Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Goodreads • Amazon
The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.
It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.
Until it isn’t.
When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Content warnings: fatphobic thoughts; fatphobic comments; restriction of eating; unwanted sexual advances (kissing, touching); self-harm
Oh, you guys. I have SUCH conflicting feelings about this one. On the one hand, fat rep, girls in STEM, summer internship, and a sweet romance! On the other… Mammoth didn’t necessarily execute all of those things well, imo. Let’s dig in! (Pun DEFINITELY intended.)
In Mammoth, we follow our main character, Natalie, after she has landed her dream summer internship studying paleontology at the Central Texas Mammoth Site. Natalie runs a successful fashion/paleontology blog called Fossilista, where she documents her two greatest passions. However, behind the veneer she presents to her 60,000+ followers lies a girl full of insecurities. Honestly, let’s go ahead and address the fat rep. Do I think it was bad? No, not at all. However, as a fat woman myself, I found it incredibly upsetting to read Natalie’s constant self-deprecating thoughts about her body. It was definitely realistic– it’s hard to love your body all the time when society is constantly telling you you shouldn’t!– but I really wasn’t adequately prepared to read so much internalized fatphobia. So, if you have ever struggled with body image issues, especially re: weight, I would take care going into this one. Natalie definitely learns to love her body more throughout the novel, but she’s not 100% there by the end of the book. This is realistic given the time span the book covers (it’s unrealistic to expect a complete 180 in a character’s thinking when the book is set over just a couple months), but just be warned going in. Obviously, not all people in a marginalized group are going to have the same feelings about representation in books– we aren’t a monolith, after all! I just really want to emphasize the importance of giving content warnings to prevent reading experiences like the one I had with Mammoth.
That said, I loved the actual subject matter of the book! I enjoyed the way paleontology is discussed, in real, scientific terms as opposed to vague language. We can ALWAYS use more girls in STEM in fiction. Natalie’s enthusiasm and talent for paleontology shine through on every page. Reading about the actual day-to-day activities Natalie and the other interns engage in was a delight, as I got to learn more about a field I had relatively little knowledge about previously. Plus, Mammoth deftly handles the topic of plagiarism in the scientific community and the way this often is rooted in misogyny. Going hand in hand with the plagiarism discussion, the book also tackles the tough reality of your idols not always being the way you’ve built them up in your head to be.
The Fossilista blog posts inserted between chapters were so much fun, too. They really served to break up the narrative, and I loved the cute illustrated style. As a lover of vintage fashion, I appreciated that Natalie incorporated a lot of secondhand pieces into her looks. I also thought the discussion of mean internet comments was handled well!
As for the other characters, while they’re not my all-time favorites, I appreciated them. In the beginning of the novel, Quinn is built up as a typical mean-girl antagonist, but I was glad to see her character explored further later in the story. For the most part, I enjoyed the romance in Mammoth. There was one scene where I think the author tackled some of the nuance of consent quite well. I have to say, though, I was never FULLY sold on the love interest, despite his Texas charm, because at one point, he thinks Natalie looks better without makeup and makes SURE to tell her. *eye roll* This is never addressed later in the book.
To close, can we just talk about the Austin setting for a minute??? Because 1.) Natalie and her love interest go on a date to my FAVORITE ice cream place in Austin, Amy’s Ice Cream, 2.) the characters are constantly eating Texas barbeque, and 3.) there are so many mentions of the bat colony under South Congress Bridge. I lived for it.
All in all, although it doesn’t execute all of its elements perfectly, I think Mammoth will make a welcome addition to many people’s shelves. If you’re looking to read about paleontology, a fashion blogger who also works in a STEM field, and a fairly cute romance, I’d recommend giving this one a try.
Have you read Mammoth? Which YA contemporaries do you think got fat rep right?