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3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  123 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Things look bad for Rick Lahrem, a high school sophomore in a cookie-cutter Chicago suburb in 1976. His mother’s second husband is a licensed psychologist who eats like an ape, his stepsister is a stoner slut, and his father is engaged to a Southern belle. Rick’s only solace is his growing collection of original Broadway-cast LPs, bought on the sly at Wax Trax.
After he br
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published October 22nd 2009 by University of Wisconsin Press
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Louis Ceci
Jul 18, 2010 Louis Ceci rated it really liked it
As a person who participated in Illinois State High School Association speech contests in the late 1960's, and then coached the Benton Consolidated High School speech team in the 1970's, I can say Magruder's take on the speech team culture is dead-on. I was even a judge at the 1977 State Speech Finals at Bradley University in Peoria, where the novel's climactic scene takes place. If you look closely, you can see me between the lines.

Magruder's insight into the motivations and feelings of the tee
Jul 05, 2010 Kelly rated it liked it
Entertaining, but not earth shaking. This reminded me what total sex-obsessed creatures teenage boys are (homosexual, bi, hetero what have you). It made me want to shove my daughter into a burka when she reaches puberty. The book did a great job of bringing back the 70's. Mental shudder.
Jul 22, 2016 Gretchen marked it as to-read
This is not a review, it's a note to myself. I think this James Magruder was my TA for the film class I took at Yale.
Pascal Durrenberger
Jun 24, 2014 Pascal Durrenberger rated it really liked it
Great novel, brought me back a bit but glad it is behind me.
Aug 14, 2012 Christopher rated it it was amazing
James Magruder's Sugarless is my favorite book of 2009. In the book, Rick--the narrator--looks back on a formative period in his life with astonishing insight and nostalgia, feeling again, through the telling of them, all of the thrills and anguish of becoming an adult. It offers the reader the vicarious pleasure of watching Rick negotiate his initiation into the sexual world, and then complicates that pleasure with honest depictions of the failure, loss, and grief which constitute mature ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Benjamin rated it it was amazing
The 1970s setting has a bearing on our understanding of some attitudes towards various aspects of this delightful story. Richard (Rick) Lahrem, high school sophomore, lives with his mother and step-father following his parents divorce. This new arrangement has meant a drop in living standards, and more importantly for Rick, status. But he consoles himself in his secret collection of Broadway musical LPs.

At school he is the sort of boy he thought no one really notices until his moving reading in
Jan 11, 2010 Meagan rated it it was amazing
Sugarless follows the sophomore year of Rick as he grapples with becoming a Speech Team champion, his parents divorce and remarriages, the religious zealous of those around him, and his relationship with an older man.

I bought this book after hearing James Magruder give a reading from it last semester. The story and characters instantly had my attention. On the back of the book, Tony Kushner claims Magruder has a voice "utterly unlike anyone else's." I would agree with this. The style is relaxed
Mar 19, 2016 Jack rated it liked it
Magruder's coming-of-age story is a delightful mixture of sympathetic and sardonic. Jim is a friend, and I really wanted to like his first novel. I read this when it first came out in 2009, and recently revisited the book to see if I liked it more on second reading. To my pleasure, this turned out to be true.

His protagonist Richard's discovery of speech class, and speech competition, and the friendships that ensue, reflects what so many of us experienced in stumbling our way to teenage identity
Jul 14, 2016 Melinda rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc
This is the "coming-of-age" story of high schooler Rick Lahrem. The book lacks a clear purpose, the plot is sketchy, and characterization is shallow. It's strongest in its portrayal of Rick's passion for speech (dramatic interpretation) but falls short in building believable relationships between characters. In particular, the treatment of Rick's relationship with an older man, a DI judge and speech coach from another school, feels off. Except for a mention that Rick longs to be loved, Magruder ...more
Mike Subelsky
Nov 23, 2009 Mike Subelsky rated it it was amazing
This book was written by a friend of mine, but objectively speaking I can say it is one of the most enjoyable, well-written books I have ever read. It's entertaining and deeply satisfying. First of all, the prose is hilarious, as the narrator (Rick) has a brilliant sense of humor and precocious insight into the other characters. But it also has an aching, heartfelt core to it, because for all of Rick's worldliness, he's still a naive teenager growing up in a stifling, unenlightened suburb. His ...more
Diane Mankowski
Jan 01, 2011 Diane Mankowski rated it really liked it
A look back at a gay teenage boy's coming of age in the late 70's-early 80's in Chicago's west suburbs, particularly Wheaton & Glen Ellyn. Living nearby and working as an educator in Glen Ellyn today and being slightly younger than the protagonist, it made for interesting read. Filled with drama, detailed accounts of sexual encounters and a teacher/student affair, it gives the reader plenty of moral issues to contemplate. I have never wondered more about how much a book might be true- did ...more
Mar 16, 2010 Liana rated it really liked it
Magruder has done a remarkable job capturing the sense of being the slightly awkward teenager who doesn't really fit in at school. He had me fully on board with rooting for Richard to succeed, cheering as he found success and made friends, and devastated at the end.

I was also struck by how universal Richard's story is on some levels. Magruder paints an incredibly, wonderfully, richly specific world, but through that specificity there are parts of Richard that resonated so well beyond his specifi
Apr 14, 2015 Derek rated it it was amazing
Although Sugarless is quintessentially a book on coming out, but what's really cool about it is, that's not all the book ends up being about. The writing is so rich, so apt, you get lost in the humour, the witticism, the conflict and the characters.

P.S. In 2013, I took a short course on writing by James Magruder, the author of this book, so I might sound biased when I say that this is probably one of the most enjoyable coming of age books I've read in a long while. But it's the truth. This is o
Sep 11, 2010 Mary rated it it was amazing
A boy confirms his sexuality while competing for the statewide dramatic interpretation prize.

I liked the way the coming of age/discovering sexuality story was framed by the “Breaking Away” like competition of the state speech teams. There’s a lot going on here – the love affair with a sympathetic male teacher, the topsy turvy family life with the mother who’s found Jesus, the crushes the narrator has on the local boys, the vivid minor characters. Finally, this book was very very funny.
Feb 07, 2010 Bob rated it really liked it
A wonderful love letter to anyone who grew up gay in the 70's. A must read for anyone who did debate team individual events. Delightful character development and prose. It falters in the plot resolution with the affair between the protaganist and the teacher. Worth a read and Magruder is an author to watch. I wonder if he had a different plot development and changed it at the suggestion of editors/publishers.
May 13, 2011 Jeffrey rated it it was ok
I read this on a recommendation from a friend (that would be Mark). Granted, it was not a high recommendation, but he said it was ok. Worth the read. I had a hard time finishing it. I just didn't care about the main character, nor did I really like the writing style of the author.

I wouldn't recommend it, even as an OK. But I will forgive you Mark :)
Apr 30, 2011 Mark rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book didn't have the grittiness of The World of Normal Boys or The Year of Ice, or the wittiness of How I Paid for College. However, what I felt was its greatest asset was the narrative voice of Richard. I really came to care for his character as he grew and shed his naivete.
Christina Bolton
Oct 26, 2009 Christina Bolton rated it it was amazing
This is a great story about a boy coming of age! I waiting for James Magruder to write another novel so I can add it to my collection!
Tim Farmer
May 18, 2016 Tim Farmer rated it really liked it
A late-1970's coming of age story of a gay teenage boy that ends all too predictably. The main characters are accurate portrayals of dysfunctional suburbanites.
Mar 30, 2010 Dawn rated it really liked it
Loved this book. Magruder is a gritty writer, really engages the senses. I'm impressed and look forward to more.
Connie rated it it was ok
Mar 23, 2010
Audrey rated it really liked it
Feb 28, 2013
Jen Michalski
Jen Michalski rated it it was amazing
Aug 07, 2012
Jay Moseley
Jay Moseley rated it liked it
Aug 23, 2010
Jen rated it really liked it
Feb 15, 2011
Kevin rated it liked it
Jan 25, 2013
Evelyn rated it liked it
Mar 17, 2011
Kristie rated it did not like it
Sep 04, 2011
Rjnick rated it really liked it
Oct 26, 2011
Nari Johnson
Nari Johnson rated it liked it
Apr 04, 2016
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