Friday 29 March 2019

The Cranky Book Reviewer read Fat Chance

DammitKaren: The Cranky Book Reviewer read Fat Chance by author Nick Spalding.

Disclaimer:  This will totally come across as smug and obnoxious, and maybe sort of mean.*  Also, IT'S FULL OF SPOILERS.

I've been reading and re-reading a lot, as I always do, and was just at the end of the available reading material in my house.  So, imagine my surprise and delight when I flipped through my Kindle to see a title that I had either never meant to upload in the first place, or uploaded and forgotten about during my brief foray into Kindle Unlimited, a place that the CBD never wants to go again.  I don't have a problem with self-publishing, per se, but when I signed up for a free trial (yep, I'm even cranky about things I read for free on a free trial), I didn't realize that most of the books available there would be people who thought their work was good enough to share with the world, though traditional publishers might disagree.  And yes, I realize the irony of this.  

But I digress.

I had apparently downloaded Fat Chance, by Nick Spalding.  At last check, it had 3,300 plus reviews, with an average of 4.4 stars out of 5. It's also available in paperback. 

It starts out with a reasonable premise:  an overweight, late-thirties couple enter a Biggest-Loser-type contest (published in 2014, when I guess some people were still watching?) and journal their way through six months of healthier eating and exercise.

Spoilers ahead

There are lots of cheap laughs at fat people's expense (but then stern reminders that this is wrong and that they have feelings too) and cheap emotional heartstring-tugging...and a completely unrealistic ending in which, after being extremely overweight for years, they drop lots of stone** in six months, stand up to bullies, realize the true meaning of friendship, look great naked again, and then celebrate by going out to a restaurant, but leave to pick up the fixings for a healthy stirfry instead.  Oh, and apparently/possibly/finally conceive a child.

All this, couched in embarrassingly preachy "revelations" about fad diets and exercise gimmicks.


Where do I start?

The times, they are a-changing

Well, first, it's the Tennies (remember the 80s and 90s? I hereby christen this decade the Tennies).  Fat jokes aren't funny.  And someone writing fat jokes and scenes to show how ridiculous fat people are just to make a point that they are people too seems, oh, completely idiotic and outdated, because Of Course They Are People Too.  And They Have Feelings.  Jeebus.

There is only one way to be happy as a woman

The female character isn't able to conceive a child; this has been "diagnosed by a doctor", because of her being overweight.  Not to put too fine a point on this, but they started out fit, g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y put on weight starting in their late twenties, and became obese as their thirties progressed.

So, they couldn't have a child even when they were fit and "normal" weight, but were told that they couldn't have a child because she was obese. (To the author:  nice use of maternal shame!  After all, a woman who doesn't have a child is no woman at all!) AND THEN, in the last chapter, after they had lost all that weight, she was nauseous and emotional but didn't know why. Though the author didn't write, "she was pregnant!", I drew my own conclusions (that he was beating over my head).  Good happy ending, I suppose, but sort of/completely insulting.

Where is the pizza?

The main characters never backslide.  They don't journal about sneaking in a donut here or a bacon sandwich*** there.  They follow fad diets, which make them feel lousy (but don't cheat) and start painful exercise regimes (but never give up).  Sort of not like real people at all. Real people, even ones who haven't been eating poorly and living completely sedentary lives for a decade, sometimes eat delicious sugary food and take time off.  And honestly, who celebrates with a stirfry?  Nobody, that's who.

Face palm.  And repeat.

I think I found the health and fitness "advice" most painful of all.  I felt like the author maybe set out to write a Common Sense to Healthy Eating and Exercise manual, but didn't know how, so wrapped it in a terribly-written and implausible story.  The characters' inspiring revelations that the cabbage soup diet wasn't a long-term solution, or that electrically stimulating your muscles instead of exercise was a bad idea were ...well, dumb. Not revelatory at all, really.  Again, I felt like I was being beaten over the head with a big piece of obvious.

To sum up

This book tries to show how terrible it is to be obese, both physically and from a self-esteem/mental health viewpoint, and that we shouldn't laugh at people who are overweight, but neither should we pity them.  After all, it's simple!  Just eat well and exercise and you can easily lose lots of weight and succeed at life.

As I have always been an exerciser and a healthy eater**** and have a degree in the field as well, true, maybe I'm not the target audience, and perhaps this sort of thing is what the masses need (as evidenced by Amazon reviews).  But this book oversimplifies the show-up-and-do-the-work method of becoming and staying fit, and spoon feeds its audience with offensive stereotypes and insultingly basic messages throughout.

To this book, I say, "bleah."

* But that's what makes me the Cranky Book Reviewer. So there.
** It's British.  I looked it up, and a stone is 14 lbs.  You're welcome.
*** Also British.
**** ...with a candy and wine problem...

No comments:

Favourite posts