Book Review – Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

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Title: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Author: Crystal Maldonado

Publisher: Holiday House

Publication date: February 2nd, 2021

352 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Review

“It’s the first year where I don’t waste my wish on being skinny; I wish for more happy moments like this.”

Crystal Maldonado, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

TW: disordered eating, negative self talk, talks of dieting, body shaming

I had to take some time before writing this review as I saw myself in the main character just a little too much, so it created a more triggering reading experience for me. This does not mean I didn’t enjoy the title, it just hit home more than expected and created a very emotional reaction. If you struggle with eating disorders, dieting, body image, or have experience body shaming I urge you to make sure you’re emotionally prepared for the topics covered in this book.

Charlie wants nothing more than to be kissed. But she loves in a world where she is told she is wrong – too big, too brown, too loud. She wants nothing more than to love herself as she is, but her own mother forces diet culture and negative body image down her throat like a weight loss smoothie. But when someone finally expresses interest Charlie is finally happy – but it comes crashing down when she realizes he asked her best friend out first. Amelia is Charlie’s ideal, everything she thinks she should want to be, so Charlie doesn’t know what to do.

Taking a step back from my own baggage, Fat Chance is a very well written, real book about a young woman struggling with body image. Charlie’s story is one a lot of people will identify with – including myself. Whereas I can only be an Own Voices reviewer for the disordered eating/body image plot – I have the privilege of being in a white body and can’t even imagine how the extra dynamic of being Latinx would play into the complexity. I do feel the disordered eating/body image plot line is handled well over all, with some nit-picky things that I could mention.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I feel like there are pieces of Charlie’s story that can be related to by a lot of different people, especially with the prevalence of diet culture and body shaming in this country.

Happy reading, folks!

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