I was super excited to read this one as it centers around paleontology – a topic I haven’t seen come up in YA before. How clever and fun! On top of that, the MC was a girl of larger size so that meant I was even more on board for this novel! How I felt after the story was quite different… what I read did not match my expectation and therefore I walked away disappointed. I’ll explain.
Short recap: Natalie Page has wanted nothing more on this planet than to dig up dinosaur bones. She is one step closer to her dream when she lands a coveted spot in a very prestigious paleontology internship. After arriving in Austin, TX to begin her internship, she quickly discovers that as a plus-size fashion blogger, maybe she didn’t pack the right wardrobe. Vintage dresses and heels are not going to cut it while she is out and about getting dirty. Along the way she catches the eye of a very cute boy named Chase who is also an intern. Can these two uncover something more than dinosaur bones? Natalie also discovers that her hero paleontologist is not the true great guy everyone thinks he is. This jerk ends up stealing the credit for a discover that she made and she isn’t going to give that up without a fight.
WHEW. There we go. There was a lot crammed into this quick read of a book. It was not all bad but there were big parts that made me honest-to-God roll my eyes outloud. They were absurd and offensive at times. I’ll bullet point a few for you:
Judging of others
I don’t feel those topics were handled well in this story at all. The fat shaming wasn’t so much from other people around Natalie, it was Natalie fat shaming herself. That’s right! She would eat like a bird in front of people but then sneak back into the cafeteria and grab so much more to eat, then silently beat herself up. How is that ok? Not once did the author take the time to let the character have some kind of self-reflection that said things like that WERE NOT OK. She constantly did this negative behavior and it really bothered me, like a lot bothered me.
Negative things like this continued throughout the story, example: judging of others. When Natalie and Chase discover that they are the two “scholarship” interns, they immediately start hating on the other kids who got in based on the check their parents wrote. I get that happens but it is absolutely no reason to judge someone. It did not stop there. Whenever Natalie met someone new, she instantly sized them up by *guessing their weight and dress size*. Excuse me? Who are you to judge me based on my weight and dress size? You don’t know what I’ve been through to get to this size or what demons are in my closet. That character feature did not need to be included as it did not serve a purpose.
As for self-harm, buckle your seat belts. Natalie wore a rubber band around her wrist and she would snap it every time she had a negative thought or (apparently) was anxious – which meant most of the time. She was walking around that damn place with welts on her wrists from snapping it so much. Again, I ask, how is that a good thing to portray? WHY is that a good thing to portray? People saw her do it but nobody really stepped in to ask the girl if she was okay. They allowed her to do it until it festered and required medical attention. THAT IS A PROBLEM NOT SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED TO MOVE THE STORY ALONG. None of these topics were properly addressed and that made me so mad. They are all serious items and not boxes that needed to be checked for the sake of a story.
This was absolutely not the GIRL POWER! story I was hoping for. Natalie’s character spent a good deal of time making sure she was “presentable” before stepping out of her door every morning. Sorry, but why did she think packing dresses and ridiculous heels would be ok for the type of internship she was attending? It was ludicrous! The character spent far too much time talking about how she would NEVER go into public without her spanx on. Sorry, but what was this story about again? Was it about a girl who was trying to make it one step closer to being a paleontologist or a fashion blogger? There really was no need to make this teen appear to be so vapid and void of common sense. Speaking of her dream of being a paleontologist… the girl was a Junior in HS yet everything she learned about this field was from reading articles online and listening to podcasts. How could she possibly believe her fashion choices and the absurd amount of makeup she packed seem like a logical idea? I’m still shaking my head and rolling my eyes.
While I’m not upset that I completed this story, I am upset by what I read between the covers. If this was the first YA story I read, I would question my choices in books. It would have believed that most teens were devoid of any logical way of thinking. I know that isn’t the case, I KNOW IT ISN’T. YA is better than this and I’m disappointed with what I read. Would I recommend? Not at all. I didn’t like the way topics were brought up and used merely as a way to move the story along, not necessary talking points. It was so obvious how the story would end but I did not like the route it took to get there. If you read this, use caution. If you read and loved it, I wish I could have read with your eyes. It was not what I was hoping for.