The summer reading binge continues with another Fat Positive YA fiction novel. This summer, I have really been focusing on reading books that will add diversity to our school library. Whether they be the voices of diverse bodies, genders, religions, ethnicities, or socioeconomic backgrounds… representation is important! I am so glad to be sharing, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado with the students this fall.
Charlie Vega is a smart, funny, creative, and friendly high school junior who has aspirations of being a writer. She has a great job, is well liked by her teachers, and has a supportive group of friends. Charlie is a beautiful Latina with a great sense of style, who happens to be… well, fat.
The struggle to love herself and her body are the central focus of Charlie’s story… at least it is in her mind. (A story that is true of MOST people.) She has so many amazing things going for her, and she really WANTS to have a confident, fat-positive story. Charlie follows bloggers and Instagrammers who are working hard to flip the script for fat people. She has moments where she is amazingly confident, but somehow, her mind always gets in the way.
This struggle is magnified by her relationship with her mother. Charlie’s mom used to be fat too. But, when Charlie’s father died, her mom went on a quest to find a new body, and became quite obsessive about it. She wants the same to be true of Charlie, and she’s not exactly kind about it… leaving weight loss shakes around, bullying her about the gym, and making snide remarks about her weight.
Charlie’s best friend, Amelia, on the other hand, is her greatest ally. The two are as close as sisters and always stand up for each other. However, Charlie feels as if she is second best to Amelia in everyone else’s eyes. Amelia is popular, athletic, thin, and perfect.
When Charlie begins a relationship with a boy who really sees her, and likes her for who she is, she starts to flourish. It helps her see herself as beautiful. But then, something happens that makes her believe she will ALWAYS be second best. Amelia is forced to reckon with the broken parts of herself and finally make a stand for who she wants to be.
I loved this sweet, coming-of-age story. The characters in this book felt honest and real. I was rooting for Charlie all along, and felt like I really understood her. The part I liked the best was how the relationship with Charlie and her mother played out. Fat girls and now skinny moms seems to be a bit of a trope in YA fiction. What made this one unique is that, while the relationship between Charlie and her mom is healing by the end, it was not neatly wrapped up and solved. It was real and it was raw and I think it is something that young readers can really relate to.
This is the debut novel from author, Crystal Maldonado. Her writing is approachable and relatable. I am definitely looking forward to reading what she publishes next!