Book Review

One To Watch

One to Watch

  • Author: Kate Stayman-London
  • Genre: Romance
  • Publication Date: July 7, 2020 
  • Publisher: Dial Press

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers — and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising number of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition: Under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot-air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or give) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men — and herself — for a chance to live happily ever after.

I came across this book at my library and picked it up because it was highly recommended to me by my own personal book recommendation guru, Kristy @ Caffeinated Fae. She hasn’t given me a bad recommendation yet, and this book was no different. I absolutely loved everything about this book.

I really don’t watch any reality TV, especially not any type of dating shows. But I quickly became completely wrapped up in the story, to the point where I would find myself texting Kristy to discuss what was happening in the story. It was one of those books where I actually felt like the characters were real people, not simply characters. I was fully invested in the story, the romance, and the drama!

I absolutely adored Bea. She’s the kind of character that was relatable, and one that I could identify with. I loved that she was unapologetically plus-size, and didn’t feel the need to focus on losing weight to love herself, even as she’s reeling from a devastating rejection. She’s a successful, smart, and fashionable woman, who isn’t afraid to speak up for not only herself, but for others too! Her outspoken nature is what got her involved in the chain of events that led to her being the star of the show:

“She addressed the show’s ‘appalling’ lack of racial diversity, its ‘perplexing’ erasure of queerness, and most of all, its ‘abject refusal to include any woman who wears above a size 4, despite the fact that two-thirds of American women are size 14 and above.’”

I loved the format of the book as well. There’s the story itself, but also Bea’s text message and e-mail conversations, blog posts, the comments that she receives, the coverage that she gets on various sites, podcasts, and social media, and group chats that discuss the developments that occur over the course of the show. While so many of these are incredibly supportive, there are some trolls and fat phobic comments and posts. One of the main critiques is the mistaken belief that fat=unhealthy and thin=healthy. However, the book also takes a scathing look at the unhealthy practices that previous contestants have used to stay at a “socially acceptable” weight. It kind of reminds me of the Reverend’s wife on the Simpsons, using the children as a rallying call to attack anything they don’t approve of:

“While it’s never okay to bully anyone because of the way they look, we do need to have a serious conversation about whether so-called “body positivity” is actually promoting unhealthy behavior among our children.”

Over the course of the book, I loved seeing Bea’s journey in learning to overcome her hurt and learn how to accept herself just as she is. She has to learn how to block out that critical voice that she has internalized, and accept nothing less than she deserves. As anyone who has tried to do this, it isn’t an easy road.

“It suddenly felt like she was only fighting against herself, and there was no possible way to win.”

It was a beautiful thing to read my very first book with a main character who wasn’t just plus-size, but was also larger than size 14-16. She’s realistic, and felt like the kind of person I would love to hang out with in real life. In addition, she’s incredibly stylish, and doesn’t let her size hold her back from literally anything. She’s someone that we could all take some lessons from. There were some surprises placed throughout the book, and I could never quite figure out what was going to happen or what Bea would do. There was some great diversity in the book, which I absolutely appreciated seeing in a book about breaking barriers in a dating show. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen at the end, and though I had my suspicions, I was so happy to see that it ended the way it did. This book was one that I couldn’t put down, and felt completely fulfilled when I finished it. 

11 replies »

  1. Great review, Leah! I had no idea this was told through mixed media and I do love that format 😃 I have heard a lot of positive things about this story though and I’m looking forward to checking it out! Bea sounds like a great character and it sounds like I’ll definitely be able to identify with her.

    Liked by 1 person

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