Genre: Contemporary dystopian thriller
Have you ever read “Lose Now, Pay Later” by Carol Farley? That was one of the first short stories I ever fell in love with. I think a reason for that was that it applied directly to me. It’s the timeless tale of human insecurity and judgement. Many scholars have analyzed it as an allegory for gluttony, but gluttony has nothing to do with superficial judgment
Even now, as a person who considers herself very body positive, I exist within a culture of fat phobia and fat shaming. The tagline for this book is “they’d kill to get thin”. Finally, a dystopian catalyst that’s real enough to scare me. There’s a quote by Kate Winslet, “as a child I never heard one women say to me ‘I love my body’. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend, no one. I am so proud of my body so I make sure to say it to Mia because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.” This is similar to the main character (Laurel’s) acknowledgment of the difference between her and her best friend (Vivika’s) being the mirrors that hang on the walls of their homes. Vivika’s father openly chastises her mother for being “ugly and fat” while Laurel’s parents have always celebrated who both of them are and how both of them look.
This story is reminiscent of an episode of Doctor Who. It’s futurist in that (thankfully) Solu doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t seem too far off either. Plus, with the Doctor there’s usually the collective and the exception. The sheep (Vivika) versus the black sheep (Laurel and her love interest Tom).
One thing that continually irked me was Sabbi, the Brazilian pop star. Not only did the author constantly discuss how truly amazing her ass was but she also didn’t bother to spell check the smatterings of Portuguese. One Brazilian sensitivity reader is all it would have taken to reduce the spelling, grammatical, and contextual mistakes.
Also, villain monologues are a bit overdone. Sure, I get why the jaded former CEO of a sugary soda company would feel the need to show the world the perils of “lose weight simultaneously”. Well, I wouldn’t get the sentiment; I just know that this sort of superiority complex is no novelty. But I didn’t mind that the villain was exactly who we, the readers, thought it was. Although Laurel and Tom could put some more work into their sleuthing abilities.
The ending foreshadows either a sequel or a not “not so happy” ending. I identified with all three of the main characters and that made me enjoy the book for much more than just the plot. Vivika wants to lose weight because it’s where she rests her self-worth. Laurel doesn’t care about weight loss, but she feels like an outsider in how she dresses and she interacts with others. Tom cares about his weight, but not in the same way that Vivika does. A former chubby childhood television star, Tom sees his body as a tool and nothing more. Tom’s body is a money-maker, Vivika’s is a burden, and Laurel’s is simply the exterior of who she is inside.
Warning: It gets bloody, violent, and explicit so if the mere mention of blood makes you squeamish, this probably won’t be your cup of tea. But if you’re a fan of thriller, action, and suspense, then get out some scones, sugar, and milk because this IS your cup of tea!