Written by: Olivia Dade
Reviewed by: Mary Warren
Once again Olivia Dade has bared the soul of fat women everywhere. When I read Spoiler Alert for the first time, I had never felt more seen in all my life. I had never seen the fat experience dealt with in such a truthful and loving way. This book takes those exact sentiments even further.
This is the story of Alex and Lauren. Alex is a star in a popular Game of Thrones style TV show. After a couple of run-ins and a bar fight, the show runners assign Lauren to be Alex’s minder to make sure he behaves and doesn’t further tarnish the show’s reputation. She is the show runner’s cousin and frequent target for his bullying for her looks. Lauren is described as a round bird-like character while Alex is a beyond handsome movie star, so while romance seems unlikely, we all already know what is in the cards for these two characters. Their journey to learn to love each other and more importantly themselves is the basis for one of the best rom coms I’ve ever read.
Dade has accomplished some of the best banter I have ever read. The character of Alex is so witty. He has a mouth that never stops moving and is always trying to make those around him smile and laugh. Alex has ADHD and the representation is honest and amazing. You see his impulsivity, his restlessness, his sensitivity, but most of all you see his fierce loyalty to those he loves. He so desperately wants to protect those he loves, and not only protect them but make them happy.
Then there is the character of Lauren. I have never read a character that portrays the fat experience so fully. From what it is like to fly on an airplane, to giving away pieces of yourself until there is nothing left, Lauren is one of the most lovingly written, honest portrayals of what it is like to move through this world in a fat body. She isn’t self conscious about her body; she has already done that work and accepts her body, but her journey is one of learning to stick up for herself and prioritize her own comfort over the comfort of others. There are times when Lauren accepts truly terrible behavior and is on the receiving end of incredibly hurtful comments. She lets it go because it is easier for all parties involved, even though those comments do hurt. This really rang true for me. It made me realize things about myself that I had turned a blind eye to most of my life. Another element of Lauren that I think is important to talk about is that not only is she fat, but she is not conventionally pretty. In some books about fat women, we are led to see them as “ideal fat,” big boobs, big butt and maybe a little belly and a gorgeous face. That is not the body all fat people have, and that is not how Lauren is written. That is important.
Olivia Dade writes rom coms. Wonderfully written, witty, sweet and spicy rom coms, but she is also doing something far more important. She is validating the experience of a group of women who are often othered, who are often made to feel less than. She is showing women that the narrative that fat women must change who they are to be worthy of love is nonsense. You are worthy of love right now, as you are. You deserve to be seen and treated with respect in the body you are in. You deserve all that and more. So while yes, this is a wonderful rom com, it is truly so much more. I am forever grateful to Olivia Dade and the characters she has written. She is showing fat women what is possible, right now in the body they live in.