BENTLEY’S GRADE: A-
Title: Fat Girl on a Plane
Author: Kelly deVos
Publisher and Date: Harlequin Teen, 2018
Page Length: 376
Genre: YA Fiction
Cookie Vonn is an aspiring fashion designer and blogger who dreams of making clothes for all women, including, and especially for, the plus-sized women. Two years ago, Cookie herself was plus-sized, weighing in at 337 pounds. But now that she’s skinny, Cookie believes that without all the weight holding her back, she can accomplish anything; unfortunately, it’s not that simple. When Cookie finds herself at a crossroads—attend Parsons, the top fashion design school in NYC, or return home and continue her studies at Arizona State—she is forced to reevaluate her goals and confront her deepest insecurities.
As someone who’s spent a large part of her adult life being the fat girl on the plane (and the fat girl on the subway, and the bus, and the train, and the Uber…), I want to start by saying how refreshing it is to see a plump girl in such a positive leading role (well, plump for half the novel at least). I saw the book on a table in Indigo as I was walking through one day and I thought, with a bold title like Fat Girl on a Plane, I should probably buy it. And I’m glad I did; it’s somewhat predictable, but very enjoyable nonetheless.
I think the strength of the novel lies in its dual timeline structure. The choice to alternate between “fat” Cookie and “skinny” Cookie was very intuitive because it allows us to immediately compare her experiences with both sizes and it becomes clear that, more often than not, Cookie’s weight isn’t the real issue, but rather it’s the excuse. For me, this revelation hits close to home because I often blame my weight for lost or missed opportunities, when the cause is actually anxiety and a lack of self confidence. This is probably why I love the character of Piper, Cookie’s best friend. She is a self-proclaimed “Giver of Zero Fucks”—happy, secure, confident—and who doesn’t wish they had that kind of attitude?
The other major strength is voice: Cookie is hilarious. She’s sarcastic without being sardonic, and is always prepared with a witty quip or a sharp retort. The dialogue is well-written and feels natural. I also think deVos manages to find a nice balance of fashion terminology, designer name dropping, and fabric description that doesn’t feel overdone, but instead works to demonstrate Cookie’s knowledge of and passion for the field.
The chapters alternate between seventeen-year-old Cookie and nineteen-year-old Cookie, and for me, I believe the story would have benefited from a slightly older, more mature, protagonist in the later sections. Adding a few extra years between her older and younger selves might have allowed for more introspection and reflection that can’t really be gained in such a short amount of time. Call me cynical, but at nineteen no one is mature or grounded enough to make much sense of anything let alone make life-defining decisions. I also feel that some things aren’t completely resolved by the end, specifically the relationships between Cookie and her father, her mother, and Gareth. Maybe this is intentional? It certainly could be intentional and meant to imply that Cookie hasn’t finished her personal transformation and has further growth to achieve. [I also found a handful of typos, and a consistency issue with Cookie’s mother’s name (on page 58, she’s referred to as “Lindsay Vonn Tate,” but I believe it should be “Leslie Vonn Tate”). Harlequin Teen, I’m available if you’re looking for a proofreader.]
I know deVos claims that Fat Girl on a Plane isn’t meant to be a Cinderella story, but in many ways it is; to lose 199 pounds, have a financially successful blog, meet the most famous fashion designer, get to design plus-size clothes with him, and live in NYC for a time feels pretty magical to me. Oh well—maybe one day this blogger will manage to fit her plump little sausage toes into the glass slipper and all my dreams will come true, too.
Although I’ve made a few critiques, I definitely recommend Fat Girl on a Plane the next time you’re in the mood for a quick and satisfying read that’s sure to please your literary palate.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!