Relationships are the cornerstone of Crystal Maldonado's uplifting YA debut, but it's the bond with self that makes 16-year-old Charlie Vega an authentically drawn, charismatic protagonist.
"As a family," Charlie recalls, "we were fat, and maybe we didn't love that... but we accepted it." Then, when Charlie was 13, her proudly Puerto Rican father died. By 14, her white mother, who had previously delighted in cooking Puerto Rican-fare better than Charlie's father, "shrank"--and Charlie didn't. The rift that had always been present between the two widened as her mother dove into meal-replacement shakes and Charlie immersed herself in online writing communities, feminism and the fat acceptance movement. Charlie desperately wants to accept herself as is but finds it difficult to move past the perfect ideal of thinness. Her best friend, Amelia, "is the walking embodiment of Black excellence" and Charlie feels "anxious and insecure" next to her. It doesn't help that boys keep trying to use Charlie to get to Amelia. On top of her feelings of loss and low self-esteem, Charlie has also never been kissed. And so, when a young man who likes her enters the scene, she throws herself wholly into the relationship, to the detriment of others.
Maldonado created such a realistic teenager by, in her words, "highlighting examples of how the world treats Charlie so that readers aren't just hearing the internal pressure that Charlie is applying to herself, but also seeing the external pressure." Charlie's doubts, frustrations, fears, joys, excitements... all are graphically detailed to allow readers a painfully clear view of her experience. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is an utterly heartwarming story of love--of friends, of family, of romance and, most importantly, of oneself. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness