Published by Harlequin Teen
Publication date: June 5, 2018
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
When you’re fat, you’re very conscious of the area you occupy. Of all the people in the universe, the overweight are the most conscious of personal space. We never want you to have to rub up against us.
Fat Girl on a Plane is both the title of Kelly DeVos’s debut novel and the defining moment in its heroine’s life. Cookie Vonn is a 17-year-old blogger on her way to NYC to preview a fashion collection and, hopefully, get a scholarship to Parson’s School of Design. Except that she needs to change planes in Chicago, at which point the gate agent makes a visual assessment and decides she needs to purchase a second seat. She hadn’t been assigned two seats on her original flight so she is understandable upset. Even more so because the additional ticket will cost her $650. This incident becomes the jumping off point for the novel and Cookie’s decision to change her life.
In case you were wondering, Cookie fully appreciates the irony of her name, which is made even more heinous by her mother being a world-famous model. To top it off, her passion is for fashion, but she’s a talented young designer in a world where anything over size 8 does not warrant attention. The humiliation of the flight to NYC galvanizes her to try a weight loss program. Two years later she has achieved her weight goal, is working with her favorite designer, Gareth Miller, to create a plus size capsule collection, and they’re dating. It seems as if losing weight has brought her all her dreams, but, if so, why isn’t she happier?
I don’t read a lot of young adult fiction, but I’m always interested in seeing how the genre approaches important subjects. With such a provocative title and opening scene, it’s clear DeVos isn’t going to shy away from the complexities of weight in modern-day America. Fat Girl on a Plane is written as a diary, but rather than dates, Cookie delineates her story into Fat or Skinny, further driving the novel’s point home. At the same time, this is a story about a young woman with a lot of other issues—an absent mother, no father figure, and everything else that goes along with being a teenager.
What this means is, that although DeVos’s handling of Cookie’s weight issues feels adult, the overall tone of Fat Girl on a Plane fits with a young adult audience. If I were a teenager I might have found the relationship aspects of the novel (a 31-year-old world famous designer falling for a 19-year-old school girl) to be plausible and exciting, but instead it came off as an odd mix of wooden, syrupy and unrealistic. It isn’t enough to spoil the novel for older readers, because DeVos does such a great job writing about fashion, design, and the general awfulness that comes with being a teen, but it does keep it in the light reading zone. A good, fun vacation book.