I wish I could give this FIVE MILLION STARS. I liked basically everything about it.
I purchased this one the day it came out, but was saving it for th...moreI wish I could give this FIVE MILLION STARS. I liked basically everything about it.
I purchased this one the day it came out, but was saving it for the right time. (Apparently this was after a long day of reference + 76 kids at Lego Club library program + 36 at Reading with Dogs library program. I got home, picked it up, and couldn't put it down until I was finished.) Anticipation is such a double-edged sword, though - my expectations were so high that it was hard not to be disappointed. But, oh, I was not disappointed! Here are all the things I loved:
- Jane. Badass! Smart! Loud! Fat! Imperfect! Uncertain and certain at the same time. Wonderful. And she basically... doesn't change. She learns and grows (sure) but stays fundamentally herself. I adored that the turning point for each of the MCs was changing the paradigm, changing the game.
- Oliver being super attracted to Jane's personality AND her body. Hello, yes.
- Oliver. Uncomfortably familiar.
- The writing: smart, elegant, unobtrusive. I expected that based on her earlier books, but it was nice to see it again.
- The sisters. Who I secretly hope will star in the future lesbian C. Milan novella of my dreams. Totally set up for that!
-LADY FRIENDSHIP. (The moment when that happens actually made me flap my hand frantically at my honey while saying "oh! oh! oh!" The best moment in the book, I think.)
-ALL the side characters. The villain was villainous - not flat, exactly, but single-minded. The other side characters, though, clearly had a lot of complicated backstory that shone through their minor roles. Anjan Bhattacharya, especially, was an elegant, masterful bit of character building... just that hint of what it meant to be Indian, smart, elite, an outsider, and part of a complicated history of oppression/collaboration that nobody around really understands.
-The way problems were resolved... perfectly wonderful.
I think what this reminded me of most, maybe, was Graceling. It's an odd parallel to draw because the genres, plot, and readership are so very different. And Graceling had the major flaw of not having significant lady friendships between equals (that I can remember, anyway - Bitterblue doesn't count, since she's like a little sister). But Katsa reminds me of Jane in the authenticity of her journey through doubt, just barely holding on sometimes but maintaining a fierce core. And the resolutions resonated too: no substituting a relationship for closure.
Anyway, this was more of a written fanflail than a review. Loved it. So glad I bought it AND put in a purchase request for the library so that I can put it on lists at SPL. I think I'm going to purchase a print edition for easier lending!
I don't have the oomph for a proper review after finishing this one today, but my on-the-spot thoughts are that even if th...moreFEELINGS!!!!! Oh, my heart.
I don't have the oomph for a proper review after finishing this one today, but my on-the-spot thoughts are that even if the rest of the book were terrible (which it wasn't), Park's parents and family dynamic were enough to make me fall in love with this book.
Several million bonus points for a fat character who doesn't lose weight -- specifically doesn't lose weight when she doesn't have enough to eat, BEST -- and to whom the cute indie boy is super attracted. He is overcome with emotional sexy feelings in a way that feels, god, so like my high school experience -- both characters are -- and he is specifically attracted to her, to her personality and her body, not "despite" anything.
A real winner, and hard to imagine any better candidate for the Printz appearing this year. Worth the hype, I think. (less)
I might have given it four stars, except that the addition of the BEST fat character I've encountered in a middle grade novel leveled it way the hell...moreI might have given it four stars, except that the addition of the BEST fat character I've encountered in a middle grade novel leveled it way the hell up! nicely done! funny, fast paced, fun, with great characters and a legitimately creepy villain...fabulous job, esp for a debut author. but most of all, it wins everything for Testa, who is fat, badass, a science and engineering genius, eats healthily, and doesn't take any shit. even though the story is obvs completely different, the friendship between Sophie and Testa is almost a perfect reversal of the girls in Judy Blume's Blubber. high fives from this reader!(less)
This deserves a longer review than I have the energy for tonight, so just two thoughts:
The good: The core of this story -- Ista's struggle to recogni...moreThis deserves a longer review than I have the energy for tonight, so just two thoughts:
The good: The core of this story -- Ista's struggle to recognize and forgive her younger self for her seemingly unforgivable mistake -- feels so powerful that it carries the rest of the narrative. The ways in which it's an older woman's novel makes it worth reading and recommending widely.
