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A Girl Like Sugar

by Emily Pohl-Weary

Though having sex with ghosts may be a little out of the ordinary, 24-year-old Sugar Jones is just your average slacker girl travelling through the no man’s land of the mid-twenties breakdown. Haunted by the ghost of her dead rock-star boyfriend, and trying to find her post-post-secondary identity, she’s caught between worlds. Fittingly, the novel flip-flops between the past and the present as Sugar attempts to forge her future, a journey that variously takes her into the realms of minimum wage employment, activism, and indie filmmaking.

Largely defined by her obsessions – namely Parker Posey, Courtney Love, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Sugar’s spent a lifetime simmering in pop culture. The novel is at times a parade of references and name-dropping. For the generation that went through high school in the 1980s, the references should ring a nostalgic note, but the book’s tone seems to be reaching for the backpacks and over-the-shoulder bags of a slightly younger crowd.

It is hard for the reader to get a solid sense of Sugar’s character. Despite the gritty details and her blue-haired friends, the story has a fairytale quality to it that’s a little oversweet. The spectres of drug addiction, grief, and political disenfranchisement are raised, but rarely threaten. As in a sitcom, there’s an overwhelming sense that everything’s going to be okay in the end. Whether this is a flaw or an asset may depend on your point of view. While A Girl Like Sugar probably won’t change your life, it certainly won’t ruin your day either. Pohl-Weary’s style is energetic and fun, and Sugar Jones is gutsy enough to make it through the netherworld and back to the land of the living, camcorder in hand.