Saturday, April 02, 2011

REVIEW: "Sugar & Spice" by Saffina Desforges

It's every parent's worst nightmare. A missing child, with no leads. A child's body found in the water. A community turned upside down in fear for their young. Claire, mother of a murdered girl, is determined to find answers. Why are some men sexually attracted to young girls? Does sexual attract equal the propensity to kill? As Claire struggles to find closure by investigating these questions, she finds herself further drawn into an insidious underworld. Will she ever find the answer she's most desperate to find-- who killed her daughter?

This novel by Saffina Desforges is immediately gripping. The topic is a terrifying train wreck; I was appalled, yet unable to look away. The author does a fantastic job presenting this controversial topic in a way that forces the reader to confront her own feelings and understanding of what is appropriate when it comes to sexual urges. The general feel is almost sympathetic towards pedophiles at times, but not necessarily sympathetic towards those who act on those urges, and that's an important distinction. Getting into the mind of several different pedophiles is not comfortable or easy, but the author smoothly compels the reader to take another perspective, if only for a moment, and confront what is appalling. Initially a bit slow for me, the story really picked up, and the 546 pages (on my sony) went by quickly. I was unable and unwilling to put the book down in the last several hundred pages. The characterization is beautifully done, and even the most loathsome characters manage to be somewhat sympathetic, if only as you pity them. There are some compelling ideas presented, soundly intertwined with the storyline. There are several storylines presented throughout the story, coming together at various points in the book. In retrospect, it seemed a bit disjointed, but felt fitting while engaged in the book.

With such a fluid writing style and compelling plot, I wanted to be drawn in through to the end. The frequent chapter breaks were too distracting to allow that. I wondered at one point if the chapter breaks were put in at regular intervals to ensure the chapters were the same length. Many of the chapters almost seemed placed to purposefully break the flow, which was confusing and disconcerting. A conversation would end abruptly because of a chapter break, but then continue in the next chapter as if nothing had happened. It gave me a "wait, did anyone else see that break?" type of feeling.  I'd rather have seen the chapter breaks when the setting or characters changed, or when a major plot event was revealed. Additionally, there were some typos in the form of missing punctuation and incorrect word substitutions (e.g., you for your). For the number of pages, the typos were not overly excessive, but they were noticeable and sometimes required a second read of a sentence or phrase. Finally, I'm still not sure what I think of the ending. I had made a guess halfway through the book that turned out to have some merit, but the actual conclusion was unexpected. I loved that I didn't figure it all out, but the ending almost seemed a bit of a mockery of the rest of the story. It didn't help that a character at the end shared an historical perspective of pedophilia that was eerily reminiscent to that shared by an earlier character. It seemed less a thought-provoking perspective and more like propaganda at that point.

Still, all in all, this was a riveting and thought-provoking book that made it difficult to turn away until the last page was turned.

4 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

**The author has indicated that the typos I noted should be fixed in the final copy.

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