The Saturday Reading List: Sugar Skulls

Sugar Skulls by Lisa Mantchev and Glenn Dallas

A bit of history: Part of the Mexican holiday called Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and was placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit. This books has nothing to do with that though…

The Stats:

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2015
  • Fiction, science-fiction, futuristic, dystopian, young adult, romance
  • 2.8/5
  • Warnings: Instant love between the two characters, like Romeo and Juliet, and switching back and forth between narration. Also, a bit of cultural appropriation explained away with a somewhat flimsy explanation.

From Amazon:

“Welcome to Cyrene, a city where energy is currency and music is the lifeblood of its young citizens. Everyone lives on the grid, and the residents of the world’s largest playground are encouraged to pursue every physical and emotional pleasure imaginable.

Vee is the lead singer of the Sugar Skulls, an all-girl band that is Corporate’s newest pet project. Micah haunts the city like a ghost after an overdose of a deadly illegal street drug knocks him off the grid. When Micah and Vee forge an immediate, undeniable connection, their troubled worlds collide.

Trading concert stages for Cyrene’s rooftops and back alleys, they have to evade vicious thugs and Vee’s possessive manager as they unravel the mysteries connected to their dark pasts. And before the curtain falls, Micah and Vee will bring the city to its knees in their desperate bid for love, home, and a future together.”

Zo’s Review

Can fun be productive? In Cyrene city, where the more “good times” you have, the more energy you give to “the grid” to power the city. I thought that alone was such an interesting idea. In my mind, it was a weird combo of “yeah, get paid to party” and “okay, there’s bound to be creepy ‘Big Brother is watching you’ vibes,”. Based on the description alone, I was really excited to read this book, however, after reading about 10% I really wanted to stop reading. (Don’t worry. I forced my way through.)

To start off, the story narration switches between the two main characters, Vee and Micah. This is not the first book that I’ve read with multiple narrators but the beginning of the story was kind of disorientating. Almost every other paragraph was switched back and forth between the two. I felt that if it weren’t for the “V” or “M” that began the start of each switch or for context clues, I would be very confused as to what was going on because it just didn’t feel like their personalities were that defined from each other at that point. I really didn’t feel like they had their own personal style of narration until a little half way through the book. Also, it didn’t really help that they were both using certain terms that was typical for their setting but weren’t made clear to the reader, like “thrum collectors”. I mean, after a certain point you figure out what those are but terms like that being thrown at readers along with a mesh of really colorful, in-your-face adjectives that were strung together into a description made me feel very confused as to what was going on instead of giving me a clearer mental image. Sometimes less is more.

The plot was also really slow at first. Other than Micah suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to follow Vee to all of her performances like a groupie stalker, I wasn’t sure exactly where this story was going. When the plot did pick up, it was predictable. Something bad happened in the past, one of the main characters feels guilty for it, character seeks revenge but along the way finds love, etc. I mean, there are quite a few stories like this in the world but some of them still manage to keep the reader on the edge. I just really felt like the authors missed some really great opportunities to develop certain characters and really make the city of Cyrene really dark and edgy while also exploring the strength of Vee and Micah’s relationship with each other and other characters. There were several things that I thought would be expanded on that never really did – like one of the character’s family being connected with the creation of Cyrene – or if they were, it kind of seemed like a last minute addition to have the reader like/feel sympathetic for the character – like one character’s past coming back to haunt them.

Overall, I really liked the idea behind Sugar Skulls but I just couldn’t get over how predictable it was. I really wished the authors delved into some of the characters more and especially fleshed out the city’s history and the relationship between Micah and Vee. I understand what they were going for with this fast, quick, but true romance but I just barely felt like I understood why Micah and Vee were a couple I should be rooting for. If you like reading about fast and hard young love, this is a book for you. If you like hardcore science fiction, this probably is one you want to skip.

I received a copy of this book from the NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

What do you guys think? Have you read Sugar Skulls already? Have any other book suggestions that I should add to my Saturday Reading List? Leave your thoughts behind in the comments. Just be respectful please.


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