Saturday, August 18, 2018

Good Luck with That

Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins
Penguin Random House: 8/7/18
eBook review copy; 480 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9780451489395

Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins is a controversial woman's novel dealing with body image and self-acceptance. Recommended, but highly for fans of Chick Lit and romance novels.

Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson dies from complications due to her weight she leaves her best friends an envelope with a note. The note is actually a list they made at their last year of fat camp. The list is title "Thing's We'll Do When We're Skinny" and consists of: go running in tight clothes and a sports bra; get a piggyback-ride from a guy; be in a photo shoot; eat dessert in public; tuck in a shirt; shop at a store for regular people; have a cute guy buy you a drink; meet a guys parents; tell off people who had a problem with you being fat. Georgia and Marley decide to tackle the list and along with dealing with their poor self-image, they also tackle other, deeper issues. Marley has had survivor's guilt ever since her twin sister died when they were four. Georgia has dealt with a hyper-critical mother and a critical angry brother. The two need to tackle these concerns along with other complicated relationship issues.

The narrative alternates between chapters told from the first person point of view of Georgia, Marley, and Emerson (through excerpts from her journals). They are in their very early 30's now and the list was written when I originally thought they were probably around 13, but later the book said 18. Okay, like many reviewers I've never been the skinny perfect girl these women dream about, but I would have never written such a list at 18, fat thighs and big butt or not. Why would these women follow a list they made as teens as if it is important and life changing?

It must also be said that I didn't know about the controversy surround this novel until after I read it. If I had known that the bulk of the novel would consist of so much weight-based insecurity and recalling fat-shaming events, I would have skipped reading it for review. The blurb does not  focus so much on their weight issues, which likely isn't all that bad for Marley and not at all for Georgia. Why even make weight and fat shaming the focus when the root of everything was from much deeper emotional issues? This is also very much Chick Lit and these two women are somehow incomplete without a man. Yeah, it's normal to want a relationship with other people, but get mentally healthy, accept yourself, and make a life for yourself. (The men in this novel are not worth the trouble, by the way. With Marley's brother and Georgia's nephew being the exceptions, none of the rest of them are worth the consideration or any concentrated effort anyway.)

It became very clear early on that this was not the novel for me, which begs the question: Why did I keep reading it? Admittedly, I did have to soldier through during several parts of the novel. At a hefty 480 pages, some editing might have been in order. The quality of the writing is quite good, which helped me get through the parts that annoyed me. For its flaws, Good Luck with That is an interesting book and does handle with compassion and insight the fat/body shaming women go through. (Men too, by-the-way, which was never mentioned.) The characters are portrayed as real people and their emotions and insecurities are presented as heartfelt and authentic.  She does give her characters emotional growth and there is closure to the plot points at the end. It is a solid 3.5, rounded up for the right reader, down for me. (I should have followed my personal rule to avoid  [most] Chick Lit and Romance novels, but I did enjoy another one of Higgins's novels and wanted to give her another try.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House via Netgalley.

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