One blog I have recently begun to read gave me a very good piece of advice: adults don’t have to finish books they don’t like. And I readily agree with this. Forcing myself through a story I hate with no benefit beyond saying “I read this story” is tantamount to torture. Which is why, more and more, I don’t do it. It’s not from an inability to finish. If I must, I can finish. But motivation counts.
There are some books that surprise people when they find I cannot finish them. Indeed, A Tale of Two Cities nearly put me into slumber before the end of the first chapter. I’ve barely read classics people insist one must read: Steinbeck is intolerable, The Great Gatsby was so annoying I didn’t even read all of the first chapter (although I like Troy Wagner's abridged version), and I just want to punch Victor Hugo in the face. (I did make it through Hunchback, and verily, it was so depressing I had to watch several funny cat videos in a row to make myself feel better.)
Then there are those that surprise some but otherwise cause no comment. Romance novels have this effect; but as I've ranted about those, let us move on to "fluff mysteries". Fluff mysteries are usually part of a series, generally marketed toward women who are uncomfortable with aforementioned romance novels and/or sparkling hellspawn novels for mindless teenage girls. These series either center around a single theme (cats, sewing, baking, fashion, and “stuff”-no,really) or a rather unconventional protagonist.
Heather Wells of Size 12 is Not Fat is an unconventional protagonist. She is a former pop star who has quit the high life to become an assistant in a college dorm. She isn’t a pop star anymore because she…*gasp*…GAINED WEIGHT.
Yes, indeed, and we hear about this through the first three or four chapters, which is about how far I got before calling it quits on Heather and her unhealthy obsession with her own weight.
Not that it’s supposed to be unhealthy. Oh no. Meg Cabot makes it very clear that our chunky protagonist wouldn’t care a jot about her weight if those shallow people all around her weren’t always talking about weight. After all, SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT. So she says, repeatedly, throughout every chapter. We know little about her beyond her weight. We know she MOST DEFINITELY DOES NOT THINK SHE IS FAT AT ALL, that she eats enough for three people, and the drunkard wife of the dean is more interesting to read about than she is.
Most unfortunately, Meg Cabot wrote herself into a dilemma. Heather Wells insists size 12 is not fat. She means, according to the first chapter, that size 12 jeans are not fat. Many women (like yours truly) carry more weight in their bottom half, meaning we have big butts and we cannot lie. It’s easy to hit a size 12 without being particularly large in general. The problem we run into is that Heather Wells is constantly eating sugary, high fat food and has apparently gained so much weight that she is almost unrecognizable as the former pop star. Meg Cabot tries desperately to stand up for larger women everywhere, while depicting her large protagonist as eating unhealthily and setting a steady course for a heart attack in a few years, after a drunk resident in her dorm plays a startling Halloween practical joke.
The book is quite obnoxious, even more so because it makes good points that could have been made in a way that wasn’t anvilicious. We know, of course, thanks to What’s-His-Face of Abercrombie fame that we are surrounded by shallow people. But fighting against the shallow people by saying “I’m not fat, I just eat way too much and never do anything except sit on my butt filing paper work and shopping for jeans so I can complain about shallow department store workers!” is practically screaming, “I CAN QUIT WHENEVER I WANT TO”. Cabot didn’t score a hit against the beauty industry-she inadvertently justified it.*
*Annoyingly Necessary Disclaimer: I do not endorse nor approve the beauty industry’s standards, and believe that most models would look substantially happier if they ate bacon every so often.