Image by Capri Huffman
Crystal Maldonado’s award-winning 2021 YA debut romance novel Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is a refreshing and honest portrayal of a fat Puerto Rican girl with a good heart and a complicated life falling in love for the first time. Firmly grounded in the contemporary here and now, the novel authentically portrays social media, politics, sex, family, bullying, and all the other forces that govern modern teenagers’ lives. Throughout Fat Chance, though she tries to embrace the fat-positivity movement, the protagonist Charlie struggles with her body image, as well as the discrimination and bullying she encounters at school and at home. But these aren’t her only problems: her complicated feelings about her golden-girl best friend, her disconnect with her mixed-race Puerto Rican identity, and her relationship with her borderline-abusive mother are all explored. Still, the book retains a mostly-bright tone and a grounded optimism, making for a fantastic comfort read.
What stands out to me is that the novel, while acknowledging the importance of fat-positivity and social justice, doesn’t pretend that they automatically solve everyone’s problems. Some things just suck, and Fat Chance doesn’t simply offer the easy answer that ‘love conquers all’ — Charlie’s problems don’t just disappear when she gets her man. Instead, the sweet interracial romance and the positive relationships Charlie builds with her friends and relatives present a heartening response to the suckiness: Yes, the world will never be perfect, but by nurturing their connections to each other, people can find warmth and resilience, and pull themselves into a better future together. In my opinion, this is a much more useful and worthwhile message, worth reading for teenagers and adults, and for anyone lost on the winding path in between.
My name is Capri Huffman and I run a book-themed Instagram (@sobstorybooks) with my friend Gabby, reviewing and promoting books by LGBTQ and BIPOC authors. My goal with my new book review series here at Mixed Mag is the same: to help great books by marginalized authors find the audiences they deserve! I follow new releases from all genres, from YA to literary fiction to poetry, so I’m sure together we’ll find some great titles to suit any taste.