One to Watch (Kate Stayman-London)

One to Watch is a novel by Kate Stayman-London.
Finished on: 29.10.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fat hate (internalized and otherwise), bimisia

Bea Schumacher has made her career as a fat fashion blogger and she is mostly very happy with her life, if it wasn’t for her being unhappily in love. She is also a huge fan of the reality show Main Squeeze where several people compete for the heart of one person. But when she makes her frustration with the lack of body diversity public, she gets the most surprising offer of all times: how about she herself becomes the next star on Main Squeeze and have men compete for her for a change? Bea accepts, but dating while being fat comes with a lot of challenges – and that isn’t even factoring in the fact that she will have to do it in front of an audience of millions.

One to Watch is a fun read and definitely scratches romance itches, but what made it extra special to read for me as a fat woman is that it features a fat protagonist and takes on many ways fat hate operates. It’s not always perfect, but it is a very good read.

The book cover showing the drawing of a fat woman from behind. She is wearing a fashionable pink dress with roses. Her hair is also pink. She has one hand behind her back holding a ring. Five movie cameras are pointed at her from all directions.

There are very few books with fat protagonists and when there are any fat characters in a book at all, they are usually either sad slobs or comic relief or both. Unless they are children, then they are mean bullies or comic relief or both. Fat representation sucks, is what I’m saying, so when I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. Not only do we get a fat protagonist, but we get a fat protagonist in a romance who is not (obsessed with) losing weight.

And One to Watch certainly delivered. The book is fun. It’s romantic. There’s drama and emotions and everything you expect from a reality TV show, but always with an eye on the characters. There are cute guys for Bea who are standard-beautiful (too often, fat characters get paired off with other fat characters, if they get paired off at all. Not that there’s anything wrong with a fat person dating another fat person, but it creates a bit of a fat dating ghetto). Nevertheless, it would have been nice if there had been more than one (slightly) fat guy there – although at least that fact is critically commented on by Bea.

Bea is a confident woman in many ways, but I loved that the book showed that confidence isn’t a simple binary. When it comes to dating and being sexy, Bea is insecure and has issues. And everything is heightened of course, by the presence of camera and knowing that her every fat roll, all her blunders, every weak moment will be broadcast to the world at large, a world that is intensely fatmisic. Letting yourself be vulnerable in those circumstances and not fret is even more difficult.

Stayman-London captures the many ways fat women are screwed in our society, especially when it comes to dating and romance with a keen eye. She obviously was also conscious of introducing a diverse roster of guys as well. There she isn’t as spot-on as she should be, maybe. The guys stay a little flat overall and I rolled my eyes hard that it was the bi guy, of course, who turns out to be a cheat – reinforcing that trope that bisexuals are greedy fuckers who can’t keep it in their pants.

That being said, I had fun with the book that is a quite compulsive read. And in any case, I’m here for fat people getting HEAs and everything they ever wanted. One to Watch gives us that for sure.

Summarizing: Sweet and fun.

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