Sunday night I babysat a much-missed blogger's baby. Or at least I think I did; she was asleep and made not a peep so I didn't even crack the door for fear of waking her up. Instead of using this block of time in a different home to rifle through my friends' things and judge them, I decided to read a book that the baby had apparently picked out.
Sweet Tooth is a tiny book of seven linked stories centering on a witch named Candy who lives in a pink city. She hates being a witch and can't decide if she should just kill herself, or bring all of her loved ones with her. I enjoyed the parts where she chronicles her attempts to be "non-witchy" as a girl and the perils of being a witch's daughter when you just want to have friends like you for you--not for all-you-can-eat candy.
Beyond her mother issues, older Candy has her fair share of bad relationships. The most steady is that with a vampire named Chad who loves her, but loves her blood best. Despite the handicap of poor social skills, long life and shitty lovers, Candy wants children on occasion but finds that, "Just because I can have fifty babies here within the hour...doesn't mean that I should or that I'll be a good mother." Considering that her own mother had stereotypical cravings, her reluctance is understandable. I like that even a with with magical baby-dispensing powers agonizes a bit about passing on the curse of witchery. For all the lemon drops and broomsticks, the anger of being born with burdensome and unpleasant traits and the subsequent fear of spreading them is a central theme in Sweet Tomb. It reminded me a lot of conversations I've had about mental illness in families.
The final two stories, "Killer Pair" and "Death Wish" are the most psychedelic of the group and the least interesting. Once Candy leaves the forest and her candy house for the city, not to return until she has achieved the lofty goal of "pain-free love in my heart and some healthy lust" she loses a bit of her magic.
Sweet Tomb would work well as young adult fiction in the vein of the Weetzie Bat stories. All of the seething, sticky anger was lost a little on me, but a 13 year-old is right there, trying to find her own path out of the woods.
Madras Press, publishes stories and novellas whose sale benefit charities chosen by the authors. Aimee Bender also has a story in this series that I am going to look for next.