Written by: Jo Watson
Reviewed by: Mary Warren
This book could have been really good. We follow Lori who is an artist. She has moved to a new beach town that is much different from her life in the city. Her parents are recently divorced, and her mother is spiraling out of control, which leaves her the main caregiver for her autistic brother. Lori herself suffers from severe anxiety. We follow her as she meets a boy who accepts her for who she is, and she finds her own voice with her art and the ability to stand up for herself. That is a good book, and that is a book I would have really enjoyed reading.
Unfortunately, Lori has a bigger body.While this story is one that could and does happen to people in bigger bodies, her body was used as a plot point to cause her pain. There was so much traumatic bullying and self hatred that I don’t think this book is safe for fat people to read. A reader can not be expected to spend an entire book immersed in self hatred and bullying and not sit with that negativity long after, even if it was all magically fixed by the end. This is a YA book, aimed at minors who are just trying to find their own way. This only further increases fat stigma. I am aware that this is not the point that Watson was trying to make. I think she was trying to convey that even after all of this pain, something beautiful can come of it. It is a beautiful point, and the way she writes this message in the waning pages of the book is well done and inspiring. Sadly, I think that it is overshadowed by the immense and traumatic bullying that dominated the rest of the book. The reader has already been forced to hold space for trauma and ruminate upon trauma for 80 percent of the book; a beautiful happy ending doesn’t heal the trauma inflicted and in many cases reinflicted upon the reader.
So while this is my opinion, and I’m sure others will disagree, this style of writing, particularly when targeting younger audiences is irresponsible. It doesn’t do enough to fight against the stigma that people in fat bodies already face, and it really ran the gamut of fat issues, from graphic talk about fetishization to an actual attempted murder. I feel the book would have been better served if her body struggles had been equal to all of the other struggles in her life. Self doubt and self hatred because of weight can be a part of someone’s story, but it dominated every other narrative to the point that the book was almost unreadable for me. If I had not been reading an advanced copy of this book for the express purpose of an honest review, I would have stopped reading it before I ever got to the happy ending.