Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (2021) is a so-needed YA chick-lit/ romance that features a fat, brown, teenage writer who is trying to be fat positive in our current anti-fat world. Her mother fully embraces diet culture, and is living in a newly thin body in the aftermath of Charlie’s father’s death. Charlie has a best friend, Amelia, who is black, and the two girls are some of few people of color in their Connecticut town. Amelia is athletic and smart — and Charlie is more than a little jealous of how much everyone else, including Charlie’s own mother, loves Amelia.

Charlie has a crush on a popular football player, who has a crush on Amelia, who is not interested. Things go very badly when Charlie thinks he asks her to a dance but he’s really asked Charlie to ask Amelia to come along. But there’s also a boy at Charlie’s job and in her art class–Brian–who seems interesting and interested in her. Could this finally be her chance? She’s written so many romantic stories about the fat girl who gets the guy but it’s never happened for her.

While she’s in a whirlwind romance with Brian, her friendship with Amelia suffers because she’s never had to balance time with a boyfriend with time with her friends. And then Amelia tells her something that makes her rethink everything she has felt with Brian. And all the while, her mother has been leaving protein shakes for her, which she dumps down the sink.

Maldonado has done a great job in showing Charlie in the process of fat acceptance–of having read about fat liberation, believing it, and wanting to take it in–but at the same time living with someone who embraces diet culture and the all-encompassing belief that fat people should be trying to be thin–and trying to figure out what that means for herself. So be aware that there are anti-fat messages here, particularly from Charlie’s mom. But Charlie pushes them away like the protein shakes, so the overall message of the book is fat positive,

I really enjoyed it, and wish that there had been books like this when I was Charlie’s age.

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