Title: Sugar Skulls
Author: Lisa Hantchey And Glenn Dallas
Publisher: Amazon Publishing/Skyscape
Publication date: November 10th 2015
Page Count: 333 pages
Age Rating: YA & Up (violence, blood, gore, body horror, medical horror, vague mentions of past sexual assault, vague sexual scenes, drugs, and alcohol use)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received a copy to review
Publisher’s page: Sugar Skulls
Welcome to Cyrene, a city where energy is currency and music is the lifeblood of its young citizens. Everyone lives on the grid, and the residents of the world’s largest playground are encouraged to pursue every physical and emotional pleasure imaginable.
Vee is the lead singer of the Sugar Skulls, an all-girl band that is Corporate’s newest pet project. Micah haunts the city like a ghost after an overdose of a deadly illegal street drug knocks him off the grid. When Micah and Vee forge an immediate, undeniable connection, their troubled worlds collide.
Trading concert stages for Cyrene’s rooftops and back alleys, they have to evade vicious thugs and Vee’s possessive manager as they unravel the mysteries connected to their dark pasts. And before the curtain falls, Micah and Vee will bring the city to its knees in their desperate bid for love, home, and a future together.
Sugar Skulls by Lisa Hantchey and Glenn Dallas is kind of like Jem and The Holograms meets the plot from Monsters Inc. But in a darker, grittier, electronic neon punk way.
In the world of Sugar Skulls, energy is harvested as “thrum” which is produced by young adults engaging in sex, drugs, and rock & roll – all highly managed, monitored, and regulated by “Corporate”. Cyrene is the city where this all takes place, a playground of excess, but the city is also pretty much like a giant power plant and the inhabitants are treated like living batteries. The Sugar Skulls are a neon punk metal band owned by Corporate and one of their most valuable assets from the amount of thrum their fans produce. Vee is the lead singer of the Sugar Skulls with a voice that regularly causes thrum collectors to blow and can generate city-wide blackouts from overloading the grid. Bored and disillusioned, when Vee locks eyes with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy, a single seemingly unaffected person in a sea of screaming fans, he somehow manages to sear himself into her thoughts.
Micah is an underground runner of illicit, not Corporate-regulated contraband, who parkours all over the city while trying to stay under the radar. When he hears Vee sing for the first time, her voice hits him deep and lights him up in ways he hasn’t felt since a bad dose of the illegal street drug Applejack almost killed him and kicked him off the grid permanently. From then on, he becomes obsessed with meeting the singing siren.
Even though both are obsessed with each other, between Micah trying to avoid being arrested and Vee’s possessive manager and busy concert schedule, they don’t actually really meet until over halfway through the book. When they do meet, obsession bleeds into instalove of the willing-to-die-for-you variety and they’ll battle anything and everything to stay together. And they really are put to the test – it gets violent, bloody, and down right hopeless before it gets better.
P.s. – their love for each other causes them to spontaneously compose verses and write songs about each other and just overall think lyrically.
The plot was really interesting and the setting was pretty cool, but for some reason, I had trouble staying with the story. I think the problem was flow. We switch back and forth between Vee and Micah’s first person POVs quite frequently, every few pages or so, and the bouncing from one perspective to the other kind of disrupts the flow and made it hard for me to settle into a groove. I also was a bit “meh” about the ending – both Vee and Micah have gritty, dark backstories involving things like fatal drug overdoses and rape, things that are important to the plot and where it leads – and yet the end was a little… bubble gum? Even the antagonists have somewhat happy endings. But then again the antagonists weren’t like evil-for-evil’s-sake villains, they had their own dark backstories and motivations for their actions, which I can appreciate. Bonus points for multi-dimensional characters.
Overall, I really did enjoy the idea behind the book and I liked the characters and the setting was amazing – honestly, this would probably make a pretty kick-ass movie. It was a bit hard for me to stay engaged, but it was worth it to stick around for the world-building, unique premise, and actually pretty likable characters.
In Sugar Skulls, the illegal and dangerous street drug Applejack is a scourge on Cyrene and plays a crucial part in the plot and in the lives of both the main characters. It’s bright green and smells like, surprise, apples. While the smell of apples understandably does not bring up pleasant memories or feelings in Vee and Micah, I happen to like apples and so I’m recommending San Marco Coffee Apple Cinnamon – the smell and taste of apple in the coffee is understated, not anywhere near the overpowering “rotten cider” smell of Applejack, with a cinnamon spice background coming through and resulting in a cup of coffee with a nice, delicately subtle cinnamon-y apple flavor.