Candy and Me may be the greatest book ever. At least for those who sully their copies with chocolate fingerprints while riding a serious gummy-bear high. In fact, it's hard not to raid the vending machine after gorging on Hilary Liftin's delicious memoir told through the candy she's devoured.
Liftin's confection compulsion begins when she's 7 (powdered sugar in a Dixie cup) and continues through her parents' divorce, a friend dying in a car accident, traumatic junior high school friendships, and, of course, the ebb and flow of adolescent crushes and steamy adult relationships. ''The loves of our youth build themselves into elaborate knights in shining armor until their images eclipse life itself.... Our desires start young, are unreasonable, and can't be trusted. But there's always another box of Junior Mints.''
Or, in Liftin's case, candy corn, Necco Wafers, Hershey's Kisses, Smarties, Lemonheads, Fireballs, and most important, Bottle Caps. (''The genius of Bottle Caps is that their flavors are artificial flavors representing artificial flavors,'' she writes with genuine awe.)
This often-hilarious collection will undoubtedly be deemed the chick-lit book of the summer, but unlike other heroines of the genre (yes, you, Bridget), Liftin remains refreshingly unneurotic about her obsession. Just when you start to think there's going to be a ''lesson learned,'' Liftin shoots back at skeptics in a short chapter titled ''I Know What You're Thinking...'' She writes: ''What about tooth decay, weight gain, acne, diabetes? I don't want to talk about any of those things.'' By not going all Oprah on us, she invites the reader to dig right in and simply embrace life's SweeTarts and sour balls. Like a giant bag of jelly beans, this book won't exactly nourish you through Labor Day, but it sure is yummy going down.