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Crush. Candy. Corpse. [Hardcover]

Sylvia McNicoll
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 17 2012

Paradise Manor is depressing -- the smells are bad and the residents are old. Sunny would much rather be doing her volunteer hours at Salon Teo, but her teacher won't let her. Who says volunteering at a hair salon doesn't benefit the community?

But working with the Alzheimer's patients has a surprising effect on Sunny. Along with Cole, the grandson of one of the residents, she begins to see that the residents don't have much more choice about their lives than she does: what they eat, how they are treated by staff, even what they watch on television. So Sunny does what she can to make the residents happy -- even if she has to sometimes break the rules to do it.

When tragedy strikes at Paradise, Sunny's left to make the decision about whether or not to honour a promise that Cole made to his grandmother about her life...and her death.


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Review

"The book casts [Sunny] as a typical teen in many respects, with all the powers of observation and all the daily struggles with the distractions of everyday life in adolescence... a good, solid examination of an important ethical topic for teens to consider." (Jane Murphy VOYA 2012-12-01)

"...fast-paced and powerful. From the touching dedication to the unravelling of the forty-first hour, my attention was held....McNicoll has created a character that many students will relate to." Rated E - Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it! (Sarah Nelson Resource Links 2012-04-01)

"The book follows high school student Sonja (Sunny) Ehret as she stands trial for manslaughter. Every chapter alternates between last year (Sunny serving volunteers hours on an Alzheimer’s ward), and this year (Sunny’s manslaughter trial). So just how are the two connected? Well you have to pick up this uh-mazing book to find out! I actually read this book in less than a day as I could just not put it down." (Brianne Peters http://booksintransit.wordpress.com/ 2012-03-06)

"Crush. Candy. Corpse. is a strong narrative that engages the readers to contemplate some big philosophical issues surrounding health care, assisted suicide and the fine lines of right and wrong." (Stacey Matson Keen Readers)

"McNicoll expertly combines three different narratives and works on multiple levels to provide us with various versions of the same story so that we are compelled to look at all points of view and draw our own conclusions."
Recommended. (Melanie Fishbane Canadian Children's Book News)

"Sunny is a strong, realistic, witty character with whom the intended audience will readily identify... The portrayal of Alzheimer's patients is extraordinarily well done...The compassion of Sunny, Cole and Gillian will linger long in the minds of the intended reader...The dialogue is witty and engaging, reflective of today's world, moving the plot along smartly and revealing character intuitively...The themes of compassion for the elderly, euthanasia and falling in love will resonate with the intended audience." Highly Recommended. (Joan Marshall CM: Canadian Review of Materials 2012-05-18)

"An absorbing and provocative book" (FernFolio 2012-11-02)

"captivating...Sylvia McNicoll gets Sunny's voice perfect, introducing the narrator as a teen who can make questionable decisions (as we all do when inexperienced) but who has the capacity to see beyond her initial assessments and amend her own actions and beliefs accordingly." (Helen Kubiw CanLit for Little Canadians 2012-05-08)

“The narrative is brisk and engaging and presents an intriguing debate on assisted suicide, quality versus quantity of life, and the treatment of seniors with Alzheimer’s.” (Denise Reich Shameless Magazine 2013-01-01)

"Sunny is a realistic and believable protagonist experiencing authentic events and responding with genuine reactions." (The Deakin Review of Children's Literature 2012-12-24)

Crush.Candy.Corpse. packs a punch. Hands down, this is a book that should be required reading for students. McNicoll weaves such a heart wrenching story that you’re forced to contemplate your own beliefs, to question parts of yourself that are easily pushed away and rarely confronted.” (Mallory Thorpe, coverboundbookie.blogspot.ca 2013-04-17)

About the Author

SYLVIA McNICOLL has written twenty-three books for children. Her novels have won the Silver Birch and the Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award. In 2011 she won a City of Hamilton Book Award for YA fiction. She is currently the features editor for Today's Parent Toronto. She lives in Burlington, Ontario.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written novel with an unusual premise March 17 2012
Format:Paperback
The concept of a YA murder novel set in an Alzheimers' ward is a unique one, and in left deft hands it could have been a disaster, but McNicoll handles it well, with tightly written scenes and perceptively developed characters. Those with Alzheimers are shown just as fully fleshed as the teens -- well done.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting Jan. 6 2014
By Steven R. McEvoy HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book took me completely by surprise. I was intrigued from the first time I saw the cover and title. I found that I kept thinking about it and once I finally read it I found that I thought about it for weeks after finishing it. The story is amazingly well written, it is told in two parts a trial and Sunny remembering the events that led up to the charges. It all started with required community service hours to finish school.

