Title: Fat Chance
Author: Nick Spalding
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: October 7
Source: Lake Union Publishing on NetGalley (A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.)
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Meet Zoe and Greg Milton, a married couple who have let themselves go a bit.
Zoe was a stunner in her college days, but the intervening decades have added five stone, and removed most of her self-esteem. Greg’s rugby-playing days are well and truly behind him, thanks to countless pints of beer and chicken curry.
When Elise, a radio DJ and Zoe’s best friend, tells them about a new competition, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn their lives around. Fat Chance will pit six hefty couples against one another to see who can collectively lose the most weight and walk away with a £50,000 prize.
So begins six months of abject misery, tears, and frustration–that just might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them–in another laugh-out-loud look at the way we live now from bestselling author Nick Spalding. (Source: Goodreads)
This book has left me very conflicted. On the one hand the plot was interesting and fun and highly enjoyable, on the other hand the characters were somewhat unlikeable (more of a range slightly unlikeable to full-on infuriating) and there was a lot of content that made me uncomfortable. This meant that while some parts of this book were a breeze to get through, other portions were a struggle.
Let’s start with the good. The plot. The idea of a show where people try to lose weight it probably not so original considering the number of TV shows about just that, however it’s a fun plot to follow and one that can easily cause readers to cheer on and support the characters as its very easy to support characters who are trying to make positive changes in their lives. The fact that it was a radio show was a bit weird to me, because it doesn’t seem like radio friendly content. I meant, you need to see the people to understand just how overweight or obese they are so as to really feel the full effect of the weight loss process. So, it was a little weird but that might be a tad nitpicky of me.
The writing in the book is pretty smooth. The point of view alternates between Zoe and Greg as they write their weight loss journals. I don’t know that the voices are full articulated as you might put the book down and come back thinking you’re reading Greg but it’s actually Zoe. There are some good clues a lot of the time because most of the offensive stuff is from Greg’s point of view, but we’ll get to that. While the voices are fully articulated and can get a little muddled, the writing is still clear and pretty good. It’s a fairly easy read as such.
The one really good thing about this book is the honest way it discussing exercise and dieting. Spalding talks a lot about diets and exercise and really sums it up well by giving a heaping helping of the truth: eat a balanced diet and exercise, there’s no miracle cure. This is a really good, honest message about being healthy and becoming healthy, it’s a long road and it takes a lot of work. I think Spalding did well with this message, even if he really missed the mark in a lot of other ways.
Character wise you really only get to know Zoe and Greg. They’re a bit snobbish and don’t attempt to get to know the other competitors in any way really. Zoe isn’t so bad, her perspective was a little nicer than Greg’s. A frequent struggle for Zoe is the fact that she can’t get pregnant which is a really good plot point but one that is poorly wrapped up and largely ignored. Zoe has a more positive attitude for the most part though she has some bad parts as well. This kind of goes into the content that made me uncomfortable but there’s an attitude throughout this book that skinny people are awful. Zoe is a huge voice for this message which is her major negative point because she’s pretty vocal about it. This was also paired with a representation of many overweight people as bad too. Clownish is one way I would describe a lot of the characterization in this book. This book is in no one a body positive one, it does not encourage you to love your body no matter skinny, average, or overweight.
So to continue from there, let’s talk about Greg. Greg is, to me, no good. Every chapter where Greg was the narrator infuriated me for one reason or another. If you follow my reviews on Goodreads you’ll have seen me updating pretty regularly about my annoyance. One thing that annoyed me quite a lot throughout this book was the way Spalding wrote about men, particularly “effeminate” men. Greg is the voice of this anti-“effeminate” men stuff for the most part (though you’ll see some spill over into Zoe’s narration). All of this content is really more or less thinly veiled homophobia. There’s a lot of name calling and use of “gay” (though more frequently terms like “fairy” and “poof”) as insults. This made me really uncomfortable. There’s a similar trend of misunderstanding mental health and using things like “OCD” as punchlines of rather inappropriate jokes throughout the book. Greg also regularly fantasizes about extramarital affairs and having sex with over women, which is presented as a positive display of his manliness. I found this questionable and somewhat uncomfortable, especially because Zoe is also shown to have an attitude like “Greg’s so manly he wants to shag all my friends”. I don’t know, I found it weird and unnecessary.
I’m having trouble finding more to say about this, because while I’m sure there’s a lot more I really want to wash my hands of this book. Overall, I’d say the plot was fun, and basically without Greg’s perspective it’s a really good book. With Greg though, it’s really conflicting and uncomfortable to read. I gave it 3 stars for the merits of its writing and it’s honesty about becoming healthy. I feel obligated to warn you though that’s there some really negative stuff perpetuated as positive in this book and that means I cannot recommend it.