Carly Nugent

Text Publishing Co
29 March 2022


Carly Nugent

A realist YA novel, by the author of The Peacock Detectives, about family, loss and coming to terms with diabetes as a teen.  

What’s yours is yours for a reason. Luck has nothing to do with it. Some people get exactly what they deserve. And, as it turns out, I deserve to be called Persephone. No simple-to-sound-out Pride-and-Prejudice-style name like Elizabeth or Jane for me. Nope. Demi had to go Greek. Define Persephone. Bringer of destruction. That pretty much sums it up.   

Persephone is angry. Angry that her life revolves around finger-prick tests, carbohydrate counts and insulin injections. Angry at Alexander Manson. Angry with her mum for lots of things, for nothing and for everything.   

But most of all, she’s angry with herself. For deserving it all. Because of what she did, or didn’t do. Because one year ago she did something and her dad died.   

But then Persephone finds a body on a bush path, a young woman she doesn’t know but feels a strong connection to. And as she tries to find out what happened to Sylvia, Persephone begins to understand her own place in the complex interconnectedness of the universe.   

Sugar is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl trying to make sense of the life-changing events that have sent her world into a spin, her search for a reason behind it all, and ultimately her acceptance of life’s randomness.


I was very excited to read this debut YA novel by Carly Nugent, who won the Readings Children’s Book Prize in 2019 for her middle-grade novel The Peacock Detectives. Sugar is for a much older readership and focuses on a 16-year-old girl, Persephone, and her experience of living with diabetes, while struggling with grief and a sense of emptiness. She was diagnosed with diabetes not long after her father died in a car accident, and grief for her father’s death is tied up in her belief that she deserves diabetes as punishment for her treatment of him. She lives in a small town with her mother and her mother’s best friend and son, who have left an abusive household, and this unusual family provides an important dynamic in the story. When Persephone finds a dead girl in the woods, she becomes obsessed with why the girl died and feels a connection with her. As well as Persephone, there are a number of beautifully drawn secondary characters, including two teenage boys, the best friend of the dead girl, and Persephone’s family.

Notated with regular updates of Persephone’s sugar levels, the reader is intimately exposed to the lived experience of her daily life and the challenges of living with diabetes. It also shows the pain of grief and how it affects people differently, with many characters in the novel in emotional pain.

Beautifully written, heartfelt and with a forward momentum that keeps you turning thepage, this novel about loss, guilt and anger is ultimately hopeful and an absolute triumph.There are instances of swearing, smoking, drinking and a brief sexual encounter, so it’sbest suited to readers aged 14 and up.

Angela Crocombe is a senior buyer at Readings.

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