Title: Nice Girls Endure
Author: Chris Struyk-Bonn
Pub Date: August 1, 2016
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“My parents tell me all the time that I should enjoy my teenage years, that these should be the happiest, most carefree days of my life, that this is the time for me to become independent and figure out who I truly am. You know what I have to say to that? What a bunch of crap.”
Easy to say that to your teenage daughter. But what it this girl is overweight? What is she has to struggle with being and overweight girl in our society every day? What if she has to listen to kids at school calling her fat and bullying her, what if she has to listen to some perfect looking girls chanting songs that undermine her. What if her mother only sees the fat on her and wants her thinner no matter what? How that supposed to be the happiest, joyous and carefree time of her life?
Chelsea is a teenage girl who loves to sing, musicals and is a tiny bit obsessed with her feet and shoes. She is also overweight which is the only thing people see about her and the only thing they base their full judgment of her. She is trying to work in this world the best she can, she is trying to make her invisible, she is not making friends, she is not raising her hand in classes, and she spends her times with her father watching musicals and singing. Special school project about filming your autobiography is a pivotal point of her teenage life. She makes a friend, a friend that sees her, not her weight.
This book sounds very inspirational – the story about a fat, insecure girl who turns her world around. But the whole story felt like a description of a movie, a beautiful to watch, feel-good Hollywood movie. The story felt nothing like a real world. I’m not saying that the idea that an overweight, insecure teen girl is changing her life is impossible and some fantasy. It definitely can happen, and I know something about that. What feels like a fantasy is a way the whole story is flattened to a cliché and an easy scenario for a happy end. I felt that Chelsea’s insecurities and problems were dismissed too quickly, as if we don’t focus on them much we could erase them quicker. Chelsea’s thoughts about how she might be perceived by others were bordering on stereotypes and clichés. And what is even worse, they didn’t seem to be right to the character; it didn’t work for the character.
” ‘You know, if the world around me wasn’t fixated on weight, I wouldn’t be either,’ […] ‘The world around me needs to change, not me.'”
The easy way to happy ending that irritated me was a part about medication that Chelsea got for her worsening anxiety after a horrific event on the school dance. She was given some magic yellow pill that cured her whole insecurities and bumped up her self-esteem in just an hour. I am not an expert on anti-anxiety medications, but what I know is that they do not work like that. You have to wait for effects of the medications for weeks. They don’t make you brave and confident in an hour.
I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy the book is that I’m not in a target group of teenage girls – I’m older, and I know more now than a few years back. Probably back then, when I was this fat teen girl, I would look at this book completely differently. Now I see too many easy ways into creating an inspirational book with a movie worth happy ending. But if you have no idea what overweight people have to deal with – this book might open your eyes to this issue a little bit. Or if you are a parent of an overweight teen – I think that Chelsea’s feelings towards her parents and how they react to the ‘fat issue’ will be helpful. For a sake of a mental well-being of your child – read this book.