Title: Fat Girl on a Plane
Author: Kelly deVos
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: June 5th, 2018
Buy This Book: Amazon/Audible
Don’t miss this unforgettable debut novel, told in two timelines, about smart fashion, pursuing your dreams, and loving yourself!
High school senior Cookie Vonn’s post-graduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother—and named after a dessert.
Thanks to her job at a fashion blog, Cookie scores a trip to New York to pitch her portfolio and appeal for a scholarship, but her plans are put on standby when she’s declared too fat to fly. Forced to turn to her BFF for cash, Cookie buys a second seat on the plane. She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not—ultrathin and superrich. Bowing to society’s pressure, she vows to lose weight, get out of the friend zone with her crush, and put her life on track.
Cookie expected sunshine and rainbows, but nothing about her new life is turning out like she planned. When the fashion designer of the moment offers her what she’s always wanted—an opportunity to live and study in New York—she finds herself in a world full of people more interested in putting women down than dressing them up. Her designs make waves, but her real dream of creating great clothes for people of all sizes seems to grow more distant by the day.
Will she realize that she’s always had the power to make her own dreams come true?
I have been putting off this review for a couple weeks now because I have some concerns about the contents of this book. On a positive note, I found the book a fun and entertaining read. The negatives, however, outweighed the positives in my opinion.
Just a head’s up, this review contains spoilers. I normally try to keep my reviews spoiler-free, but in this instance I couldn’t explain my concerns without including them.
The author’s note claims that this book is not the usual “Cinderella weight loss story”, but I have to disagree. The story is told in alternating timelines. In one timeline, Cookie is fat, broke, and miserable. Almost every bad thing that happens to her happens because she is fat. She is forced to buy a second seat on an airplane because the flight attendant thinks she is too big to fit in one seat. She gets publicly humiliated by a “mean girl” and then that same girl (who’s skinny, of course) ends up being her boss’s daughter and gets picked over her for an exclusive interview with a fashion icon she idolizes. She gets sent to fat camp. No-one is ever romantically interested in her because of her weight. She even has a major falling-out with her best friend because she refuses to let his skinny girlfriend call her “cankles” or otherwise bully her about her weight and he thinks she’s being unreasonable.
In the second timeline, Cookie has lost a huge amount of weight thanks to NutriNation, a paid diet program. She is now hot, and of course, everything is magically better. In a chance encounter, she runs into an important person from NutriNation and he is so impressed by her weight loss that he decides to generously sponsor her blog, temporarily solving all of her financial problems. She gets a second chance at interviewing the same fashion icon that wouldn’t even agree to meet with her when she was fat and he ends up partnering up with her for an unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He also starts dating her and basically treats her to the lifestyle of the rich and famous: taking her to exclusive fashion shows, living in a penthouse, and traveling the world in luxury. This guy is a total jerk who hates fat people and is only interested in her because she’s skinny now. And, of course, he’s on a first-name basis with the Dean of the design school she really wanted to go to, so not only can he get her in, but it’s assumed that he will pay her way. Even her (ex?) best friend admits he was secretly in love with her. In essence, the “skinny” timeline is just one good thing after another, and throughout it, the reader is constantly reminded of how gorgeous Cookie is now and how almost everyone she meets is attracted to her.
Which brings me to another point… This book implies that no-one is interested in fat people and that only skinny people can be the victim of sexual harassment. In fact, after one very unsettling scene between Cookie and her stepfather (in which he kept ogling her body and making inappropriate innuendos), she says “Situations like this have been one of the hardest things about losing weight. My body changed, and suddenly I became a player in this game where people are trying to get sex or approval or whatever from each other.” Umm… wow. But no. That “game” applies to everyone, not just skinny people. Sexual harassment is very much a problem for fat people as well as skinny people. People of all shapes and sizes can (and do!) get harassed. And plenty of fat people are in serious relationships, enjoy consensual sex, and even get married!
Ultimately, Cookie does end up learning how to love herself regardless of her weight. However, there’s nothing in this story that would help self-conscious young women learn the same lesson. The underlying message that this book sends, intentional or not, is that fat girls are miserable and getting skinny makes everything better. As a mother of an impressional young girl, I cannot in good conscience recommend this book. Was it entertaining? Certainly. But also very disappointing and potentially even harmful.
Rating: 2/5 stars
Thank you to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review.