Crystal Maldonado’s debut novel blends body positivity, friendship, romance and an effortlessly diverse cast in a captivating contemporary young adult novel. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is a book young adult readers everywhere should pick up, but be warned: it will capture you and refuse to let go until you have read the very last word.
Like most teenagers, Charlie Vega is struggling to accept herself in the face of unattainable societal standards and a competitive comparison culture made worse by social media. But it’s difficult when her mother pushes weight loss shakes at her, and her best friend Amelia is the seemingly perfect and popular girl. As a fat, glasses-wearing Puerto Rican girl growing up in a predominately white Connecticut suburb, Charlie feels like an outsider in her own community.
Conflicted with feeling like she’s in Amelia’s shadow, Charlie’s insecurities only come flooding back when she finds out that Brian, a cute classmate and coworker who has taken an interest in her, asked Amelia out first. Amongst turbulent relationships that leave Charlie with tumultuous emotions, she turns to internet communities and her writing.
An #ownvoices novel with an effortlessly diverse cast, I especially appreciated that the “Heather” of the book—the character everyone couldn’t help but love—was a Black pansexual woman. Charlie’s own experiences with internet communities and support from “fatshionistas” (fat fashionistas) online felt timely and heartwarming. Apart from Maldonado’s incredibly immersive writing (and the stunning cover), the wonderful cast of characters, and the details of being a writer and reader through Charlie’s love of bookstores, coffee shops, her writing nook. . .
Okay, maybe I’m getting a little too carried away. But apart from all these other features, I loved the relevant inclusion of online communities and friendships that can be supportive especially for teens and young adults. As a whole, it was an incredibly well-done debut.
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega takes all the best parts of YA and bundles them into a beautiful book.
It’s a book about relationships—familial, romantic, friendships. It’s a book about body positivity, acceptance, and self-love in an environment that only highlights your faults in comparison to an unattainable standard. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is a book for anyone who has ever felt like they were not enough, or too much. For anyone who has felt scared to take up space or tell their own story. There is always room for you.
For more details about Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, be sure to check out our interview with Crystal Maldonado!