Danielle's Reviews > Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

Candyfreak by Steve Almond
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's review
Oct 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, memoir
Read in November, 2009

I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, the look at smaller, regional candy bar manufacturers, their struggles and dedication, was very interesting. Also, the vivid descriptions of the various candy bars made me eat waaay too much candy, but that part was also fun. I learned a lot about the history of candy bars in America and the consolidation of the candy bar industry under the "Big Three" of Hershey's, Nestle, and Mars (I was surprised to learn that pretty much every candy at the checkout stand is made by one of those three). So, that part of it was so entertaining and informative that it earned four stars.
If only Almond could have left it at that. But no, "Candyfreak" refers not only to someone obsessive about candy, but apparently, to someone using candy to compensate for adult insecurity and a lack of parental love as a child, a neurosis Almond arbitrarily groups all of his readers into.
I give you a quote from p. 240: "I had decided to write about candy because I had assumed it would be fun and frivolous and distracting. It would allow me to reconnect to the single, untarnished pleasure of my childhood. But, of course, there are no untarnished pleasures. That is only something the admen of our time would like us to believe. Most of our escape routes are also powerful reminders; and whatever our conscious motives might be, in our secret hearts we wish be to be led back to our grief."
To which I ask, why? Why couldn't this book just be fun and frivolous and distracting? Time and again throughout the book Almond feels the need to thrust his pop psychology upon us, guilting us for our enjoyment of the very product he's praising. It was weird and unnecessary. I suppose he felt some loyalty to his "craft" as a writer, and that without his pyschoanalytical asides, he couldn't consider his book a "serious" work, but it was both depressing and ridiculous, not to mention completely out of place in a book like this.
That being said, it's a quick read and there are some really fabulous parts, especially if you love candy, but bear in mind that Almond is a freak in the true sense of the word.

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