By: Jen Larsen
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
The notion of a perfect future self is something many of us ponder at least once in our lives. I remember as a teen constantly thinking if I could just be a little thinner, if I could just score a little higher on that test, if I could just have straighter hair, and so on. Those "If I Could" moments dominated my teen brain more than they should. I wish instead of thinking of what could have been that I had put more action behind changing things or learned to be happy with myself in that moment in time. As an adult, I still have moments like that, but they are fewer and farer between than they used to be.
This novel focuses on who one person is and who she could be. Ashley is preparing to graduate high school and set out to conquer the world. She has her heart set on Harvard, but the expense provides a daunting obstacle. As Ashley preps to find scholarships, her grandmother proposes a way to make all of Ashley's dreams come true. Ashley only has to agree to lose weight for her grandmother to pay her Harvard tuition. On the surface, I felt like this wasn't a horrible tradeoff, but it also irked me since Ashley was confident and didn't feel the need to change. Her grandmother feared people wouldn't take Ashley seriously due to her weight. There was no concern about health issues - it was merely for appearances. I tried to understand the grandmother's position, but I found myself aligning with Ashley.
Society is the one that tells us we should be body conscious. Why is a skinny woman given a higher value in many eyes? How is that fair? I wish that instead of being judged every time we step out of our homes, that women could be judged based on the beauty of their ideals and the quality of their character. Sadly, appearances seem to drive the world.
While I feel that this is an important novel that has a lot to say about body image, I had a lot of trouble settling into the writing style. I always felt like I was an arms length away from the action as if I was not an active participant in the story. I prefer novels that allow me to fully immerse myself in the plot and characters. As such, I didn't connect with Ashley as much as I would have liked. This is a personal preference of mine and will not be an issue for all readers. I also feel like I was not in the right place to read an issue book. Again, this is an issue with me as a reader, and should not reflect on the merit of the novel.
One Last Gripe: The bribery aspect was frustrating.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I liked that there is an emphasis on having confidence and a positive body image.
First Sentence: Every year on my birthday, my grandmother, my father's mother, the woman we owe our whole lives to, reminds me that I am risking everything.
Favorite Character: Ashley
Least Favorite Character: Ashley's parents
Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.
Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is.
But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.
As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.