It's 1972 and 17-year-old Jackie has aspirations of being a fashion designer. She's left her home in Australia to stay in London and try and break into the fashion industry. She decides to go to Paris for the weekend, and try and meet a famous fashion designer, show him her designs... but then everything goes awry, she loses her designs and finds herself travelling across Europe with strangers and having the time of her life.
So this was fantastic. I can't honestly say I've read anything like this for a YA audience. After I finished reading it I wanted to travel back in time to 1972 and hitchhike across Europe. The characters were interesting and varied - from all different countries and backgrounds, with all different motivations for travelling. Alun was probably my favourite, though they were all very interesting (Dolf, too, was great). What's been done fantastically here is the way all of the characters grew and developed as the novel progressed - almost everyone who Jackie met was changed by their experiences, and I think that added a great realism to the novel. Jackie herself was a likeable character - easy to relate to, and very committed to her dream. She was also very naive, and I think that was an important part of her character development, but at times it was frustrating.
The title of the novel, I felt, wasn't very representative of the book ('Sugar' was what Jackie said instead of swearing, which was cute, but I don't think it suited as the novel's title). The cover, however, I think is absolutely gorgeous! The colours and design are fantastic.
The best part of this novel, by far, were the settings. Jackie travelled through all sorts of exotic countries and I could really tell as I read how well-researched this novel must have been - the locals of each city, the country, the traditions... it was incredibly believable. And the way in which these settings were evoked were magnificently done - at no point did the descriptions become clunky or forced. Very wonderfully done.
I would recommend this to an upper-YA audience, 14 and older, because of some drug and sexual references (Jackie is 17, and most of her friends are older). I loved it!