I had never heard of this until I saw the author has a sequel coming out soon (no joke, The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I comes out May 29, 2018). I figured I would read this to see if I wanted the sequel. Normally the title would have kept me away because that is not a title that would draw my attention. I was hoping for a light and funny read but what I got was a lot of serious topics and unresolved issues.
Short recap: Virginia is bigger than anyone else in her family and they have a rude way of reminding her about that. Virginia struggles daily to find how she fits in and how she could become comfortable with who she is.
In the beginning, I liked Virginia’s character. I was cheering her on but that was short lived. When she started making the “Fat Girl Code of Conduct” I was floored. I was much larger when I was younger and my high school years were hands down some of my worst years ever, but I wouldn’t have made a list that listed that fat girls should allow guys to make out with them in secret. Are you kidding me? This girl had a warped view of herself in the world. She hated on every other girl in her school, saying they were all super thin. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t true as people come in all shapes & sizes. Virginia made it seem that she was the only heavy girl she has ever come into contact with and I just don’t believe that. I can’t believe that.
Virginia did not get much better after that. She hates on herself constantly and has zero confidence/self-esteem. I believe 98.56% of that comes from her crappy family. Her parents were absolute jerks. Her mom was the worst. The woman was supposed to be a teen psychologist yet she couldn’t see what she was doing to her own child? She couldn’t see that how she talked and acted towards her was WRONG? This woman obsessed and nitpicked over every single thing her daughter ate. Aren’t parents supposed to be encouraging? They never bothered to actually talk to Virginia, they just made rude comments about her size. I got the impression that her mother was actually ashamed of her own daughter, especially after her other daughter was “so perfect”. How screwed up is that?
The one character I did love in this story is Virginia’s best friend, Shannon. I adored her! I wish she had a bigger role because she was the one positive influence in Virginia’s life. Shannon never judged or provoked, she was just a welcome breath of fresh air in this story.
The sudden transformation Virginia goes through felt unbelievable. Dying hair and getting a facial piercing does not suddenly make someone accept they are a heavy person. It does not make them love their body type or make them comfortable in their own skin. I was happy that Virginia finally started speaking her mind about things that bothered her, but she was downright rude about it. She started snapping at people, biting their heads off, and walking around like she was Queen Sh!t. Calm down, princess, no need to take everyone’s heads off if they say something you don’t like. There is a rational and logical way to express your thoughts and feelings to someone that actually encourages communication. What you did was lay down your rule and say it was law.
The major issues mentioned within this entire story felt unresolved in the worst way: self harm, date rape, and bulimia. Virginia makes references to killing herself (drinking bleach) after the rape allegations are made. Her best friend, Shannon, is the only one she says it to but does ask her not to do that. The friend is still so concerned about Virginia that she calls her the next morning from the other side of the US to make sure she is okay. Why couldn’t Shannon have gone one step further and tell her parents what was going on? She clearly has a good relationship with them so why not tell an adult? We’ll never know because it is never talked about again. Unless you count the time one of the three most popular girls says, “If I was Virginia, I would kill myself”. Virginia overheard that and it stayed with her. All she could think about was, “Brie would rather kill herself than be me.” But we never hear about that again either. Guess all is well… ?
Date rape: Virginia’s brother, who is worshiped by their parents, is found guilty of date raping a girl at his college. No details are ever given other than that. I’m not saying details need to be given but how about Mackler take this opportunity to talk about this topic and express how wrong it is… or what girls can do to protect themselves? Just a few thoughts.
Bulimia: This may be no big shocker but Virginia that the nastiest girl in school, Brie, has bulimia. This is the very same girl that was overheard saying she would rather kill herself than be Virginia. Does Virginia do anything with this information, such as alert a school official? NOPE. She turns around and walks quietly out of the bathroom. She keeps bringing attention to this when she sees Brie struggling in gym class. Stop being so quiet about this. Say something! It felt like this VERY serious topic was swept under the rug. This could have been another perfect time to explain what this condition is and how bad it is.
Or better yet, how about the author try not to cram so many important and serious topics into a book that supposed to be funny and light?
The big takeaway from this story is this: it is readable. It is not a light and fluffy read. It is also not very believable. The ending was too rushed and Mackler tried to force everything into a perfect box but that didn’t work. Again, dying your hair and getting a facial piercing does not fix all of your problems. In the story she suddenly became popular and everyone loved her because she colored her hair purple and got an eyebrow ring, she started losing weight, her parents became proud of her, and found her voice. It was just… too perfect. I didn’t buy it for a second. I was hoping for so much more.