Monday, April 25, 2016

Thoughts: Size 12 Is Not Fat

Size 12 Is Not Fat

by Meg Cabot
Book 1 of Heather Wells series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

Size 12 Is Not Fat started off as a promising story based around a non-standard young female character, Heather Wells, who is not only NOT a Size Zero, slender and athletically fit woman, but she’s also a little on the cuckoo side with her runaway reveries and slightly over-the-top actions and behavior. The book was very fun to start off with and had potential to maintain that fun, cute, and breezy tone.

We throw in the mystery for more excitement, right off the bat, and things just start rolling from there.

It’s only unfortunate that the going just ended up getting a little… meh… and annoying by the time you finish the book. Make no mistake, I had my fair share of enjoyment from this book. I just also found that a lot of it started to meander off of the story’s concept, using it instead as a springboard for tacky, ill-conceived jokes that ended up being overused.

Nevertheless, while I didn’t entirely like this book, it wasn’t like I disliked it with a passion or anything. A few annoying anecdotes and interludes here and there aren’t grounds for extreme dislike of something. However, I must say that the entire book DOES read like some sort of made-for-television, “this requires immense suspension of disbelief” family comedy where things only make sense if you don’t think too hard.

Humorous is humorous, but overdoing it can get annoying.

Heather Wells has potential to be a witty and likable heroine, though. I had started the book off enjoying the narration and reading along with Heather's POV... until the jokes got too overused and irritatingly eye-roll-worthy. I even really like Cooper despite his penchant for lurking in the background as the Standard Male Love Interest™. He exudes charm, but he also presents as that one "Perfect Main Male Character" who never did anything wrong to upset either our Main Female Character or even the readers. So, in a sense, he was a great guy, but he was also ultra-boring.

Again, the potential for these two in the friendship-to-romance sector is pretty good. I might read the next few books just to see how their relationship turns out, because at the very least, I loved their current friendship (even if Heather's reveries take things a little overboard).

The Official Story Blurb:
Heather Wells Rocks!

Or, at least, she did. That was before she left the pop-idol life behind after she gained a dress size or two — and lost a boyfriend, a recording contract, and her life savings (when Mom took the money and ran off to Argentina). Now that the glamour and glory days of endless mall appearances are in the past, Heather's perfectly happy with her new size 12 shape (the average for the American woman!) and her new job as an assistant dorm director at one of New York's top colleges. That is, until the dead body of a female student from Heather's residence hall is discovered at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

The cops and the college president are ready to chalk the death off as an accident, the result of reckless youthful mischief. But Heather knows teenage girls . . . and girls do not elevator surf. Yet no one wants to listen — not the police, her colleagues, or the P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives — even when more students start turning up dead in equally ordinary and subtly sinister ways. So Heather makes the decision to take on yet another new career: as spunky girl detective!

But her new job comes with few benefits, no cheering crowds, and lots of liabilities, some of them potentially fatal. And nothing ticks off a killer more than a portly ex-pop star who's sticking her nose where it doesn't belong . . .

My Thoughts:
I understand that Meg Cabot is a pretty well-known name in the Young Adult and Sort of Adult genre with her Contemporaries, Mysteries, popular story ideas as well as that big book-to-movie The Princess Diaries deal. I certainly have a fondness for The Princess Diaries, the movie--both of them. I also have a fondness for Anne Hathaway, so that might contribute more than the story itself.

I won’t deny that, after reading Size 12 Is Not Fat, I did manage to find some enjoyment. In fact, the book started out very strong and very intriguing. The narration wasn’t too bad either if you can overlook the fact that Heather Wells is repetitive, has poor use of grammar, and needs to get her priorities straight. Even the murder mystery presented in this book was pretty solid, decently executed, even if slightly predictable.

The only downfall of the murder mystery would be that the deaths were obviously more than just a few kids being reckless, and the fact that all of these deaths and near-death accidents kept happening, one event right after another, didn't merit police scrutiny was a bit hard to believe. Any death, whether accident or not, should bring about thorough investigations.

One death could be ruled as accidental without any evidence otherwise; but shouldn't two deaths, both girls dying in the same exact fashion, merit more than simply being written off as "students are just stupid, reckless, creatures"? Especially when we've got friends and staff vouching that these two girls wouldn't have gotten themselves killed elevator surfing because they weren't the type of girls who would do something stupid like that?

But, anyway, as the story progressed, things started getting a little flat, and kind of irritatingly pointless at certain tangents. Heather’s voice actually started getting on my nerves. Like I had already stated, she’s repetitive, and even though her humor is readily appreciated, I think the jokes got a bit overused. I can handle a crazy, non-standard main female characters (and encourage it too); but annoyingly excessive is still annoyingly excessive, and I feel like we should have toned down the repeat jokes a little bit if they weren’t going to be executed cleverly.

The whole “dorm--I mean, residence hall” thing became overused. The entire schtick with the fat versus not-fat comparisons were fun at first, but started getting on my nerves. She kept repeating her same mantra, over and over again: “size twelve is the size of the average American woman”. As if even she needed to convince herself that “size twelve is not fat”; continually worshipping other girls for being smaller doesn’t help her case and continually taking shots at herself for being bigger also doesn’t help, even though she does it in a jokey manner.

It just makes me feel like we’re admitting that, yes Size 12 is indeed fat (heck, even the promotional blurb refers to her as “portly”), and the only way to deal with it is to joke about it or obsess about it: how her body falls right out of dresses in all the wrong places; how she needs to borrow her friend’s maternity gown to wear to a nice formal party; how she feels that Rachel is so much more successful because of her ability to maintain her slender physique, have multiple degrees, and look good all the time, even if the dorm director is a big bitch; how she continuously compares herself in a degrading manner with other girls around her as well as with the types of women she believes Cooper prefers which includes the term “slender”.

I’m glad she loves to eat and does so unapologetically; but the constant punches thrown at her body size does her no favors.

I’m probably the last person who should be knocking the ideal behind this book: I’m a fluctuating Size 12 to Size 14 myself and continually admit that I’m not exactly slender. It’s hard to find nice outfits to wear because nothing ever fits properly; even my physician has mentioned that I could stand to lose a few pounds… for my health.

In society’s eyes, my size isn’t the ideal, even if it is the average.

But I don’t obsess about it. I do what I have to do to live a satisfying and healthy lifestyle to make myself comfortable with myself.

Heather, however, obsesses about her own size so much that it DID start getting a bit annoying. The constant reminder she throws in about her “size twelve is the average” is sort of overdoing it.

Her ill-conceived, repetitive jokes, however, weren’t the only things that started getting on my nerves. Her constant obsession over Cooper was also a little irritating. Sure, she’s a working independent woman with a stable job and ambitions for the rest of her life. But the whole idea is busted by the fact that her ambitions revolve around how to make herself a better educated and sophisticated woman because those are the types of women Cooper prefers and she’s just trying to map out their future by becoming that kind of woman for Cooper.

As if the only way for her to attain what she wants from life is to become the ideal woman for Cooper. As if the only way to be successful is to gain higher education and several degrees.

Granted, it’s obvious that Cooper already adores her for who she is, currently; and maybe the books in this series will become more insightful for Heather’s growth and development later on. But the fact that, at twenty-eight years old, Heather still acts like a teenage girl who needs immense development into a more mature woman doesn’t help her case.


This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in June 2015.

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