Published by Swoon Reads on August 21, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she'll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn't count on is that her mother's obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy's mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.
Between her mom's diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.
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: fatphobia (addressed); eating disorders
Wow, I enjoyed To Be Honest so much more than expected. This book had #ownvoices fat representation, excellent family dynamics, and a swoonworthy romance. It gave me everything I enjoy in a YA contemporary. Plus, it was thoughtfully done and deceptively deep, based on the brightly-colored cover.
I really enjoyed Savannah herself as a protagonist. I saw a lot of myself in her, both as a fat woman and just as a person. Her anxiety, her fears about the future, her love of school and her family… I just related to so much of her experience. Though she is plus-sized, she doesn’t hate her body or want to change it, and that isn’t her entire character.
Savannah’s relationship with her mother was definitely one of my favorite parts of the story. Her mom recently appeared on a weight loss reality TV show called Shake the Weight, and ever since has been obsessed with keeping off the weight she lost on the show (and also forcing her new beauty standards onto Savannah). Though, thankfully, my parents have never shamed me about my weight or tried to change me, I definitely felt for Savannah. It’s hard to exist as a larger person when you don’t hate your body, but it feels like everyone else does. Fatphobia is so ingrained in our culture, and this book touched on that in a big way. I love that, over the course of the story, Savannah was able to speak out against her mom and the offensive comments she made about both Savannah’s weight and her own. She stays true to who she is, even in the face of all of these hurtful criticisms from one of the people she loves most.
The book also focuses on Savannah’s relationship with her older sister, Ashley, who has just gone off to college. In her sister’s absence, Savannah is forced to learn to stick up for herself around her mom and to become more of her own person. This doesn’t make her relationship with her sister any less close or meaningful, but it shows a natural growth in her as a person. (Ashley is also queer, which, though it doesn’t play any major part in the story, I loved.)
Also, THE ROMANCE. I loved it. Savannah and George’s banter was adorable, and I love that so much of their relationship was formed when Savannah tutored him in math (YAY for girls in STEM! and for boys who aren’t assholes about girls being better at them in STEM fields!). Plus, George was a band nerd. Be still, high-school-Madalyn’s heart. All of Savannah’s fear about entering into a relationship/developing a crush/etc. felt SO true to my own experiences.
Omg, and I can’t forget about the journalism side plot! Savannah and her best friend team up to investigate a scandal involving the old, misogynist baseball coach at their school for the school’s newspaper. Even though this plot was entirely unrelated to the rest of the story, I loved reading about it (and obviously, I loved seeing the douchebag of a baseball coach get his ass handed to him by two teenage girls).
Overall, To Be Honest ticked all the boxes for me. It’s a YA contemporary with great representation, adorable romances, and a lot of heart. I can’t recommend it highly enough to fellow contemp lovers.
Have you read To Be Honest? What are your favorite books with #ownvoices fat rep?