
edition:Paperback
category: Fiction
published: June 2016
ISBN:9781770864320
publisher: Cormorant Books

The Sweetest One

by Melanie Mah

reviews: 1
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literary, contemporary women, coming of age
3 of 5
1 rating
rated!
rated!
list price: $21.95
edition:Paperback
category: Fiction
published: June 2016
ISBN:9781770864320
publisher: Cormorant Books
Description

Cosmopolitan and curious seventeen-year-old Chrysler Wong suffers from debilitating fear brought on by belief in a family curse, whereby she and her siblings will each die at age eighteen when they leave their small hometown. Three siblings have already died; the fourth, her favourite, has left town and is incommunicado. Chrysler is afraid of boys, love, sex, leaving town, and eating chicken that's a little pink in the centre. She's taken huge precautions to try to keep herself safe, and the possibilities of her life, as she sees it, are narrow, even though she's smart, curious, hopeful, and longing for more. She vows to continue life in her small town, alone in the shadow of enormous grief, fear, and dread while trying to get her sister Trina to come home. (Trina may or may not still be alive; she may even be on an epic roadtrip adventure to a place Chrysler has always wanted to go, the Northwest Territories.) All Chrysler has is her despairing, ineffectual, sometimes abusive parents whom she takes care of and vivid memories of when things in her family were good. Enter Conrad Green, a boy from a neighbouring town who, like Chrysler, is curious, witty, and smart; unlike her, he fears almost nothing. Conrad challenges much of what Chrysler has accepted as common sense. He dares her to not be alone, to court adventure and danger and to live how she wants to, not just how she thinks she must. Through the course of a narrative that is offbeat, funny, and full of verve, we meet Chrysler's siblings, a lively bunch with a fun dynamic and interesting back-stories of their own. Set in central-western Alberta, the book asks larger questions about growing up, questions about life itself, particularly, how you would live if you knew your life would soon be ending. Would you live a circumscribed life if you thought it meant you would survive? What amount of sacrifice is worth it?

About the Author

Melanie Mah

MELANIE MAH was born in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, and currently resides in Toronto. The Sweetest One is her first novel.
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ivereadthis.com review

All my reviews can be found at ivereadthis.com

I’m torn about Melanie Mah’s The Sweetest One. The author has so much going for her book, that it’s hard for me not to love what she’s written. Firstly, she’s Albertan, so I’m excited to read any books written by a local author (she lives in Toronto now, but we won’t talk about that). Secondly, she’s published by Cormorant Books, which as I’ve said before, I am an unabashed fan of. They only publish people who are fantastic writers, period. This book is no different, Mah’s writing is precise, clever and direct, and gives purpose to an otherwise boring and common existence for the main character Chrysler (such a cool name too!). The narrative is well formed; it kept me turning the pages, even though the answers I was seeking were no doubt depressing (three different children die within the same family at the same age). Mah masterfully draws out the reasons for their death throughout the book, which added a little mystery to the plot, elevating it from a simple novel about life in a small town to an engrossing story that you don’t want to put down.

So what’s my problem? Is it a major one, or a minor quibble? I guess that depends on your perspective. As I mentioned before there were so many reasons for me to like this book, but the driver behind the character’s fear of her family curse didn’t make much sense to me. Personally, I find that when the motivation for a protagonist falls flat, it’s hard to get excited about a book. Essentially, Chrysler has four siblings, and three of them die on their way out (figuratively and literally) of their small town in rural Alberta. The fourth kid disappears at the very beginning of the book, thus beginning the year that Chrysler is home alone with her parents, essentially waiting for something dire to happen. Of course having three of your siblings die would affect you deeply, leaving your emotions in tatters to say the least. But, Chrysler is extremely scientific, excelling at these logic-based subjects at school. Therefore, it’s a stretch to believe that she is afraid to leave her town for an irrational fear of something bad happening to her. What’s even worse is she is constantly tallying up all the dangerous things that could happen to her in any situation, which stunts her spiritual growth and leaves her grasping at a depressing family life. While her sister Trina disappears looking for salvation somewhere else, Chrysler has the exact opposite reaction by refusing to leave her town, even though her parents can be verbally and physically abusive. It just didn’t add up for me.

So is this a reason to shun a book entirely, and say it isn’t worth reading at all? No, definitely not. This is Mah’s first book, and she’s obviously very talented, so I’ll be looking forward to what she writes next. Yes, she has some work to do on the mechanics of her characterization, but I realize this can be a very subjective aspect to storytelling, so judge for yourself and pick up her debut.

Oh, and one more thing. This book should also be considered a young adult book, simply because it deals with issues that many ‘youths’ think and care about. I think the YA lovers out there would really enjoy Chrysler, and the teenage dialogue is believable and authentic.

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