Meg Cabot – Size 12 is Not Fat
104. Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot (2006)
Heather Wells Mysteries, Book 1
Length: 350 pages
Genre: Mystery, Young Adult
Started / Finished: 24 August 2010
Where did it come from? The library booksale.
Why do I have it? I’d read and loved Cabot’s Mediator series.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 22 June 2008.
Teen stardom did not
prepare Heather Wells to deal
with a murder case.
Summary: Heather Wells’s life certainly seems to be in a downward spiral. Heather is a former teen pop star who was dropped from her label for demanding to sing her own stars, abandoned by her mother (who ran off to Argentina with Heather’s manager… and money), and dumped by her boy-band singer fiancée. In order to make a living, Heather’s gotten a job as the assistant manager of a freshman dorm of New York College. It’s a job she’s good at, and one that she enjoys… until freshman women start turning up dead in the bottom of the dorm elevator shaft. The police rule the deaths accidents, but Heather’s convinced they’re not… but how can she possibly hope to prove it?
Review: I am of two minds about this book, and it is making it hard to come to a single conclusion, or even a single star rating. Let’s start with the good mind, and save the annoyed, angry, snarly mind for later, shall we?
As a fluffy murder mystery, this book was great. I was pulled into the story right away, stayed good and hooked throughout, staying up well past my bedtime to race through to the end. I totally fell for some of the red herrings, and there were enough clues given out that I could eventually put together who the real bad guy was only a page or two before the main character did. Those are all hallmarks of a good, compelling mystery. There’s also a sizeable dollop of romance stirred into the mix, and Cabot can certainly write an appealing leading man (see: Jesse from the Mediator series… although Cooper’s almost as good).
The tone of the book is a little confusing – it reads like a young adult novel, but the narrator is 28, which is old for your typical YA heroine – but if it’s not YA, then it’s pretty juvenile chick lit. The writing is full of little tics that I think are supposed to be cute but come off as annoying. Heather correcting herself every single time she mentions her dorm “(Um, I mean residence hall)” gets old after chapter one, and there are several similar repeated motifs that are no less obnoxious. But ignoring those, the writing’s easy and light, accentuating the fun fluffiness of the book.
But despite how fun and fluffy and compelling I found the murder mystery, this book has a problem. A big problem. In fact, a size 12 problem.
So. The title, Size 12 is Not Fat, is a statement of opinion. An opinion which, according to her author’s note at the end, Ms. Cabot seems to share. Heather is certainly frequently telling other characters (and the reader) that size 12 is not fat, it is in fact the size of the average American woman, that it’s possible to be a size 12 and still be perfectly healthy. All of which a) is true, and b) seems to promote a sane, sensible, anti-sizeist message of body acceptance. That’s the message the book seems to want to put out.
Unfortunately, that’s not the message the book actually puts out. Heather cannot go for three pages without mentioning HoHos or Dove Bars, the exercise routine she is so proud of consists of walking between bakeries, and she prefers baths to showers because she is “too lazy to stand up that long.” (Yes, that’s an actual quote. No, I’m not kidding. I wish I were.) Instead of being happy with herself the way she is, Heather’s constantly acting defensive about her size, and bitchy towards those smaller than she is. And instead of giving us a character who is actually healthy and still a size 12, Cabot seems to be implying that if Heather got off of her lazy ass and knocked it off with the Doritos, she wouldn’t be a size 12 anymore. To me, it read as if Cabot wanted to pay lip-service to the self-acceptance message embodied in her title, but secretly believes that size 12… is kind of fat (read: bad). Which: I call shenanigans. I call shenanigans on that bullshit so hard. It’s angry-making, especially since it’s disguised in a package that promises acceptance and positivity.
So, there’s my dilemna. Do I give it a high rating because of the compelling murder mystery, or do I give it a low rating because of the rage-inducing hypocrisy? I suppose I split the difference: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Gah, I don’t know. I can’t really call it an “enjoyable” read when it made my blood boil in parts, but if you could turn on a mental filter so that all you got was the mystery and romance parts, then it’s quite good. You’re on your own for this one, dependent on how strongly this sort of thing pushes your buttons.
First Line: “Um, hello. Is anyone out there?”
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 11: ““Naw, it was Jeff. He dropped his bhang again.”” – the leaves and flowering tops of uncultivated hemp, cannabis.
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