No Filter and Other Lies (Crystal Maldonado)

No Filter and Other Lies is the second novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 4.3.2022

Plot:
Kat loves photography, and she has carefully curated her instagram to show the best of her photos. Nevertheless, her follower count remains low – much lower than her best friends’, Hari, Marcus and Luis. She suspects this might have to do with the fact that she is fat and Brown. After a fight with Hari, with whom she has been making out despite the naggling suspicion that he likes her more than she him, Kat makes a bad decision: she takes the photos of her friend Becca who is blond, thin, beautiful and not on social media and creates a fake account with them. Kat starts regretting it pretty immediately but when the account keeps raking in likes and this really cute girl, Elena, starts messaging the fake profile, Kat can’t quite give it up.

No Filter and Other Lies is cute and has a queer, fat Latina as the protagonist which is something I am completely here for. And yet, it didn’t quite make me happy.

The book cover showing a drawing of a fat Latina with a camera. Behind her a snapshots of a fat girl with pink hair, a blond girl, and a Brown guy.
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Love, Dance & Egg Rolls (Jason Tanamor)

Love, Dance & Egg Rolls is the first novel by Jason Tanamor.
Finished on: 9.1.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Jamie loves to dance Filipino folk dances, a fact he carefully keeps under wraps at his high school, despite dancing at an Asian Folk Festival every year. Given that his former friend turned high school bully keeps sending him racist messages, the mood in Portland during the Trump administration is heated anyway, and even his best friends say racist things every once in a while, Jamie keeps considering leaving his Filipino heritage behind altogether – despite his love for egg rolls and Tinikling. But then he learns that the Asian Folk Festival will happen for the last time this year, and on the day of the Homecoming dance no less. Jamie has to decide who he wants to be. And maybe Bethany, the cool goth girl he has had a crush on since forever, can help him find his way.

Love, Dance & Egg Rolls is better in theory than in practice, I’m afraid. I liked that it takes on racism in a humorous way, and shares its love of Filipino culture, but it felt rough and the writing is simply not particularly good.

The book cover showing a drawing of Brown legs as they dance the Tinikling.
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Pumpkin (Julie Murphy)

Pumpkin is a novel by Julie Murphy. It’s a companion to Dumplin’ and Puddin’.
Finished on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
Waylon Brewer is a gay, fat boy stuck in a small town. He is desperately waiting for High School to be over, so he and his twin sister Clementine can get out of there and he can actually start to be as flamboyant as he wants to be. Not that he is able to hide that he is gay, even if he wanted to. But there is “being femme” and then there is “being a sparkling queen”, and Waylon isn’t ready to be the latter in Clover City. That doesn’t keep him from creating Miss Pumpkin Patch and making an audition video for his favorite drag reality TV show though. When that video gets out and is circulated in school, it leads to him being nominated for prom queen, and Clem’s girlfriend Hannah is nominated for prom king. Waylon has a choice to make: turn himself down as much as he can, or finally go full Waylon, even if that means spending a lot of time with gorgeous, but infuriating prom king nominee Tucker.

Pumpkin is a wonderfully sweet, funny read that gives you just the right amount of fluff and romance, with a nice dose of life advice we can all take to heart a little more.

The pink book cover showing the graphic of a ginger fat boy wearing a suit, a rainbow kummerbund and red high-heels.
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Puddin’ (Julie Murphy)

Puddin’ is a novel by Julie Murphy. It’s a companion to Dumplin’.
Finished on: 4.11.2021

Plot:
Millie Michalchuk has spent every summer at fat camp, not that it had much effect on her being fat. And really, she is quite alright with being fat, but her mom isn’t, and so the threat of fat camp hangs over her head yet again. But this year, Millie has other plans. She just doesn’t know yet how to tell her mom about it. That entire thing takes a backseat though when the gym that Millie works at and that belongs to her uncle is vandalized. Millie realizes that one of the perpetrators is Callie Reyes. Popular, beautiful and mean, and now, apparently a criminal, Callie is everything that Millie is not. When Millie’s uncle decides that Callie can work off the damages at the gym, neither Millie nor Callie are thrilled to be working with the other. But Millie is determined to make a friend out of Callie yet, despite everything. And somehow, things start moving.

Puddin’ is a super cute and sweet read that I enjoyed a lot, even though I was a little disappointed because I was hoping for this turn into a romance between Millie and Callie. It does not. But it does tell a very nice story about platonic friendship and that is great, too.

