Review: Big Boned (Jo Watson)
Title: Big Boned
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
First, truth time! You could say that my life is a tangled mess of what is considered to be "not normal". My entire life, I've been big. I can't remember a time when I wasn't I wasn't picked on, bullied, or even treated differently for my weight. Sometimes things were not meant to be mean or cruel, but they taught me that my weight mattered for reasons that was not exactly my own health or well being. It's a struggle I've had and fought with for years but didn't always know how to talk about it and, sometimes, even ashamed of putting into words.
I also struggle with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and it's an experience that is almost impossible to put into words (and trust me, I've tried). I've tried. It's, at times over whelming and a mystery. There's not always a tangible reason for it and, when it rears it's head, it's scary and, even sometimes pain from my body's physical reaction to the stress and tensing up. One of the worst parts is, so many people have been taught to be ashamed of anxiety, causing so many stop trying to explain the struggle.
And, finally, my son has autism. He was diagnosed right before sixth grade (which was after a lot of pleading for help) and, while there was a huge blow felt when he was first given the diagnosis, there was also a relief with having answers and resources to help us help him as well as finding understanding.
Now, with that all being said, shall move on with it? After all, we're not here to talk about me, but about "Big Boned"
What's it about?
Lori Palmer's family are new to the area and to the Bay Water High which is hard on anyone, Lori isn't "normal". She's a bigger girl, some (including her) may even call her fat, her parents are divorced, her mother is lost in a world or mourning her failed marriage and redefine herself and her brother has Autism, and she suffers from anxiety, which rears it's ugly head at some of the most inopportune times.
Now it's her time to redefine her self and it starts with feeling comfortable in her own skin and learning to accept and love herself for who she is with the help of some new friends, new enemies and even her brother.
Favorite Character: I actually had two favorite characters.
The first of my favorite is Lori (I know, right? I am actually choosing the main character as a favorite!). I think I'm so drawn to her because she reminds me of me. Her inability to see her own worth, her constant awareness of all of her flaws without realizing that many of them are her "flaws" because someone else told her they were, not becuase she thought they were. I related to her inability to celebrate and believe in her strengths, her successes and talents. I understood her. I got the seemingly hypocrisy within internal struggle where she knew what she wanted to believe and what she believed when it came to others but couldn't believe in herself. She could see the beauty in the world around her and all that it held except herself. And yet it's all written in this non-threatening, sincere and authentic way like no other character I've ever read.
My second favorite character was Vicki. She was wise and confident. She believed in those she surrounded herself with (including herself) and did her job well. She wasn't threatening, invasive or pushy. She was even casual. She guided Lori. She enjoyed her job and it showed. And, maybe my favorite thing about this magnificent woman, she said exactly what my younger self needed to hear. She said what Lori needed to hear without being hurtful or demeaning. She knew how to say what needed to be said in a loving way that may have, at times, been cheesy but the wisdom she shared was undeniable.
Least Favorite Character: Before I share this, I want you to know that there were people I disliked and people who may have risen above her on this list had they been around more but either way, I wouldn't have loved this character. My least favorite character was Lori's mom, Barbara. I understand that she's struggling. She's still reeling from her divorce and she's trying to figure out who she is without the title of "wife" and "homemaker" in the list of adjectives. I get she's trying to feel good about herself again and, honestly, I support these things. However, she seems to have forgotten, or failed to notice, that her kids are also struggling. They are also trying to deal with the untimely divorce of their parents. They, especially Lori, is trying to figure out where she fits in the world and who she is. What words describe her? What words does she want to describe her? Now that she's a senior, what does the future hold? What does she dream about it containing and how can she get it? Instead, she's chasing her own dreams. She's listening to her clients instead of her kids. She's defining herself without allowing her children to do the same for themselves.
Now, I'm not suggesting she doesn't love them, because I think she does...a lot. However, I think she forgot that you can be a mother and go through hard times at the same time. I think she forgot that her children have feelings, too; that they went through a divorce, too. She is not alone. She's not an island and she can't pretend that she is. She certainly can't pretend she's a wonderful vacation destination and leave her duties as a mother with someone else while she chases a numbing agent for her pain. That's why I don't like her.
