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Review: One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

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 amount 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 anti-fat 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 five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale.

Goodreads

What is One to Watch about?

The book’s main plot revolves around Bea’s contract with Main Squeeze, a reality dating show that is absolutely based on The Bachelor and its subsequent attachments. Bea is a fashion blogger who focuses on helping plus-size women find fashionable and affordable looks. While watching Main Squeeze one night, Bea goes on a drunken Twitter rant about the lack of larger contestants, and her blog post on the subject goes viral. With bad publicity all around for Main Squeeze, they hire a new producer named Lauren who reaches out to arrange for Bea to be the next Main Squeeze. Bea accepts, planning to keep her walls up but also move on from her ill fated love of friend Ray.

Genre: Romance (Reality TV!)

Despite Bea going into the show still in love with Ray, and not planning to fall in love at all, her walls start to fall down around her. Dealing with the realities of reality TV, Bea finds that it’s still possible to have genuinely romantic moments while on camera.

Tropes: Breaking Down Walls

Not only does Bea enter the show with a lot of defense walls up, she finds that many of the contestants vying for her hand in marriage do as well. She connects with some of them, and makes genuine friendships and relationships even in front of the cameras.

Plot: Throwing People to the Sharks is not Representation

Despite Bea’s open mindedness, the show starts of rocky. Lauren for all her good intentions doesn’t really know how to handle having a fat Main Squeeze, and there are a lot of missteps along the way as Bea is forced to defend herself every day against contestants and contrived dates alike.

The Good

This book faces fatphobia head on from the very beginning. It calls out the need for representation, the way poorly thought out representation can impact fat people, and how easily even friends and loved ones can hurt you with unaddressed biases. A lot of research was clearly put into the parts about producing a reality show, as they’re spot on, convincing, and so deliciously dramatic. The romances are so emotional and compelling, even the tragic one with Ray. I loved everything moment with Bea, who is a phenomenal character and repeatedly makes so many wonderful statements about her life and career. I also really love the inclusion of things like blog posts and newspaper headlines, and the way chapters are titled with filming locations and the number of bachelors left.

The Okay

I didn’t always like the way Bea was treated by characters, nor did I always feel their points were valid. Asher especially had a tendency to get frustrated and irate with Bea when struggling with his own emotions, in a way that implied Bea was at fault for decisions that had nothing to do with Asher and took place before they met. A lot of pressure was put on Bea from a lot of directions, something that was addressed in part, but I think she was too quick to forgive and too quick to apologize when she wasn’t at fault.

The Bad

I didn’t like Ray’s story at all. To a certain extent, it’s clear that as the audience we are meant to dislike him and want Bea to get over him. Bea’s personal journey involves learning to value herself more than he did. I just think that he would have stopped chasing her instead of continuing as she pursued the Main Squeeze. It didn’t line up with his behavior towards Bea before the show, and it felt as though he was just trying to get media attention but this was never established or even mentioned. Either he could have been more of a villain, or he could have just faded into the background–I didn’t care for the drama that came with his return to the story.

Final Thoughts

This book is fantastic. If you like romance, reality TV, and fashion then this one’s for you! Bea is a wonderful character to read the perspective of, and it’s heartbreaking when her self esteem isn’t up to the task of being a fat woman on reality TV. But her take downs of the contestants and producers alike are legendary and absolutely worth reading. A lot of the time, Bea isn’t in control of her own narrative, which she addresses. She can’t always control the clothes available to her, she can’t control the way people will always see her, and she can’t even control the show she’s on–the producers do all of that. But she can control herself and what she shows the world, and she shows the world her best. I absolutely recommend this book to the ends of the earth!

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

4 replies on “Review: One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London”

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