The frustrating: the beginning helped identify something that I've noticed a lot in Bujold and until now wasn't pronounced enough to really irritate me -- her habit of using physical characteristics to stand in for character traits or otherwise provide exposition based on stereotype. In this one, there was at least one reference per page in the first few chapters to the fat character's waddle, his focus on eating, his slowness on the horse, his stained shirts, his absent-minded jollity... and any other non-stereotypical characteristics that come out over the course of the book, like his bravery or tenacity, end up being showcased as remarkable in spite of his size. At least he doesn't lose weight? (Miles Vorkosigan is almost the same way -- the readers are meant to marvel at how much he does in part because of his physical appearance, which he fixates on throughout the books.) She puts a lot of time and attention into physical descriptions of all the characters, but it does seem as if there's something there that's a shortcut for true character development in many cases. I'm rambling here, and clearly this needs more attention and detail -- but at any rate, it pulled me out of the story enough that I couldn't wholeheartedly enjoy it. (less)
I loved the second half of this book so much that it got my love-love-love tag despite the things that bugged me about it.
things I loved:
-The lyrics...moreI loved the second half of this book so much that it got my love-love-love tag despite the things that bugged me about it.
things I loved:
-The lyrics to Tiny Cooper's musical. GENUIS. -Really, all the parts related to Tiny Cooper. -Tiny Cooper. -The John Green chapters. -The humor. This book cracked me up. -The gay. Genuinely awesome -The pudge (mostly). Having a fabulous, popular, attractive, self-confident, awesome fat character with no weight-loss goals (or discussion of weight-loss goals). -the romance. -the friendships. -the way the characters changed and grew. .
not so awesome: - lowercase will grayson's voice: the angst is just too irritating for me. It didn't even get bearable until post-Tiny, which I understand was probably the point. I'm interested to hear some teen perspectives on this.
-some aspects of the pudge. I was so delighted to see a fatty in YA lit whose fat was a metaphor for positive character traits that I could almost ignore the fact that it was still fat standing in as a symbol for character. "Fat = ebullient" Tiny is only the flip side of "fat = despicable" Dudley from Harry Potter, though. And lowercase will grayson's disgusted fascination with Tiny's size -- like his rehashing of how he ought to be puking at the idea of leaning into a meaty arm -- was really off-putting. There were a number of weirdly fetishizing, objectifying descriptions of Tiny from the other characters, something that didn't happen for the normatively-bodied characters. So, yeah. Not perfect. But a step in the right direction, I hope.
And honestly, the treatment of teh gay was so perfect, spot-on, refreshing -- that's exactly what I want for the fat characters too, that casual reality without narrative judgment. Maybe this is just something we need to move through on the way there. (less)
I feel disloyal giving this less than four stars, but I just didn't love it as much as I could have.
On the other hand, I DID love the food, the allus...moreI feel disloyal giving this less than four stars, but I just didn't love it as much as I could have.
On the other hand, I DID love the food, the allusions (Wanda with her "oh, millions" of cats made me hoot on the bus!), and the general silliness. Also the description of the extremely good-looking boy with his round face and fat, sensitive hands. (I put it on my "fat" shelf just in appreciation of that lovely moment, which I read twice so that I could experience it again.) (less)
I spent most of this book alternately amused and horrified. I'd picked it up for a few reasons. First, I knew from The Brown B...moreUm, I kind of loved it?
I spent most of this book alternately amused and horrified. I'd picked it up for a few reasons. First, I knew from The Brown Bookshelf that Andrea Davis Pinkney picked it up at Jump At The Sun, and that intrigued me. Second, the cover is hot pink and glittery... which leads to: Third, I knew some of my reluctant girl readers might go nuts for it, especially with the Disney tie-in that they already love, and I wanted them to be able to read something fun and playful starring tween girls of color. Finally, I came across all the books were on remainder for $4.98 at my local indie bookstore.
Pros: often hilarious, full of puns, size-positive (for real!!), with some good life lessons and a racially and culturally diverse set of characters.
Cons: shamelessly materialistic, flat characters. Now that it's a series, it's almost like a huge commercial for Disney in the library... though to be fair, that was not the case when these were written. Pretty darn trashy. Also, it took me 100 pages to get past the incessant cutesy rhyming. GAG.
More pros: by the second book, I was much more entertained than annoyed. I kept reading passages out loud to my partner because I was giggling so much. It's so over-the-top that it became loveable. The closest comparison I can think of is the movie Clueless. It really has much more of a Clueless vibe than a trashy urban fiction vibe. And did I mention size-positive? Seriously. Rare.
