Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is the first novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 8.7.2021
Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia, diet culture, racism
Charlie and her parents used to be a good team, but since her dad died, her mom has gotten obsessed with her own weight – and with Charlie’s. Constantly leaving her diet suggestions, Charlie feels that her mother is never happy with her. It feels like the only person who is firmly in her corner is Amelia – who is everything that Charlie is not: beautiful. Athletic. Popular. In a relationship with a cute boy. When Brian takes an interest in Charlie, instead of easier, things get even more complicated for her.
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is an absolutely lovely, wonderful and cute book that I wished I could have read when I was a (fat) teenager. But better now than never!
There aren’t many books with fat protagonists, and only a part of those are actually about fat acceptance (and not diet culture stuff). I remember when I was about Charlie’s age, my family gave me She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb to read. While I remember very little about the actual book, I remember very clearly how I thought in horror, “Is that how you see me, dear family?” Fat representation-wise it was a catastrophe. How different things could have been had I had a book like Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by my side. I think I would have arrived at fat acceptance much sooner had I had it.
Anyhow, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is a great read because I saw myself reflected in a lot of the struggles that Charlie goes through, for sure. I cried and I laughed with Charlie. When she and her mother fight about the diet stuff, I related a lot (although things were different with my mom, it was certainly a contentious topic for a while).
But that’s not the only thing that I loved about the book. At its heart is Charlie’s friendship with Amelia (who is pan, btw, and gets to have romances with a boy and a girl) and both of them are such vibrant characters, and their relationship gets to be messy (as relationships simply are), emphasising that you have to work through things sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that the friendship is bad. (Charlie also has to work through things with her mother, but in this relationship we also see that not everything can really be fixed. But it can get better.)
The romance stuff was cute, too. Brian is pretty much perfect romance material, on the verge of being too perfect. But he gets to be more than just the object of affection. The fact that he is Korean (and that Charlie is fat) did remind me a little of Eleanor & Park, but I hope that I did not miss the racism that I missed in Eleanor & Park yet again, but that it actually wasn’t there.
In short, it’s a really lovely read that made me happy and want to kiss the book.
Summarizing: read it, whether you’re fat or not.