Header Photo Credit: Bill Cunningham
Written By: Isa Gonzalez Montilla
February 2, 2021, is a monumental day for Crystal Maldonado. Not only is her debut novel Fat Chance, Charlie Vega hitting U.S. bookshelves, but she is also opening up to the world about a similar experience she shares with the main character, Charlie Vega. The novel is about a sixteen-year-old girl who is a hopeless romantic and an aspiring writer that is struggling with many issues. These issues include body positivity, self-acceptance, difficult family dynamics and growing up as a fat Puerto Rican in a White Connecticut suburb.
Some would find the last description troubling, but so did Vega’s mother who constantly left weight loss shakes on top of her daughter’s dresser. Some days, Vega is told to love herself no matter what others say about her, yet she simultaneously watches her family members diet and work tirelessly on losing weight. It doesn’t help that society’s unrealistic expectations of beauty followed her outside of the household and into her school environment. Being beautiful now meant something different: one had to be skinny, white, quiet, and small.
This coming of age story consists of vibrant rom-com vibes with dashes of awkward moments, and many sprinkles of self-revelations. When Vega starts to date a cute boy from her art class, Brian, she comes to find out some troubling news. Her boyfriend asked out her best friend, Amelia, first. Amelia is skinny, athletic, popular, and super cool. This blew Vega into a whirlwind of emotions and self-doubt. Was she his second choice? Did he not see her in the way she thought he did?
To gain a proper understanding of the background of the story, one should read Maldonado’s Buzzfeed article “How LiveJournal Fatshionistas Taught Me To Love My Fat Body”. It goes over Maldonado’s personal experience of battling body image issues, and the journey she went on that ultimately brought her to a state of acceptance and happiness with herself. Another way to get a sneak peek of the novel’s plot is to go onto Maldonado’s website and read through her blog. There you will see parallels between the descriptions of Vega and Brian’s relationship and Maldonado’s marriage with her husband. Overall, this book is a fictional representation of Maldonado’s life and the struggles she went through as a teenage girl.
This book has the potential to break down stereotypical associations people make with fat bodies. Vega’s experience breaks and shuts down the idea that fat bodies equate to being broken, unattractive, unhealthy, worthy of ridicule, or even of discrimination. It makes the reader realize that there is no point in wasting time or energy in trying to reach this unattainable standard of beauty while sacrificing your own happiness. Maldonado is not advocating for the acceptance of obesity, however, she is demanding for people to respect others for who they are, and not for what they look like.