Charlie is a 16 year old, fat, brown girl that is just trying to live her best life. Her best friend is everything everyone else loves in a girl, making Charlie feel like she lives in her shadow. This book takes us through the journey of what it’s like being a fat girl in our current society. We follow Charlie through arguments with her mom, love and heartbreak, and get an inside look at her self-esteem and thoughts about herself. This is beautifully written and is relatable whether you’re 16 or 27!
I can honestly say that I don’t think I have emotionally related to a character so much in my life before. Charlie is a fat, brown girl living in today’s cruel society with unrealistic expectations. I relate to the fat part, which is mostly what this book focuses on. This story made me time travel back to my high school years and relive all of the crap I went through because I wasn’t meeting the societal standard appearance wise. Like Charlie, I had stunning best friends, had boys talk to me so they could talk to them (or so they could later tell me they would never date someone like me…that happened in 7th grade), dealt with family members constantly ragging on my weight, struggled to shop in “normal” stores, and had really terrible self esteem and self worth. Hell, I just turned 27 and I STILL struggle with body image and not comparing myself to everyone. Like Charlie, I follow all the body positive “fatshion” people, hype them up, think they’re the most beautiful people in the world (they are!) and then look in the mirror and want to rip out my hair because of what I see.
Charlie struggles with herself throughout the book because of how she sees herself and how she thinks others see her. My favorite part is that Charlie didn’t go on a diet and didn’t try and change how she looked because of the pressures around her. By the end of the book, she looked exactly the same, but she was learning to love the skin she was in. I think this is such an important message, especially being a YA book. So many times I’ve read books with “plus size” main characters and in order to be happy or find love, they have to change who they are inside and out, so that they can conform with society. What kind of message is that sending? I appreciate so much how Crystal wrote this story. It made it feel more real to me.
I saw so much of myself in Charlie and wish that I was able to be more loving toward myself at her age. This book really made me open my eyes (I may have also splurged on some hot bathing suits for the summer because the confidence this book instilled in me) and made me see that my size and shape is NOT what defines my happiness. If I want to change something or try to be more healthier, sure I can do that. BUT, I don’t have to change anything to fit the norms of this shitty world. I don’t need to look like the super models (hell, even “plus size models” don’t meet up to what I think is plus size), I don’t need to try every fad diet to be healthy, or go to the gym every day…I just need to take care of me, starting with my mental health!
Seeing Charlie grow throughout the story was beautiful as well. I wanted to punch Cal in the face, and fell in love with Brian. There may have been some tears at some point…maybe a lot. I appreciated the relationship Charlie had with her mother. Relationships with parents are hard and nowhere near perfect. Their relationship, minus a few quirks, reminded me a lot of what I saw with my friends and their moms or dads growing up.
So, thank you to Crystal Maldonado for writing this beautiful piece. I can’t rave enough about your portray of a protagonist fat girl. You made a relatable and wonderful story and I hope high schoolers read this story and can see themselves in Charlie, just like I did. Thank you!