Sugar Rush (Sugar, #1)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here."Gay. I hate the way we use that word nowadays. Just means anything we don’t like, anything that’s not cool, and as we’re fifteen that’s about ninety per cent of everything. So socks are gay, spots are gay, science is gay – I mean, i’m not arguing here, they ARE all gay. But things being the way they are, with my heart and stuff, I don’t need my possible future sexual identity bandied about as a byword for everything that’s rubbish. Then, when Maria uses it like that, which ‘gay’ does she mean? "Gay. I hate the way we use that word nowadays. Just means anything we don’t like, anything that’s not cool, and as we’re fifteen that’s about ninety per cent of everything. So socks are gay, spots are gay, science is gay – I mean, i’m not arguing here, they ARE all gay. But things being the way they are, with my heart and stuff, I don’t need my possible future sexual identity bandied about as a byword for everything that’s rubbish. Then, when Maria uses it like that, which ‘gay’ does she mean? Does she mean she’s got gay feelings about me? Or does she mean it’s rubbish to have old and new best friends meeting up? Well, I’ll vouch for that one. But as if the whole gay thing wasn’t confusing enough already – did it really need this? Gay is the new sad – it’s official!" - Sugar Rush.
That is so true of the way people use "gay" nowadays, and with that paragraph, Julie Burchill (celebrated controversial author of Brighton - the British enfant terrible of journalism!), manages to convey something much more poignant and real and teenage than Katy Perry could ever.Fifteen year old Kim is one of the good girls at her posh school - sidekick to the snotty master of deception who is her best friend, the sarkily-named "Saint" - until her mother leaves and she's transferred to the terrifying teenage jungle that is Ravendene Comprehensive, with a reputation for housing the bad kids. This is where she meets Maria "Sugar" Sweet - mad, amazing, scary and sexy - and her good-girl past is discarded for a rollercoaster ride of late nights and daring emotion. No longer a private-school sweetheart, Kim is now a "Raver" and she's living her life to the full (although she spends most of it watching Maria sleep around), on the Brighton pier.
Of course, there are plenty of hard times - Kim's family troubles, her social class divide, her mixed-up feelings for Sugar - her best friend, lover and rival simultaenously - her ex-best friend Zoe "Saint" Clements, and how she feels
about political and modern topics in general. It's not what most people think of when they hear "lesbian fiction" - the only thing that really makes it a lesbian book is the two girls. Most of it is Kim's unrequited love for Sugar, who chucks her aside "like a used condom" whenever the mood takes her. It is sometimes referenced though - like with boys finding it attractive when they kiss, and Sugar being worried about "growing up to be a "dyke." Sugar herself is a bloody amazing character. She's rude, raucous, politically incorrect (although say anything about her class and you're dead!), tough, gorgeous, flirtatious, and hard to pin down. And just when you think you know every aspect of Sugar and her hard ways, she does or says something soft or naive and the rollercoaster of emotions whirls around again.The sheeny-shiny "Explicit Content!" sticker, slapped on there for good measure, is definitely just on there to attract teenagers. There is virtually no explicit content in the book, the Channel 4 series generates far more controversy on that topic.I find the class divide fascinating too. Saint is pretty damn snotty, "Polly" tries to be ghetto, even Kim is quite posh, and Maria Sweet is proud of her lower-class upbringing, although she moans about it at every available opportunity. There's a heirachy between the popular kids vs. the hangers-on too, and Kim is unsure of where she belongs. I also like how often Kim's home life is mentioned - despite her newfound infatuation with Sugar, her family do mean a lot to her and she constantly worries about them now her selfish, "liberal" mother Stella (I feel like I should boo whenever she comes in), has left Kim, her mad brother Matt and their vulnerable father Nathan to fend for themselves. Sometimes I want to tell Kim to shut up and other times I empathize with her perfectly. I also love how she stood up to Stella near the end.It is a girl-on-girl (heh) first love story and it's pretty damn amazing. The book has a refreshing sexiness to it and, it has to be mentioned, Burchill's writing is very clever. She throws in puns and uses a variety of different structures and techniques to write her book. There's emotions, there's (tasteless) humour, there's bad lyrics, there are characters we all know in real life, and she writes them with truth and conviction.
If you're a fan of the Channel 4 series you may be expecting something different - I know I was. But give it a chance - I'm thorougly in love with the book as much as the programme now - and there'll always be a soft spot in my heart for modern-day Brighton teenage romance....more