I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Programme, and it was a physical book for once, which was a nice change. It’s published by Turner Publishing in the US, and I’m grateful to them for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

The description makes it sound a bit chick-litty, and yes, there is romance, friendship, clothes and high spirits, but I think it has a lot more depth than the genre description might make you think.

Natalie, our heroine, is a plus-size fashion blogger and palaeontology geek who reinvented herself in high school, and no, not in that way they expect plus-size heroines to invent themselves: she did not lose weight; she learned to make the best of herself, developing a funky vintage style thanks to the support of her very cool aunt, who owns a vintage boutique, makes clothes and accessories and is a marvel in a thrift store.

I’m linking up with Grab the Lapels’ “Reading Fat Women” project here, because this is her aim:

to find positive representations of folks who identify as fat women in books. That positive representation will not hinge on the character being miserable and then happy after losing weight or falling in love. Characters can lose weight or fall in love, but it is not the catalyst for their happiness. I also will not recommend books in which the character pulls her body apart and criticize pieces (I call this the “chicken dinner”).

and I think this book fits into that aim.

Natalie describes herself as fat, both internally and to others, she is proud of her style and she is not interested in losing weight. She brings up some issues around choosing what to eat in the cafeteria as she doesn’t like being seen as eating too much for fear of being fat-shamed (but she doesn’t shame herself for her eating; it’s self-protection, because although she is trying to be awesome as well as live her lived experience, sometimes it’s hard, and I think it would be unrealistic for it not to be). She mentions sitting in a certain way so her thigh doesn’t spill over and touch someone’s leg, then reminds herself (and indeed this proves true) that it is a strong thigh (later, she’s shown as having an advantage in her strength when a wispier colleague finds it hard to kneel and dig on the mammoth excavation). And most importantly, while she does have a further transformation, it’s to remove some of her protective armour of thick makeup and a body shaper, rather than to lose weight and add more adornment. She’s celebrated for her abilities – she’s a talented palaeontologist and a great needlewoman. She makes mistakes and learns from them. She does seek love but it’s not the only thing she’s after or shored up by – her family (especially her marvellous aunt), female friendships and career are equally as important.

It’s a moral book all through: we see issues such as parent-child relationships and bullying, stealing others’ work, needing to learn that no means no and keeping your own boundaries. When people step over the line, they’re punished for it and it’s explained why. Both women and men take leadership roles in the organisation we come across, and there’s talk of needing more women in STEM.

So it’s a book about getting an intern role on a mammoth dig and making discoveries and finding your hero has feet of clay. It’s also a book about being true to yourself, about beard one-upmanship and how sometimes you do need to wear flat shoes. It’s about following your dreams and daring to try hard at things, while accepting the consequences. I loved it.