Author: Jen Larsen
Synopsis: Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness. Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is. But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.
As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.
Wow this book took me by surprise! I actually liked it a lot more than another book that’s coming out soon that is also about big girls and body positivity.
First off I need to say that I’ve seen a lot of outraged reviews crying HOW CAN A LOVING GRANDMOTHER DO THIS TO HER GRANDCHILD?! Well… the Grandmother in this book is not the type of cookie baking, present giving, snuggly grandmother, Nana, Granny, what have you that comes to mind when you think “Grandmother”. The Grandmother in this book is a hard, ambitious woman who grew up, worked and thrived in a world older than ours. With different expectations. In our more progressive, contemporary society body image and the fight for body positivity is NOTHING LIKE what this woman had to deal with. Grandmother is a female surgeon who succeeded in a field during a time when it was difficult for women to do so. And being pretty was a way to get ahead, gain respect, and be taken a little more seriously (I mean come on, this woman must have been working in the 70-80s!) So I think that if we take a moment to think about what Grandmother is REALLY like in this book then, yes, she COULD do this to her grandchild.
Every year for her birthday Ashley, our MC, gets a card with a coupon in it from Grandmother. Lose 50 pounds and you get a new car. Lose 80 pounds and you get a shopping trip in Paris. Finally on her 17th birthday Ashley gets the ultimate coupon: get weight loss surgery and you get 4 full years of tuition to Harvard University. Harvard is Ashley’s dream. She wants to be a doctor and she works hard to get in to such a prestigious school. Now Ashley is a big girl, but she’s SUPER confident and okay with her body. She attends a small alternative school with her best friends and boyfriend, she’s the Valedictorian, plays volleyball, and she’s happy. Her home life could probably use some work (mother walked out on them, father is pretty hopeless, Grandmother takes care of them), but she’s happy. And has no issue with her size. Until her Grandmother makes a point of it. Sure she confessed to her longtime crush and he turned her down because she “wasn’t his type” and she knew he really just didn’t want to date the fat chick, but she moved on!
So when Ashley is presented with this ultimate choice she doesn’t know what to do. Her friends are against it and Ashley doesn’t want it. She doesn’t understand why her Grandmother can’t see that her weight is NOT holding her back. Grandmother thinks that people wont take Ashley seriously because of her weight, that they’ll discredit her or not even give her the time of day. Grandmother thinks that being thin will get Ashley ahead. See what I mean by old fashioned thinking?
Now, I was rooting for Ashley to do what she wanted. This book is about body positivity but it’s also about CHOICES. And I liked that. Everyone has the right to choose what to do with their own body. Yes some people choose to treat their bodies like crap, but others choose to be happy in their skin no matter what their size. Or gender. See, there was this lovely transgender subplot that was so seamlessly woven in that it didn’t even really register with me until like halfway through the book. One of Ashley’s BFF’s, Jolene, is transgender. Has been since 4th grade. And ironically her biggest supporter is GRANDMOTHER! I loved this so much. As old fashioned as the woman is, she just wants people to be happy in what she believes is their best body. And while she doesn’t think that Ashley’s size 20 is her best body, she does believe that Jolene being a girl rather than a boy is her best body. And she fights hard to protect Jolene from her awful parents. There’s a very interesting juxtaposition between the two different types of body modification surgeries talked about in this book and Jolene’s parents are pushing her to choose to move forward and do something about her ~transition~ and she’s not sure if she wants to go through the physical surgical change and I loved so much how the message regarding both Ashley and Jolene was IT IS YOUR CHOICE AND NOBODY ELSES.
So what does Ashley choose? Read the book, go on the adventure with her and her friends and find out! Explore her choices and root for how awesome she is because Ashley is an awesome girl!
One final thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the writing! It was so full of energy and a bit frantic at times and I just really enjoyed all the little things, the character quirks, ALL THE CUTE PUPPIES. Yes. ALL. THE. CUTE. PUPPIES.