How Sweet It Is
by Sophie Gunn
(Grand Central, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0446-56199-0
Silly romps are not always my cup of tea but when well written and full of intelligent characters and actions, I have enjoyed them. How Sweet It Is fits neither definition. Find another way to engage your sweet tooth.

This is the first in a series about a “princess, odd ball and brainiac along with the good girl gone bad.” They are four high school enemies who, over the years, have forgotten their animosity and become friends. This story is Lizzie Carpenter’s, the good girl who got pregnant at 16 and was abandoned by her boyfriend to raise her daughter Paige, who is now fourteen. Lizzie has inherited her family home and over the last few years, it has fallen under major disrepair. But surviving just on her wages as a waitress in the local diner, Lizzie can honestly say that her daughter has wanted for nothing. She loves to snowboard, a popular entertainment in this NY small town. Paige also has dreams that include snowboarding all over the world. Lizzie has been saving for her college fund and wants for her daughter the things she could never have.

Two things happen as the story opens. One is that Paige’s father, who has been non-existent for most of her life, has written and wants to visit at Christmas. Lizzie is angry and torn, as well as scared. Paige, it seems, is now dreaming of leaving with him, especially after discovering that he lives in Europe, not far from the Alps. The second is that Lizzie makes a silly wish one day for a perfect man – a man who will be there when you need him, fix things and then disappear. Her wish is about to come true.

Dante “Tay” Giovanni is a wounded man – emotionally. He was involved in a car accident where a young mother got killed. Tay basically gave up his own life, determined to make amends with the daughter. He sold his buildings and lost his fiancée when she had had enough of his martyrdom. He is now in this small town, trying to give $200,000 to the daughter of the woman he killed. She is enrolled in the local college, and wants nothing to do with his blood money. In fact, she threw if off one of the bridges over one of the gorges in town. Tay is determined to find the money and see she uses it. He also overhears Lizzie’s wish and decides to grant it. When he can’t sleep at night, he goes over and fixes her house.

There is just too much angst in the story. Lizzie laments her life often and spends the other half trying to decide what she is going to do with Tay, whom she is attracted to and her ex, who she is certain will destroy her life by ruining her relationship with her daughter. Then there is the daughter, who is immature as only a 14 year old can be. I found her intolerable and her rash actions are both predictable and unwelcome.

Tay is a whole other ball of wax. He is so determined to ruin his life due to this one mistake; it was difficult to figure out what he is really like. At times he seems like the type of guy that one can just feel for but at other times, shaking and knocking some sense into him would not be good enough. Sexy yet weird works at times, but it sure didn’t work for me in this tale.

There is also the side story about Lizzie and her relationship with her sister Annie. That too, was just too filled with emotion and an entanglement that I just could not buy into it. How Sweet It Is wants to be a screwball comedic drama. For me, it was silly and tedious. I struggled to pick up the book to finish it from about chapter 4 on. That is never a good sign.

--Shirley Lyons

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