I liked this a lot, but it felt a bit unfinished in a couple aspects, and I liked the beginning better than the ending. I finally got my book club to read a romance, and it turns out romance wasn’t even the main focus. I should have made them read Beach Read, that would have got them. On the other hand, as much as this book was flawed for me as a romance, as a book about criticizing reality TV and about disrupting the public narrative around fatness and beauty, it really worked.
Bea Schumacher is a fashion blogger who is offered a place on notorious reality TV show Main Squeeze (aka The Bachelor but not) after a post she writes about the show’s terrible diversity (and specifically, about that in relation to fat people) goes viral. The show’s producer is honest with her about her motives: she wants ratings to increase, and she thinks Bea’s post had merit, so why not try something new and make everybody happy? Bea will be the first fat participant on Main Squeeze. Only everybody is not happy. Bea’s relationship to her body, and how other people’s treatment of her body has affected her, gets the reality TV spotlight.
The first half of the book especially was a delight. It gave us more of the outside perspective with a sort of epistolary style that includes articles, blog posts, chat transcripts, and Twitter threads, a sort of transmedia experience to show the various view points of the public and their reaction. And Bea isn’t spared from criticism even from people who should be on her side. Bea’s experience of the show, even with supposedly supportive producers, is revealing about how fatphobic our culture is, and how shallow and produced reality TV is. Bea gets firsthand experience seeing how the narrative of a reality TV show is crafted.
I thought the book slightly lost its way when Bea started to take the show seriously. I appreciated her giving it an honest try, but the book lost its bite as a result. This wouldn’t necessarily have been a huge problem for me, but the way the book was structured it was pretty obvious that she was going to end up with one of the four main guys, even from the beginning of the book, but we still had to spend lots of page time on at least three of her other suitors. There just wasn’t enough page-time with everything the author wanted to happen for us to really see Bea bonding with her HEA candidate. I also hated one of the guys, even though he was important for a certain part of the narrative. I just think it tried to do too much at the end, and most of it suffered.
I think I also wanted less of a cutesy ending.
SPOILERS She ends up choosing none of the suitors, which I thought was the right move. What felt off was how little time passed between the end of the show and her reunion with Asher, and it was such a staged reunion. I wish it had felt more organic and intimate, and there had been more time END SPOILERS.
If you are a romance fan or like the idea of a book criticizing reality TV, you will probably like this, and it is a fast, enjoyable read. Its not being perfect doesn’t really matter in the end. I still had a good time.
CBR Bingo: Book Club