Solu is supposed to be a wonder sweetener - a weight loss miracle that lets you continue to eat everything you want while the pounds simply melt away. Such a wondrous creation deserves no less than a wondrous release and that's exactly what the Cruise to Lose is meant to be. Laurel is comfortable with her weight but her best friend, Viv, is exactly the kind of person Solu is aimed at. And her father has the money to pay for both teens to take part in the week long cruise.
Tom Forelli isn't on the cruise to try out Solu, but has been hired as a celebrity spokesperson instead. And the job could mean big things for Tom's career, which has stagnated since his childhood days on screen. But, career or no, he's started to wonder if hawking Solu is really a good thing. And as the cruise continues, he realizes his misgivings have grave merit to them.
Emmy Laybourne's Sweet is confectionary fun with a dark licorice twist.
Weight loss is a big issue and America (the world?) is constantly searching for a quick fix, a wonder drug or diet that will do exactly what Laybourne's fictional Solu will do. But as Laurel quickly comes to find out, anything that seems to good to be true is. I can absolutely believe that something akin to the Cruise to Lose fiasco could happen. As one character points out, Solu isn't a pharmaceutical, it's a supplement, leaving it free of the testing and restrictions an actual medication would have. And we've seen everything from embarrassing to bad side effects of attempted sweetener/supplements before! Maybe not this bad, though.
Of course as the story progresses, the Cruise to Lose takes a very dark turn, leaving Laurel and Tom to essentially fend for themselves. Laurel is fabulous - a teen who is, as mentioned above, comfortable in her skin. But we see her friend Viv and get little tidbits about her home life that explain why the two girls feel so differently. And honestly, I, like many girls, fall into the Viv camp. It would be great if I could be a Laurel, and hindsight definitely makes me wish I had been at her age!
I didn't love Tom, though. He's a bit too workout obsessed, which no one really mentions can be an equally bad thing if taken too far. It made me wonder if some alternate version of the story had him hitting a breaking point and losing it while madly hitting the treadmill! (My mind goes there. Sorry.) But he likes Laurel in spite of the fact that his handlers tell him not to - she's a no one. So I liked him for that!
Sweet didn't necessarily blow me away, but it was immensely entertaining and had some deliciously cheesy moments. Like a bag of chips (cause it's Doritos not Oreos for me), once I started I couldn't stop and considering there was no shame to be had in gobbling it up in one sitting, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!
As an added bonus, Emmy Laybourne did pen an e short prequel to Sweet featuring Dr. Elise Zhang.
Li Jing has created a miracle drug. A sweetener that allows you to eat whatever you want and still lose weight. But before she can break the news about her creation, it'll have to undergo years of testing. And Li isn't willing to wait that long. Unbeknownst to her graduate advisor, Li seeks out someone willing to test the product themselves - and the results are nothing short of miraculous. But when the school catches wind of Li's extracurricular activities, they are none too pleased.
I did love this extra taste of Sweet. It serves as a prequel, but I think it works better as a post-Sweet read considering it does kind of hint at some of the Solu side effects. It does also give a lot of insight into the personality of Solu's creator. Both could be considered kind of spoiler-y, all things considered.
And while it's absolutely not necessary to read "Expelled," that insight into Zhang was quite welcome on my part. She plays a fairly small role in Sweet as a whole, sidelined by the other characters in the story, so this is really our only chance to get to know her at all.
Overall, "Expelled" is a welcome addition to the world of Sweet.