Review: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

“Because this kiss is mine. Because this boy is mine. Because this life is mine. Because I deserve it.”

|| Goodreads ||

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.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega was everything I hoped it to be and more. Charlie is a cute, multi-talented, sassy and driven main character. And she’s fat. She’s okay with that, but she exists in a society that would rather her not be.

I purchased this book with hesitation because I wanted it to be revolutionary in the face of both internal and external fatphobia. Charlie is accompanied by her best friend Amelia who happens to be equally cute, multi-talented, sassy, and driven. All except, Amelia is skinny, and “everyone” seems to prefer her over Charlie. When I read this part of the synopsis, standing by my lonesome between the shelves in Barnes and Noble, I took a pause to question: what kind of narrative would this book tell? Would it stick to the typical plot of the skinny best friend wins while the fat best friend is left to linger in her shadow? Or would it examine that narrative, rip it to shreds, and stomp on it?

I am very happy to report that Fat Chance, Charlie Vega did the latter: it examined the narrative of comparing and sizing up two equally beautiful and intelligent best friends based on their body size, ripped it up, and stomped on it.

Throughout the book, Charlie experiences moments of confidence and insecurity; of pure joy and pure dread. She wins sometimes and she loses other times, and I enjoyed going through all of these experiences with her. Maldanado does an excellent job of writing side/supporting characters with enough personality to be able to stand on their own while also serving as foils to Charlie. In other words, the people around her uplift her and help solidify the narrative that her body size is not a con to who she is.

In all, this is a short, wholesome coming-of-age story about a fat main character who learns her worth and gets the guy. It’s amusing, heart-warming, and definitely does its part in examining and slowly dismantling fatphobia from the inside out.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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