Title: The Sweetest Thing
Author: Christina Mandelski
Pages: 352 (uncorrected nook NetGalley ARC)
Published: May 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Source: publishers via NetGalley
I'm sad to announce that I didn't really enjoy this novel nearly as much as I had anticipated. Sheridan Wells is a 16 year-old cake decorating savant, with a mysteriously missing mother, and a charming best friend that helps her to search for her mother. This is a novel that will make you hungry; either the frequent descriptions of Sheridan's fondant creations or her father's restaurant repertoire will get you, one way or the other. I only wish the characters had gotten under my skin and into my head the way the food did. I never felt truly connected or concerned for most of these characters; only two, a bit player named Lori and a love interest named Jack had me invested in his future in the story at all. I just felt that the book, on the whole, was lackluster: I didn't have much to takeaway from my time spent in Michigan with these characters.
Perhaps that disassociation had a lot to do with the character of Sheridan herself. Instead of inspiring sympathy, Sheridan alienated me for most of the novel. Sure, girlfriend has a ton of issues and problems in her life, but all she does about any of them is complain. Repeatedly. Her relationship with her father is understandably strained - a 16 year old abandoned girl living with her workaholic, rage-aholic father is bound to bring the tears and drama - but Sheridan never actually tries anything to make it better. Instead, she'd rather decorate cake and complain that her dad should make all the efforts to repair their foundering relationship. Sheridan hides for the most part: she replaces social interaction with cake decorating and fears to step outside her now-established routines. Sheridan had qualities that should have endeared her to me: she hates change and uncertainty (cornerstones of my own life), loves and cherishes her grandmother and works hard at everything she does. I never felt any real depth or emotion from the character: a lot of her actions and thoughts came off as contrived, for plotting. I also just simply could not get past her selfish attitude and expectation that the other party should always put in the effort. Sheridan would sound - and come off - a lot less sanctimoniously if she tried.
The supporting character cast similarly, left a lot to be desired. Sheridan has the token boy best friend, distant father and missing mother so popular in literature and I found myself wishing for a character to shake up the somewhat predictable path of the novel. While a teenage love triangle is hinted at, I found the setup quite laughable. Sheridan had NO chemistry with the third leg of the tripod: the only times Sheridan managed to get on my good side were when she was with her best friend/love interest Jack. The other boy, Ethan, was so wooden he seemed like more a part of the setting than the actual story: just a typical rich, pretty boy thrown into the mix for no other reason besides maximum angst potential. The "antagonist" of the novel, or one of them, also felt rather... lame. Describes as Sheridan's "archenemy" I had hoped for (at least!) some amusing bitchiness/dialogue, but once again this was a
cat character with no claws. The only exceptions: the aforementioned Jack and the amusingly blunt Lori. I wish the two of them had had more time with Sheridan: their influence might've rubbed off on her a bit.