Title: Fat Girl on a Plane
Author: Kelly deVos
Published by: Harlequin Teen on June 5, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Content Warning: Fat shaming, sexual assault
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 She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not—ultrathin and superrich.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?
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Your body is no one’s business but your own. We are more than just our bodies. We are the sum of our abilities and accomplishments and hopes and dreams and friendships and relationships. It’s what we are inside that matters.
You would think with a quote like that, there’d be a ton of plus-size body positivity, but I have never been angrier while reading a book in my life. I don’t know how many times I cursed (in my head or quietly to myself…) the characters out, rolled my eyes, or furiously scribbled down pissed off notes while reading. I hardly liked any characters, hated most of their decisions, and found so many aspects extremely problematic. At first I was hell-bent on giving this book 1 star, then I bumped it up to 2 stars because for some reason I was still able to make it until the end. But then, as I laid in bed a little more calm but still sooo very angry, I thought I would give this 5 stars. Because the thing is, everything in Fat Girl on a Plane is on point, and I wonder if I hated it that much because it hit so close to home. I ended up giving this 3.5 stars because even though I’ll never say this is my favorite read, I without a doubt think it’s an important read.
Fat Girl on a Plane is an own voice novel about Cookie, a plus-sized aspiring fashion designer. The narrative is told in 2 timelines: when Cookie is fat and when Cookie is skinny. While Cookie is fat, she blogs for school under a spoiled brat who constantly fat shames her, and while Cookie is skinny, she’s made it into fashion design school and is on her way to fulfilling her dreams. I think this narrative choice is clever because as a plus-sized woman myself, personally I often think, “Well, when I’m skinny I can…”
Again, this is not a fluffy read. This is a make-you-feel-uncomfortable-and-pissed-off-for-a-purpose read. There are so many problematic and depressing aspects to this story, and if I didn’t read this on my phone I would have thrown it across the room over and over again.
First, Cookie has so many unhealthy relationships. She has a best friend who is “always there” but is constantly making up excuses for why the girl he’s interested in treats Cookie horribly. Then she has a super model for a mother who people always compare her to and who believes Cookie is a waste of space. And finally Cookie has a fashion icon for a boyfriend who fat shames a girl when they first meet, takes Cookie away from school to work and have sex with during the school year, refuses to put any kind of label on their relationship, and is at least twice her age. To be honest, I think age is nothing but a number, but the guy refers to himself as her “uncle” so in this case the guy is an authoritative figure having sex with someone with less power.
Next, Cookie has so many problematic thoughts and habits. She eats hardly anything to stay skinny, she believes no one would want to sexually harass her when she’s fat, she believes dating attractive jerks isn’t settling for fat women, and so much more along those lines.
But the thing is, speaking from my own experiences (doesn’t mean it’s everyone else’s!), everything that happens to Cookie and everything she thinks about, no matter how problematic they seem, are some of the most personal feelings, thoughts, and insecurities a person can ever feel. These are the insecurities that people push away and never talk about because of the shame these feelings bring about. It’s difficult to admit that you think so low of yourself that someone wouldn’t want to touch you. No one wants to talk about how they know it’s not okay, but dating an attractive jerk makes them feel like they’re more attractive than they feel they actually are. No one wants to talk about how they feel like they have to be more amazing than everyone else so that others see more than just the fat.
So again, I rated this book higher but not because of my personal enjoyment. I think this is such an important and eye-opening read. I just think I’ve been triggered way more than I thought I would be because talk about putting your deepest, darkest thoughts and insecurities on display lol.
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I received an ARC from the publisher, Harlequin Teen, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes were taken from an unfinished proof copy and may not be the same in the finished work.