Title: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
Author: Crystal Maldonado
Rating: 4 Stars
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.
SPOILER ALERT: There are a few minor spoilers, so if you haven't read this book yet, and don't want to know what's going on, read this review later.
I wish books like this had been around when I was a teenager! I am so grateful that so many authors are writing books that sow that fat people are just people with all the same feelings, thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, etc, that every other person has.
So, as you can see from the description, this book follows Charlie Vega, a fat 17 year old who always feels like she's struggling to be noticed, to fit in, to have people pay as much attention to her as they do to her skinny best friend Amelia. Charlie struggles with a lot of insecurity throughout this book, and learns a lot about herself as well.
That brings me to the characters: they were all wonderful and smart and funny and I loved most of them. Even though there were characters I didn't really care for, I did appreciate that there were so many dimensions and layers to each character. They were all wonderful and so well written. Each character added so much to the store in terms of who they are and personality.
The growth that Charlie goes through in this book is amazing. She compares herself a lot to Amelia, and struggles with feeling like she always comes in second place to Amelia. It's so bad that she even breaks up with her boyfriend because he asked Amelia out a year before. Charlie slowly learns, both from finding her first love, and through really exploring why she feels the way she does, that she is amazing the way she is.
Charlie's best friend Amelia learns so much about herself as well, not the least of which is the fact that she did sort of have a tendency of putting her relationships right out there in front of Charlie. (Granted, it was up to Charlie to love and accept that her friend was in these relationships, and to realize that this meant they could still be friends...)
Charlie's mom was a trip. I'll tell you straight up, she was the one of the only two characters I didn't like. (The other was Cal. What a jagoff.) Her mom was so self-centered, and so involved in what she wanted and what made her happy. She sort of spread that into Charlie because she was always telling Charlie she should lose weight, and always trying to get Charlie to drink these weight loss shakes. After Charlie's dad died, her mom gained weight, and wasn't happy with that. I totally get feeling inadequate, and wanting to be healthier, but for Charlie's mom, she turned that weight loss into basically her entire personality, It took over her life. I feel like part of it was because she was missing her husband, and used the weight loss and the shakes as a way to distract herself after his death.
Brian is probably my favorite character in the book. He's fun, he's nice, he's so sweet to Charlie. He is a bit mature for a teen, which is fine, but I did sort of want to see him just act a little more like a teenager sometimes.
I loved the way this story developed and how a lot of the things that happened throughout the book led to the characters like Charlie, learning something about themselves. This story moves quickly once you get into it, and each event that happens is important to the building up of this story. Cal scamming Charlie, Charlie's mom sort of ragging on Charlie, Charlie finally FINALLY realizing that Brian was so into her - it was all important, and it all led to wonderful things happening in each next part of the novel.
I really love that this book looks at what it's actually like to be a fat kid who doesn't always feel accepted, and really fits in those moments where Charlie looks at things on social media pertaining to the body I wish books like this had been around when I was a teenager! I am so grateful that so many authors are writing books that sow that fat people are just people with all the same feelings, thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, etc, that every other person has.
This book also spent a lot of time exploring the body positive movement and looking at how important that is for young people and older people alike. Charlie was definitely not the only person who could benefit from that movement (I'm looking at you Charlie's mom!!!) Charlie learned a lot from looking through the internet at Insta posts by people in the body positive movement. I feel like that was a big part of her development and why she slowly learned to accept and truly love herself the way she deserves.
Overall, this was a wonderful, well written, insightful novel that everyone should get their hands on!
If you've already read Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, drop a comment below and let me know what you thought of it.