Altered By Words
A book title and a book cover have much in common. Each device can be a determining factor when deciding whether a book is worth reading, and if used effectively; a combination of the two can be an alluring, siren call to book lovers. Like a cover, the title barely scratches the surface though. You don’t always know what you’re gonna get…Good or bad.
Originally, I decided to read Crush Candy Corpse based on the title. The combination of candy and corpses made for an irresistible piece of literature to my brain; akin to the boldest and most unusual cover design, and the word crush amidst that catchy language compelled me to request it. Cadavers, sweets, and the possibility of some crush related romance? My mind was practically screaming, I must have it now! While there isn’t anything particularly interesting about Candy, other than it being delicious and colorfully cute, sweet even. Corpses are always intriguing; especially to someone as dark and twisty as I.
Imagine my glee at discovering that a teenage girl was being accused of manslaughter? Death isn’t a happy thing, but the idea of a teen being involved makes for awesome reading! I was dying to see how it all played out! Did she kill the barely responsive patient to end her suffering, and if she did, is it wrong? Should we grant Alzheimer’s patients the mercy of death, rather than allow them to eventually forget how to live?
The story begins with our leading lady Sunny on trial for the death of one of the residents of Paradise Manner. Just when Sunny is thanking her lucky stars and high-fiving herself for being done with her 41 hours of required community service, Mrs. Demers, her crush’s Alzheimer stricken Grandmother, chokes to death on some hard candy she never should have had. I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure about this angle at first because I typically just like to watch court procedurals like Law and Order rather than to read about court cases, but Sylvia Mcnicolls’ writing style immediately kyboshed any lingering reluctance. Especially when she alluded to the possibility that Sunny may have helped Cole murder his grandmother; because of a promise Cole’s grandma tried to talk him into when she was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The author smoothly transitioned between the courtroom and the events leading up to the trial, using Sunny’s community service journals as both a primary means of storytelling and evidence. Through the journals, we get to see Sunny grow. She initially starts off as this self-absorbed, bad boy loving, teen, who I really didn’t think I could like, I mean she didn’t want to use hand sanitizer because of its smell, and used a coffee bean necklace because she was too prissy to withstand the old people smell. Not to mention, she was also in this rather irksome love triangle with her hunky, troubled boyfriend Donavan and sweetie pie crush Cole. Still, the pink-haired fashionista ends up surprising us all as she is the epitome of true character growth.
As each journal is dissected for premeditative motives, the reader gets to watch as reticence gradually becomes love for the elderly folk in her care. From feedings to hair dying, to forbidden doughnut runs, we get to see all the ways in which Sunny seeks to bring joy to those she helps, even if for a moment. We get to see view changes in her as well. For example, she used to feel extremely sorry for seniors struggling to make purchases at the store, and after her volunteer work, her pity changes to pride as those with “trembling fingers”, still have their independence. “Good for you”, she wants to say.
When Sunny’s character was being ripped apart and the nice things she did were being used against her, like when she got one of the patients new pants because his were stained but didn’t label them like the rules expressed, my heart broke for her. I remember her thinking something along the lines of, “if you could only see the last journal entry, you would understand”. I know I’ve thought similar things in moments when I’m being called to task for mistakes I’ve made. “If you would have been there, felt what I felt, you’d understand.” She started off thinking death was better than aging, but changed her frame of mind when a patient she had grown attached to passed on. There’s nothing like the wisdom of experience.
Looking back, I can’t believe I misjudged Sunny for a second. She is such an amazingly compassionate character. It’s sad and beautiful to watch Sunny attempt to offer choices to people who won’t remember them later, and it’s deeply moving to see how despite their lack of remembrance Sunny still kept her word, even when many told her that it wasn’t necessary. Not many could claim such integrity as their own.
I think there’s a bit of Sunny in all of us. Around the middle of the book, she admitted to herself that she liked Cole better than her thieving boyfriend, but she was warring with herself because Cole was sweet rather than the smooth talking popular boy Donavan was. Cole was dorky rather than a token of instant status. How many times in our lives have we known that someone was bad news, but stayed around to not be alone? How many times have we let what others might think slow us down?
Overall, I loved this book to pieces. It gives a very accurate portrayal of what it would be like if a loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and is well written enough to make even the strongest will falter. I laughed, I cried, I pondered, this book is beyond powerful. Trust me. I for one have completely changed my views on Community service, and would whole-heartedly recommend volunteering to most people. Schools require hours because if teens weren’t made to help, then very few of them would learn what career path they’d like for the future and waste precious time dithering about. The threat of not graduating must be in place; otherwise, most would wait to learn till the last minute. Like during the internship portion of the Bachelors’ degree or something. OH and when we finally truly understand why Sunny has made certain ill advised choices, and why she’s the way she is, and just how fragile she is; it will just make you love her even more. I found myself wishing that I could go through my Kindle via some magical portal and hug her as tightly as possible. Normally I write book reviews the moment I’m done with a book, but it nearly took me a week to finish this one because there is just so much I loved about Crush Candy Corpse. It’s not everyday that one is forever altered by words. I’m still trying to catch my breath from this major paradigm shift. Don’t know about dying your hair pink, but I do know that everyone must read this book. Please?