Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

Sweetness #9Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Sweetness #9 should have been a book that I loved. For one thing, I’m a huge fan of Food Inc and I can’t get enough of food documentaries in general. I’ve also read books about this topic too, including Fast Food Nation which is mentioned in the synopsis for Sweetness #9. However, it wasn’t until it was mentioned on the Colbert Report that I really wanted to read this novel.

After reading the synopsis and some of the reviews for it, I assumed that this would be my kind of book. I was expecting a Fast Food Nation – Douglas Coupland hybrid type novel, where the lead character, David Leveraux, finds out what’s really going in our food and has to deal with that knowledge and his dysfunctional family.

And in a sense, I did get that, but I feel like this was more about David’s struggle with being normal and living the American Dream. Hmmm, when I think of it like that, then it is a bit smart how Sweetness #9’s takeover of the food market mirrors David’s lack of action to do anything in his life. The moment he takes control and stops trying to do what is normal, then he feels great, but things have already changed and the consequences of his neglect are irreversible. Likewise, once you stop the synthetic sweetener you may feel better, but you’re health may still have some side effects, like diabetes or something.

Now that I think about it, it is a smart novel and it does make sense in the grand scheme of things, but that’s only because I’m looking at everything as a whole as I’m write this review. While reading it, I was bored. I loved the beginning of the novel when we are first introduced to David and find out the shocking truth behind Sweetness #9. There was tons of humour in the first part, along with the Fast Food Nation aspect of it as well.

Then, we go into Part Two, which takes place many years into the future. David now has a family, except it isn’t anything like he thought they would be like. His wife keeps gaining weight, his daughter is a vegan rebel, and his son has stopped using verbs. David knows why his wife is having a hard time and why his son forgoes verbs, but he doesn’t anything to rectify the situation.

And this is why I didn’t like the second part of this novel. We get to see some of the harmful effects of this sweetener, but David has never said anything despite what he knows about it. He watches his family eat the stuff, while he refuses to touch it. I kept wondering why he would allow his family to slowly kill themselves when he could be more proactive in helping them.

It was really frustrating to read as he knew why his family was falling apart, but refused to do anything about it. I would have overlooked this glaring problem more if we got to see more about Sweetness #9, but sadly this novel became only a family drama. There’s this Hitler subplot too which just seemed long winded and unnecessary.

By the end of the novel, when David finally does do something, it almost seems too little too late for me. I just stopped caring.

Overall: Looking back, I can appreciate what Clark was doing in his debut novel, but I feel like some of the pieces here didn’t come together as well as they should. I think this is the problem when other books are mentioned in the synopsis, because then the reader goes in expecting one thing and getting something completely different after. Because I saw Fast Food Nation and humour, I thought we’d get a funny fictitious novel about the food industry and how it messed up one man’s life. Instead, I got a novel that is smart (once you think about it), but not as funny and not as food orientated as I thought.

I feel like if the plot lines were a bit tighter and the length of the novel was shorter, I might have liked this more. Unfortunately, Sweetness #9 didn’t really do anything for me. Which I suppose is a good thing, because I’ve heard some really shocking stuff about it.

I do think that Clark has a bright future though. The way he mirrored Sweetness #9’s harmful properties and David’s life choices was really clever and made me appreciate the novel a smidge more than I originally did. So, kudos to that!

Sweetness #9 was provided by netgalley

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