The book cover showing an illustration of two girls, a white fat girl in a black dress with white flowers and a Brown thin girl in a dance uniform.
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Re-Read: Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy)

Dumplin’ is a novel by Julie Murphy.
Finished on: 30.9.2021
[Here’s my first review.] [Here’s the review of the movie adaptation.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia

Plot:
Willowdean, known by most people as Will, but always Dumplin’ to her mother, is a fat teenager who is actually rather comfortable with herself. She lives with her mother Rosie, a former beauty queen who is still very active in organizing the pageant. When Will starts working at a local fast food joint, she meets Bo who works there, too. He is a hot, private school jock – and he is also likeable and seems to be into Will. Will doesn’t know how to deal with that and finds herself doubting where she was always confident before. To give herself a confidence boost, she decides to compete in her mother’s pageant – horrifying her mother and inspiring some other girls who never thought they would to go for it, too.

I really enjoyed Dumplin’ the first time I read it, and I’m happy to report that it holds up very well to a second reading. It’s still sweet and fun, while touching on heavier topics, and Will is a great character.

the book cover showing a fat girl in a fancy, red dress with her arms spread wide.
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Pizza Girl (Jean Kyoung Frazier)

Pizza Girl is the first novel by Jean Kyoung Frazier.
Finished on: 11.8.2021

Content Note: stalking, alcoholism

Plot:
She is 18 years old, pregnant and works as a pizza delivery girl. Living with her mother and her boyfriend who seem way more excited about the baby than she is, she has no idea where to go from here. She doesn’t even want to think about it. Then she delivers a pizza one day to Jenny and her son. Something about Jenny’s apparently chaotic life and her ponytail draws her in, and Jenny, too, seems to take an interest in the “Pizza Girl”, as she calls her. She starts waiting and hoping for Jenny’s call to the pizza place every week – but soon that isn’t enough anymore.

Pizza Girl should be a heavy book but somehow Frazier manages to keep it light and quick despite the many difficult topics she touches on. While I appreciate that, I would have also liked to feel the heaviness a little more. That being said, it’s certainly a memorable novel and a very good debut that will stay with me.

The book cover showing a graphic of an open, empty pizza box in front of a black and pink background.
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Fat Chance, Charlie Vega (Crystal Maldonado)

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

Plot:
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!

The book cover showing a fat, Brown girl with glasses in front of a few flowers.
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Felix Ever After (Kacen Callender)

Felix Ever After is a novel by Kacen Callender.
Finished on: 25.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Felix is a student at an art school, hoping to get into a good college to pursue his art further. He therefore attends summer school with his best friend Ezra. He is also Black, trans, queer and desperate to fall in love for the first time, but secretly afraid that he has one marginalized identity too many. And maybe he is not all that sure about his identities anyway. Before he figures anything out, though, Felix arrives in school one morning to find pre-transitions photos of himself and his deadname plastered all over the school gallery. Suspecting his classmate and rival Declan, Felix hatches a plan to make him pay. But that plan leads him somewhere else entirely.

Felix Ever After is wonderful. Simply wonderful. It’s the kind of novel that queer people everywhere should grow up with, really. It made my heart swell in the best of ways.

The book cover showing an illustration of a Black guy in a tank top. His arms are covered in small tattoos, he is wearing a flower crown and underneath the tank top, we can just make out scars from top surgery.
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The Black Flamingo (Dean Atta)

The Black Flamingo is the first novel by Dean Atta, with illustrations by Anshika Khullar.
Finished on: 10.5.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, homomisia

Plot:
Michael is a Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican, gay, Black boy in England. Figuring out what that means exactly isn’t easy. Throughout high school, he figures things out together with his best friend Daisy. But it isn’t until university where Michael discovers drag for himself that he really finds answers to the question of who he is.

The Black Flamingo is a novel in verse written for a younger audience about identity, race and sexual orientation. In theory, this sounds like a challenging novel to say the least. In practice, it is a wonderfully easy, touching read that challenges in such a way that you barely notice what it’s doing. It is absolutely fantastic.

The book cover showing the drawing of a young Black man wearing black feathers, cradling a black flamingo. He is surrounded by pink feathers and four pink flamingos.
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Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams)

Queenie is the first novel by Candice Carty-Williams.
Finished on: 13.3.2021

Content Note: abuse, sexualized violence, self-harm, mental illness, (critical treatment of) racism and misogynoir

Plot:
Queenie works as a journalist and lives with her boyfriend Tom. Or rather, she lived with Tom – until Tom decided to stay with his parents for a while. When Tom finally asks Queenie to move out of their apartment while they are on a break, Queenie starts to unravel completely. She feels out of place at work and with her family, and generally feels out of sorts. While her friends try to support her, it is unclear whether Queenie can support herself.

Queenie is an unusual book in that it both handles really tough topics and has the tone of a RomCom most of the time. You have to brace yourself for many parts of the novel, and then you find yourself laughing again. It is a mix that is both uncomfortable and works extremely well. I was very impressed by it, especially considering that it’s a debut novel.

The book cover showing the drawing of a knot of rasta locks, and a pierced ear with three earrings. The face of the drawn person isn't visible.
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