From the very beginning we knew a tragedy was coming, but we did not know how. We had no idea what got us from where we were to a corpse. Sonja Anna Ehret aka Sunny has been charged with manslaughter, the story takes place a year after the events. The trial begins and Sunny is living through the trial and remembering the story as she experienced it. Sunny was volunteering at Paradise Manor because she had to for school. But while there she meets Cole Demers a young man about her age that comes almost every day to visit his grandmother. They develop a friendship and often spend their time at the manor together helping the older people. Cole shares with Sunny that he promised his grandmother that he would help he pass if it was needed. After an accident Sunny feels responsible for, she is faced with questions or loyalty, commitment and following through.

This is one of the best books I have read in the last year. It will make you think. It will stir your heart. Give it is read it is truly a gem!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read July 19 2013
By A Book Vacation - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This novel opens in the beginning stages of our main character's trial. You see, Sunny has been accused of manslaughter-the intentional murder of an elderly woman in a nursing home, but she says she didn't do it. Sound intriguing? It is.

Forced to volunteer at Paradise Manner (a name synonymous with irony) for a school project, and keeping a journal every step of the way, readers get to know the real Sunny through her own written words, but also others' perceptions of her as the trial commences. My favorite aspect of the novel, by far, is that we, as readers, become a part of the jury. The evidence is presented in such a way that we are given the opportunity to weigh all the evidence for and against Sunny, and it's especially intriguing because we get to see Sunny's thoughts as she sits in her seat listening to the witnesses. Yes, we get to see inside Sunny's head a little more than the jury, and she gets to explain herself, but even way before the end, my mind was made up in terms of her guilt. Did she or didn't she do it? You'll have to make that judgment call as you read.

And, as the story progresses, the title reverberates in the readers' minds: Crush. Candy. Corpse. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why this was the title, but it's is perfect. Sunny has a crush. There is candy involved. And a death. One thing leads to another, but not necessarily in the way you think. Along with the title, I have to say the cover itself it perfect. Not only striking, it shows the main character exactly as I envision her, even though I didn't understand the meaning behind the pink hair for quite some time. I love it.

When I first began this novel, I thought Sunny was going to be a brat. She begins the novel with her rants about having to work at paradise Manor and she spells out just how much she hated the idea and the people in the very beginning. While her observations and wit are often times quite amusing, it does paint the picture of a bratty little girl. But, rest assured, she grows on you. It's not long before Sunny begins to enjoy volunteering, partly because he gets to see Cole, and partly because she really does care about the patients, and as the novel progresses, it becomes more and more about the patients. From start to finish, Sunny morphs into a completely different person, and I loved this, especially as we see the different testaments about her "breaking of rules" and other's perceptions of her. It's true that first impressions are hard to dispel, and in Sunny's trial, it becomes evident that many people hold vastly to those first impressions. However, she doesn't make it easy for them to see past her pink hair and destructive ways, so it makes sense that so many would testify against her. Her past hasn't necessarily been a great one.

Overall, this is a great, clean story that makes you think, and I really enjoyed it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice title - Good for junior reading May 19 2013
By The Indigo Quill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Being a cosmetologist and also hearing stories from my social-work friends who work in nursing homes, I actually found this book...what's the word...almost endearing with a touch of humor. I felt for the main character, Sonja aka Sunny, as she just seemed to be misunderstood and trying to establish her role in life during her teenage years. We all experienced peer pressure and toxic relationships growing up, but not everyone experiences the selflessness of volunteer work. Especially in a place like a nursing home. Even though this wasn't an action-packed fantasy romance novel, Sylvia McNicoll took me on a journey that pulled me in and left me thoughtful and growing along with the main character.

