Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution – YA Book Recommendation

Title: Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution

Author: E. E Charlton-Trujillo

Publisher: Candlewick, March 2019

Ages: 14+

Themes: LGBTQIA+, lesbians, fatness, mental health, abuse, sequel, bigotry, non-binary

Opening: 

This was the beginning, again. Angie bit the end of her thumbnail, standing with a JanSport kitten-rage backpack given to her by KC Romance evenly secured on her hukjy shoulders. She walked the 3,239 steps from her home in the cul-de-sac of Oakland Ends to William Anders High School, as counted by her father’s once-relished red pedometer. One of the few relics left behind when he moved out two years earlier.

Synopsis:

More trouble at school and at home — and the discovery of a missive from her late soldier sister — send Angie and a long-ago friend on an RV road trip across Ohio.

Sophomore year has just begun, and Angie is miserable. Her girlfriend, KC, has moved away; her good friend, Jake, is keeping his distance; and the resident bully has ramped up an increasingly vicious and targeted campaign to humiliate her. An over-the-top statue dedication planned for her sister, who died in Iraq, is almost too much to bear, and it doesn’t help that her mother has placed a symbolic empty urn on their mantel. At the ceremony, a soldier hands Angie a final letter from her sister, including a list of places she wanted the two of them to visit when she got home from the war. With her mother threatening to send Angie to a “treatment center” and the situation at school becoming violent, Angie enlists the help of her estranged childhood friend, Jamboree. Along with a few other outsiders, they pack into an RV and head across the state on the road trip Angie’s sister did not live to take. It might be just what Angie needs to find a way to let her sister go, and find herself in the process. (publisher)

Why I like this book:

Many sequels disappoint. This does not. There’s nothing forced or incoherent about the continued journey of self discovery on which we find Angie at the beginning of #2. Self actualization is not a one-off event. Not as a teen nor as an adult. Bigotry is still the pervasive world view in which we find Angie as the novel opens. Her romance with KC is over, her soldier sister’s dead, her mom’s still an a-hole, the school bullies haven’t turned into angels, and the new shrink is not quite connecting the dots yet.

Angie’s story arc feels so earned. Her struggle with: shame, guilt, embarrassment, loss, fear all feels messy, palpable and authentic. This isn’t a pretty story; it’s a gutsy genuine story that teens of all sizes and struggles will relate to. So often we are encouraged to write “mighty girl” stories with sheros we can emulate. Angie is not that typical snarky female protagonist. Her mental health and self-image struggles are real and her vulnerability spills over the pages. But the reality is this is what life is like for many teen girls… a daily struggle, with small victories, and constant failures. We need to see protagonists like these who make it through to the end of the book not as triumphant wonder women but as girls growing in self-love and self-expression.

This novel packs some awesome representation. It celebrates queerness (including non binary), body-acceptance, and the de-stigmatization of mental health problems. This is the follow up I had hoped it would be. As a Brit, I love the word-play, and I am a sucker for great road trips. The new characters are off-the-charts awesome and, you know how sometimes you feel like a YA is written for an adult audience? Well, not here. While there are some dark moments, this book maintains an undercurrent of hope for the reader. And the ending is not a happy-ever-after wrap up, but it’s exactly what this Rebel Girl needs

Arc provided by Publisher

Resources: 

Angie does have some serious self-doubt and while there is no suicide in this novel, I always like to leave a resource for you just in case. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.

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