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Review of Sugar, Baby by Celine Saintclare

For fans of Luster, Queenie and Insatiable, comes a debut with equally sexy and chaotic vibes. Sugar, Baby is a novel that follows Agnes Green. Almost 21, Agnes looks around at her life and feels depressed. Still living at home in a run-down suburb voted The Worst Place to Live in Britain (which she not-so-lovingly calls 'The Wasteland') with her strict and devoutly religious mother, she has the universally-relatable fear that her life is going nowhere. She works with her mother as a cleaner by day and spends her nights double-texting and pining over painfully indie stoner boys who love to ignore her.

When she meets Emily, the daughter of one of her rich cleaning clients, she envies her lavish lifestyle. Seeing Agnes' potential, Emily lets her in on the secret to living a life of luxury - don't pay for anything yourself when you can get a rich older man to do it. Suddenly, a whole new world of designer bags, Michelin-star dining and private planes opens up - all at no cost to Agnes, she only has to pay these men an ounce of attention and money and gifts are handed over. But partying and indulgence gets increasingly hard to hide from her mother and, as things turn darker, Agnes must decide how far she's willing to take this new life of hers. 

With the concept of sugar babies perpetually lingering in the online world, I was really interested in this take but at the end of it, I feel torn. The glitz and glam makes it an all-consuming novel for sure  but I expected a more nuanced look at sex-work that I don't think we got here. Unfortunately, the novel falls back on tired tropes and narratives of victimhood that feel inconsistent with a narrative that I thought would offer a more positive and modern approach to the topic. All in all, a good novel but let down a little by stereotypes and an inconsistent moral perspective.

Review by Abi.

Sugar, Baby was published on 27/07/23 by Atlantic Books.

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