I really enjoyed the unique format this was written in. We find ourselves ping-ponging between the present-day courtroom and the flashbacks of the 41 hours Sunny spent at Paradise Manor. At first it was difficult to decipher between where Sunny's journal entries ended and the flashbacks began, but after the first few I figured it out. I do wish there was a better division between the two, I think it would have been more helpful to the reader.

From the acknowledgements in the back, it seems that McNicoll really did her research before she wrote this book and integrated some experiences of her own. I like seeing that an author did their homework.

Honestly, this reminded me of one of those kinds of books you read from your school library in Elementary (4th grade+) or Junior High. I think this could be a useful title in those venues as it isn't inappropriate in the least and contains a storyline that provides mystery and education in one. No steamy romance scenes, either.

If you're looking for a light read that doesn't necessarily provide a deep storyline, then I would recommend this book. Like I said, it didn't take me on any grand adventure, but it did leave me thoughtful. 4 stars for this one.
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and riveting! Jan. 6 2014
By Steven R. McEvoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book took me completely by surprise. I was intrigued from the first time I saw the cover and title. I found that I kept thinking about it and once I finally read it I found that I thought about it for weeks after finishing it. The story is amazingly well written, it is told in two parts a trial and Sunny remembering the events that led up to the charges. It all started with required community service hours to finish school.

From the very beginning we knew a tragedy was coming, but we did not know how. We had no idea what got us from where we were to a corpse. Sonja Anna Ehret aka Sunny has been charged with manslaughter, the story takes place a year after the events. The trial begins and Sunny is living through the trial and remembering the story as she experienced it. Sunny was volunteering at Paradise Manor because she had to for school. But while there she meets Cole Demers a young man about her age that comes almost every day to visit his grandmother. They develop a friendship and often spend their time at the manor together helping the older people. Cole shares with Sunny that he promised his grandmother that he would help he pass if it was needed. After an accident Sunny feels responsible for, she is faced with questions or loyalty, commitment and following through.

This is one of the best books I have read in the last year. It will make you think. It will stir your heart. Give it is read it is truly a gem!
3.0 out of 5 stars Not My Cup of Tea Nov. 7 2013
By BailsChris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's your turn to back a decision. Is she guilty or isn't she? Did she kill someone or was it a simple mistake? Perhaps it was a pack with the family of the patient and she was setup as the fall guy or perhaps we don't understand much of anything at all. In this book, the reader gets a chance to do something that many jurors wish they could do. We get to hear the evidence, hear the case, and get an inside look into the accused mind. My mom is addicted the murder mystery/forensic files/cold case shows so I am familiar with the whole process that takes place in a murder trial but this truly sounded interesting. It appeared to be right up my alley, although I ended up being slightly disappointed in the end with the main character and some of the story.


There are some people in this world that just happen to rub you the wrong way and it's hard to forget, even if they change. Sunny, sadly, was one of those characters for me. Her vibrant pink hair didn't honestly bother me because it fit her rebellious spirit. However rebellion doesn't always equal bratty attitudes and disobedient behaviors that grated on my nerves. I admire characters who manage to show their true nature through their facades of brattiness, however I failed to see it. Yet she did manage to prove that she did care for the residents of the care center and her disobedient behavior became a way to try to make these patients lives better. Her attitude really did continue to bother me though, which proved to be a problem regarding the rest of the story.


The main men of this story are Cole, the son of one of the patients in the care center and the eventual supposed murder subject, and Donovan, whom she actually claimed to be her boyfriend but seemed to lose eventual interest in him. Her parents had forbade a relationship between Donovan and Sunny after he was caught shoplifting but as any teenager and parent knows, when you say no, it only makes the opportunity seem that much better. It drives the girl into the wrong guy's arms and leads her farther away from the good influences of the people who should be closest to her. However, she eventually begins to show some form of interest in Cole but refuses to entirely admit it to even herself. This little crush has a small motive in the whole plot of the story, even if she claims that he is only a friend.


So, now it is your choice. Is this your type of book? It wasn't really mine but I understand that to each their own! Check it out and maybe share your thoughts.
5.0 out of 5 stars Received eArc from publisher via NetGalley Nov. 6 2013
By Mirna Garcia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
NetGalley Review

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?
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