Now seems like an appropriate time to make this post, as Steph at Reviewer X just reviewed something relevent for Girl Week. She reviewed Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee here, and there’s a guest post from the author here (which is why this post is not totally unselfish; I’m also entering a contest here!). I haven’t read that particular book (I’m adding it to my wishlist!), but some of you may know that body image issues are of particular interest to me, and books about the subject, too, because I definitely don’t think anyone has to be skinny to be happy or healthy. I’m not skinny, and, honestly, there’s a thousand things I’d rather be seen as. I’d rather be smart or creative or kind or funny, or, well, you get the idea.
Anyway, there are a lot of books about body image in general and weight more specifically. A lot of these books end with the main character losing weight, getting a boyfriend, and becoming popular and happy.
This is not how it works in the real world, nor is it how it SHOULD work.
It’s okay to be heavier or thinner or taller or shorter or WHATEVER than the “ideal” and imaginary pictures that we see in magazines. I want to read books that reflect that truth, to some degree, not books that say “lose weight and you’ll be happy!” Because you know what? It’s not that easy. If you’re unhappy, there’s a lot more than your WEIGHT at play there, and blaming your weight isn’t going to make you any happier. Figure out what the real problem is.
With that in mind, I’d like to recommend some books that deal with body image.
First up is North of Beautiful. Justina Chen Headley’s wonderful novel is about as far from an issue book as there is, but the main character has a port wine stain on half of her face, and that’s something she has to come to terms with. It’s one of many parts of this story, but it’s there.
This Book Isn’t Fat, It’s Fabulous is lots of fun. It’s not particularly literary, and it’s far from perfect, but it sure is fun. Riley, the main character, is happy and confident and heavier than “ideal” (though she is by no means fat). She’s awesome.
All About Vee features another strong heroine who, despite having dreams of being a Hollywood actress, refuses to let society’s ridiculous ideas of perfection get in her way.
You might say that Violet in Private doesn’t fit here because it’s about a model, but it totally does. Violet is bashed by the modelling industry for gaining a few pounds, even when she’s still ridiculously skinny. It’s ridiculous! Models aren’t thin because they’re “perfect”; as this book shows, models are unhealthily skinny because the industry pressures them to BE unhealthy, thus pressuring ordinary girls to want to look like models and be unhealthy and unhappy as well. Don’t give in!
Big Fat Manifesto IS an issue book, but that’s not all it is. The main character here really IS fat, and, sadly, she starts out (and continues for quite some time) letting the numbers on the scale define her. However, in the course of the book, she really grows as a person (figuratively) and learns that weight loss isn’t necessarily the way to happiness, which rocks.
Looks is unique in that it deals with two weight extremes: being too skinny and being fat. It’s also a really eloquent, lyrical book, lovely to read.
Go Figure is one of my favorites. The heroine, Ryan, is insecure about her weight (and aren’t we all insecure about some part of ourselves?), but it does not dominate her at all. She’s smart and funny and talented and popular, and not skinny. She learns that self-acceptance is key to happiness–not that weight loss is key to happiness, and I love her and this book.
Another book with a heroine who, despite her insecurities, is way more than her weight, is Size 12 is Not Fat, the first in Meg Cabot’s series. It’s also far from an issue book (chick lit murder mystery is an apt description), and it’s so much fun!
Princess Ben is one of the only (if not the only) fantasy books I’ve seen that touches on this topic. Despite the fact that she loses weight in her happy ending (hey, it’s a fairy tale), which annoys me, Ben isn’t particularly concerned with being skinny, and knows there’s a lot more to herself than that. A girl after my own heart!
And on that note, the end of this post. I hope you enjoy some of these books, and don’t forget to stop by Girl Week!