Favorite Part: Okay, this one was hard. Not because there are no bad parts, but because it's pretty much exclusively good and/or powerful scenes so how can I possibly choose my favorite? But after some thought, I think I landed on a scene. I think it's in about the middle of the book when Lori creates her first piece of influential art (I'm deliberately being vague to prevent spoilers). There's something beautiful about that moment, what it does to her, the cathartic release it offers and what it triggers in/for her.
Here, take these." I held my hands open as she dropped something into my palms; succulent leaves. "Lay them on some soil. Give them a little bit of water in a spray bottle, not that much, and watch them grow." She closed my hand around the leaves. "We start small. A fine mist of water, a few good words to ourself, and we keep it up everyday. And one day, we want to believe wont believe what we've grown into." (pg.114)
"You have such a powerful voice, Lori." She said but I shook my head. This couldn't be further from reality. "You do, you just haven't realized it yet." (pg. 180)
"Lori, you're fears and insecurities and what you think about yourself, those things are all sabotaging you, and if you don't learn to silence those voices, you're never going to have the things in life that you deserve." (pg. 274)
"I'm just saying that your fears are stopping you from having the things in life that you want and deserve." (pg. 274)
Any other thoughts?
I have more thoughts then I think I will ever be able to say! I spent the entire book in one state, with two parts that just took turns overtaking me. The first, that Lori is (sadly enough) a more confident me when I was younger. It kind of read as an odd love letter to my younger self and 2.Tearing up because of how accurate what I reading was to real life. I love a good coming of age story when the underdog or imperfect person (especially girls) find themselves and learn to love themselves but I've never seen it done this well! I've never felt like some one just got me so spot on without even meeting me! The thoughts Lori battled as they constantly floated around in her head and how natural they emerged. I never felt like Ms. Watson was trying to get it or trying too hard. I loved how she evaded clichés and Lori's struggles (especially with her weight) was not about vanity. It wasn't about wanting to be pretty. No. It was about wanting to be good enough as a whole and she had been told through a million words and countless actions that she wasn't good enough for a list of reasons including her weight.
I loved how raw she got sometimes. The scene when she talks about Zac's (her little brother) diagnosis hit me so hard and relieved some of my own feelings as she spoke about the emotions that we, as loved ones of someone on the spectrum, feel overpowering guilt about and a burden of shame.
And, of course, the choice of telling the story from the first person, in Lori's words, only strengthens the impact.
My most favorite thing about this book, however was that even though it takes place in South Africa and even though she's dealing some pretty difficult things that don't often land on one person's head as a combo pack, it's universal. I was constantly forgetting that she was in South Africa and not in my town in Iowa. Her vulnerabilities, her insecurities, her struggles with trying to "act cool" and calm, her crush...it all screams universal to me; utterly relatable. She didn't feel like a character to me, it felt real. Lori could have/currently be my best friend and I know she'd see my insecurities without me saying a word...and she'd know how to make me feel better. Why isn't she real!
Now, as I've waxed poetic about my love for this story that happened to fall into my lap (almost literally as my son tossed it to me after checking the mail that day), I do have admit that it's not perfect. Oh yes, I found typos. I found repeated phrases some misspellings and some poorly formed sentences. Now I know no one's perfect and this may not be the final version with all the edits as it doesn't come out until September 2021 (Big Boned was my first Advanced Reader copy!!!! Eeeek! The joy is immeasurable) and I didn't find the mistakes too much (as in they didn't hinder my ability to read the book) but they are there for sure.
Finally, I want to say one last thing. This book, I believe, is a friend to every girl (and maybe guy, too, though I think it's more of a girl book) who struggles with anxiety and insecurities. I believe it gives us a voice and guides us to our own inner strength. This is a book that should be available in high schools and middle schools/jr high schools/middle schools even if there is some cursing in it. It's a book I sure wish I had when I was younger! And I think it will offer comfort for many a girl who, like Lori and I, struggling with embracing who we are and the fact that we, too, are worthy and deserving of love.
What do I rate this book?
I give this book a
10 self love lists
P.S Upon further consideration, I think my real favorite part was Lori's list of things she likes about herself. Talk about growth and empowerment! Dang, girl!
But that's just what I thought! I can't wait to hear what you think so, if you, like me, are lucky enough to read it before it's release, let us know what you thought! If you didn't get an advanced copy, or it's already dropped (scheduled for Sept. 21, 2021) let us know what you think when you read it!
And, if you'd like to get your preorder in and save 10%, click on this pretty link to get yours ordered before your friends!