Twelve hours and 400 pages later, I brought the second (400 page) book in from the car, just in case. (less)
It is amazing to me how much this feels like my community, even a generation removed and twenty years after publication. There's even non-preachy, non...moreIt is amazing to me how much this feels like my community, even a generation removed and twenty years after publication. There's even non-preachy, non-issues-y body diversity and realistic sex! I just loved it all over again, this time with an deeply affectionate recognition that I didn't have when I read it the first time in college. It felt like when you meet extended family members and recognize yourself and your roots in a way that you didn't before.
Thank you, Alison Bechdel. This is still the best reflection of us that I've ever seen, and I didn't know how much that meant to me until I encountered it here.
**spoiler alert** This is the trashiest book I have read in as long as I can remember... and maybe the most size-positive. I have a really hard time s...more**spoiler alert** This is the trashiest book I have read in as long as I can remember... and maybe the most size-positive. I have a really hard time slogging through trashy Clique-style books -- I couldn't even finish The Luxe -- but I kept reading this one because of moments like this:
- - - -
Oh my God, you should've been at that Halloween party where he puked on Laura's ex-boyfriend. That night was fucking epic. I'd gone in a pink zebra-print dress (which was so short and so tight that it made my ass and thighs hang out all over the place), those hooker heels that hurt like an eighteenth-birthday hangover, and a scraggly severe-bob wig, though it wasn't the perfect color, but who can keep up with hair anyway? Being Victoria Beckham's fat twin was hard work, but it was well worth it that night. [emphasis mine]
- - - -
That last line is one of the funniest things I've ever read... it's like a Weekly World News headline in its pacing (5,000-year-old mummy pregnant; Janitor admits "I'm the father"!). And the whole book reads like the preceding paragraph. The main characters are sober for maybe one page out of ten, and the plot hinges completely on drama rather than character development. They make ridiculously irresponsible choices (at one point, Madge gets wasted and stoned at a party, wanders off by herself in a city she doesn't know, and passes out in a football field with a box of Krispy Kremes). They have scads of money (crazy parties! convertible BMWs! And does any teen anywhere use a "car service" that much? At least it means that they never drink and drive.)
These characters aren't real, or complex, or thoughtful. It's kind of like the anti-Sarah Dessen. Madge is a faux queen with tons of money and fagtastic gay boy friends who live in penthouses (and whose mothers happily ply them with mini liquor bottles) but have no issues outside of being really spoiled. It's a fantasy land, with no negative consequences and unlimited resources.
BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD!
But it was hilarious. And it kept me reading just to see what unapologetically fat-positive thing the author would throw in next. We're not talking HAES-informed here: Madge eats shameless quantities of junk food, drinks like a fish, and wouldn't even consider going to the gym. In this, she's exactly like every other teen in the book. She's closer to Hassan in An Abundance of Katherines than any other character I can think of (except without Hassan's disappointingly self-hating speeches at the end of the book) and I know many size-pos activist folks would be horrified at her unhealthy behavior and reveling in junk food. But listen to this paragraph, right after Madge's explanation of how Bridget Benson, the teen starlet of the moment, went from BFF to enemy after getting a TV-show part that both girls (both of whom were child stars) wanted:
- - - - And please: don't think she got the part because I'm fat and she's not and I'm an idiot for thinking I'd have a chance at a part that beyond-compare Bridget Benson got. Because for the record, I didn't start getting chubs till after the disastrous audition, when I quit acting and went to normal-kids' school. And before you go on making more assumptions, I didn't pork up because I was depressed or anything. Acting was hard. I wanted to have friends and a more normal existence. And the only reason I got fat is because, well... everyone on my dad's side started gaining weight when they were around my age. - - - -
OMFG! Have you ever read that before? 'Cause I haven't. You know what she gets from her mom's side of the family? She's "telenovela-beautiful".
And that's it for the body processing, plus she's never objectified or symbolized. She's popular, shameless, confident, and glam. There's even one fascinating point when her prom queen rival uses Madge's dad's heart attack as a way to attack Madge, saying outright that she's too fat and therefore unfit to be prom queen. Madge is furious and decides to strike back. What an interesting choice for the author to have made: to put that statement out there as so low and so obviously outrageous that the reader has to dismiss it out of hand.
I can't believe it, but I think this beats out every other fat book I've read this year in terms of body-positivity, except Skim. I don't really know how many stars to rate it, since I can't say it holds up in terms of literary quality. But to give it a low rating takes away from my guilty enjoyment of it and author's genuinely novel accomplishment.