Book Review: Sasha Paley’s Huge

Link to novel here.

Additional note: I did not view the TV series at all.

Premise (no spoilers): Two teenage girls attend a weight loss camp, under different pressures and for different reasons.

Review (may contain spoilers):

Feet on scale

When it comes to the young adult novel Huge, my reactions are pretty mixed.

On one hand, it is nice to have a novel with fat main characters. Going beyond that, it is nice to have a novel with fat main characters who are something beyond the same cardboard cutout.

I mean, yes, April’s character is a little cliche in her desire to lose weight and the sort of… neediness?… with which she does it. While there are certainly some health considerations and influences in her life, my impression as a reader was that her primary reason for attending fat camp (in the specific form of Wellness Canyon) was because she was unhappy with the appearance of her body.

Which is absolutely a legit motivation but might be more meaningful if it were fleshed out in a unique way and/or if I hadn’t seen it portrayed in media multiple times.

Then there’s Wil, who’s shipped off to Wellness Canyon at her parents’ behest. That her parents are fitness center gurus only adds to the pressure and squick. Wil’s initial plan is to attend fat camp determined to gain even more weight — and that contrariness is indicative of Wil’s overall personality, which is a solid contrast to April’s eagerness to please.

At Wellness Canyon, there are boy crushes, douchebaggery, weight loss, revenge, and friendship bonding. Alongside happy endings, both main characters cultivate new attachments and outlooks on life.

Unfortunately, this is portrayed as happening on account of (in whole or in part) their substantial weight loss. Not that losing weight is a bad thing, in itself. But the novelist seems to buy into the fantasy of being thin — that is, she equates April’s and Wil’s new outlooks on life with their new body shapes.

Not that stories centering fat characters are so prevalent that I can afford to disregard this one, but I am kind of over that fantasy. It would not break my heart to discover a story about a character who was fat but essentially content that way. Or who at least didn’t have to lose substantial amounts of weight to be seen as “successful.”

Someday — in that mythical future when I have free time — I may need to gear up to write that.

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3 comments on “Book Review: Sasha Paley’s Huge
  1. G says:

    Interesting! I’ve only seen the TV series and it looks like the book and the show are pretty different. As far as I’m concerned, it’s of very little use to have fat characters if it’s just FoBT, you know?

    I felt the series was pretty revolutionary. Highly recommended if you ever get the chance :)

    • Tori says:

      Yeah, the book was pretty mediocre. I suppose it’s a step in the right direction to have fat characters who aren’t caricatures, but at this point, that’s not enough for me.

  2. Autumn says:

    Since you didn’t watch the TV series this is utterly beside the point. But I will say it anyway! I was overall pretty pleased with the show “Drop Dead Diva,” though I only watched the first season. It’s a show about an aspiring model who dies AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT as a fat, whip-smart attorney dies and the model’s soul–wait for it!–goes into the fat woman’s body, so now this model has to learn how to deal with being fat. WOAH, I know. So it’s a ridiculous show and it’s not exactly sophisticated in its treatment of, well, anyone. But early on in season 1, the lead character realized that the body she lived in wasn’t meant to be any thinner than it was; it was built the way it was, and weight-loss efforts stopped pretty quickly. And then you see her live a normal life (well, as normal as can be when you’re living in someone else’s body). So, not great, but also did feature a fat character who’s fine with it in the end. (Well, through season 1, anyway.)

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