Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. Holiday House, 9780823447176, 2021

Format: Hardcover

Rating: (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Romance

What did you like about the book? Charlie is fat. She does her best to stay within the body acceptance movement, following fat fashion hashtags and looking for community online, but it’s hard to stay positive when Charlie’s mom is casually cruel and undermining, leaving weight loss shakes on the kitchen table and refusing to cook any of the comforting childhood meals Charlie remembers. Both Charlie and her mother are still grieving the death of Charlie’s Puerto Rican father, but Charlie’s white mother channels that energy into centering her own weight loss “journey,” solidifying a perfect façade, and making Charlie feel insignificant and unheard. Additionally, Charlie has an ambivalent relationship with her best friend Amelia. While Amelia is warm and supportive, Charlie feels inferior to her straight-sized friend; everyone in their high school, including Charlie’s current crush, thinks Amelia is gorgeous and clamors to date her. Even Charlie’s mother urges Amelia to call her mom, making Charlie think that her mother would prefer Amelia as a daughter. Charlie longs for love, and she’s stunned when a cute boy, Brian, shows an interest. Brian admires Charlie’s creative writing and sense of humor, and they begin to date. But when Charlie finds out that Brian used to have a crush on Amelia, her self- doubt may destroy her happiness. Can Charlie make those around her really see her for who she is? Can she find the self-confidence to move this relationship forward?

This book does everything so well – the pain of fatphobia and a parent who doesn’t understand, the pleasure of creative writing, the ups and downs of high school romance, Charlie’s valid feelings and also the places where she is blind to the perspectives of others. Maldonado excels at letting each character explain their vulnerabilities, including Brian introducing his two moms, Amelia’s pansexuality, or Charlie’s complicated feelings about not being able to speak Spanish with the Puerto Rican side of her family. The romance is sweet and grounded, and the “grand gesture,” while not truly grand, is totally worth it.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?   Anyone who loves romance, anyone seeking books about body positivity. Readalikes: A Pho Love Story, When Dimple Met Rishi.

Who should buy this book? Middle schools (8th grade), high schools, public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA Romance

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Rachel Chiel Katz, Schechter Boston, Newton, MA

Date of review: 4/9/2021

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