May 15, 2016

Review: Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser

Book and ARC reviews are posted under this feature!


*Digital ARC was received from HarperCollins UK through Netgalley*

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: Feb 2, 2016

Get a copy here!

It surprised me that it took me so long to write down this review when I’ve finished reading the ARC a few weeks ago and had quite interesting reaction upon finishing it.

I walked into this book thinking that it might not meet my cup of tea despite my attempt to request its ARC on the first place. But the mention of a lost baby and a girl who seems to live longer than her age pulled me to a stop… and I knew that I couldn’t skip this one.

I never considered myself as a reader who would enjoy dark and suspense read. So I was literally having a hard time reading this book at first. It didn’t help that not only this book was so intense; it also brought such disturbing topics like drugs and alcohol addiction and murders. Reading this was so out of my comfort zone but I could somehow bear it because of the characters of the aforementioned girl and baby.

Percy James was only sixteen but we could see how life had shaped her into a much older and wiser person than her years living in the world. For the nth time, Percy had to go out to find her mother who’s disappeared along with her booze addiction. It was snowing and probably going to be a bad storm soon but Percy had no other choice but to keep looking for her mom. It’s like a dead-end circle with her mom’s situation. Percy loved her mom, so deeply she could never forget the good times they used to have together when her mom was still fine. But lately things only got worse, moreover when her sister went to live her new life with their little happy family across the state, leaving Percy to take care of her alcoholic mother. Percy was a good girl; so good that she often lied to her sister that their mother was okay, that everything was as fine as a sunny weather. But it’s actually a snowstorm in Michigan; even a worse one in Percy’s household.

The first time Percy met Jenna, the baby was practically halfway to be buried by the snow blowing from the open window in Shelton Potter’s cabin. It’s like a fate. When Percy went there to find her mom (who last she checked with the neighbor, was on a drunk fight with Shelton), she found Jenna instead. The poor freezing baby seemed to alter her priority as its innocent grip brought Percy to her determination to get the baby out of the hell place. Looking at Jenna neglected in the middle of meth-house with no responsible adult to take care of her, tugged a string inside Percy’s heart. The baby was so much like her. Yet again she’s much older than Jenna when her mother had gotten to her worse condition and left her to fend for herself. Suddenly, Jenna became her priority. Even if saving Jenna meant she had the drugged-angry Shelton and his bunch of criminal friends hot on her heels. Even if saving Jenna made her fight her own beloved bad mother.

I felt so much emotion being played while reading this book. It was quite bothering that I had to see half of scenes on the book from Shelton’s perspective. Yet at the same time I was impressed by Mulhauser’s ability to write that perspective with such details. It was oddly fun and certainly dark but it was also quite heart-breaking when Shelton’s actual feeling sometimes was shown during one of his many weak moments. It surprised me that even in the end I felt a piece of my heart had gone along with Shelton’s character.

Seeing things from Percy’s perspective meanwhile was quite an experience. We could literally see her love for Jenna growing stronger. Her struggle, her hopelessness, her determination, and her faith for Jenna’s better future were all pictured in rich details for us to witness. I felt my love for Percy and Jenna grew as well. The appearance of Portis Dale as Percy’s hopeless savior just added another color to their tragically desperate yet endearing journey of escape. Portis was this skeptical figure who’s as close to a family Percy ever had in her life besides her mother and sister. I found it quite amusing how Portis kinda wanted to just leave Jenna behind because he was worried of Percy’s safety yet with Percy’s persistence (or really just stubborn) to keep Jenna, he let Percy had her way. Their banter often sounded intensely scary to others but we could hear in Portis’s harsh tone how much he cared for Percy and how much Percy needed a father figure in him. Completed with Mulhauser’s extremely detailed description of cold weather in Michigan, Sweetgirl would make you curl under your blanket in your reading couch, with heartbeat running and tears ready to flow any moment.

In the end, I had to give in with my emotion as I put aside my Kindle and hid my tears for the world to see. The tears were mixed of happy ones and sad ones but I’d like it to be a happy one because I knew that what the author decided to write in the end was for the best for all. God, even now when I re-read that last chapter I am tearing up again like a newborn baby I am. The author did write such beautifully heartwarming (with little heartbreaking-spice) ending to such a heavy read. It felt like Mulhauser did not just close the curtain after the show but also wipe the stage and cleaned the aisle from the tissues being left behind by people. It was a very neat ending; near perfect even.

I would like to recommend this book to just everyone who loves to read. Even me who prefers to read sweet, light reads than the heavy ones, Sweetgirl just made an exception for me.
‘I’m the one who found her,…. But I’m not the same person I was before. I am different now because of Jenna and Portis Dale and I believe we all tried to save each other in that storm and that mostly we did.’ ―chapter XXIII


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