Review: Good Luck With That

Good Luck with ThatGood Luck with That
by Kristan Higgins

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Good Luck With That / B077CNXY2B

[Trigger Warning: Fat Hatred, Eating Disorders]

I want to say upfront I did not finish (DNF) this book. There are 39 chapters and a prologue, so 40 chapters total. I read the first 7 chapters, 2 chapters in the middle, and the last 4 chapters--13 chapters total I read, or almost a third of the book. I also heavily skimmed the parts I didn't read. I was looking, as close as I could, for something that would make this book stop being hurtful. In the beginning, in the middle, and in the ending, I only found more hurt.

This book is being advertised as "body positive" and it maybe is... for a certain type of body. This book makes the case that the line of what is a socially unacceptable weight should be moved upwards a bit; that girls who shop at plus size clothing stores can still be pretty and sexy. But there's a hard line in place between what is acceptable "normal-fat" (a term the protagonists Georgia and Marley use to distinguish themselves from from their dead friend Emerson) and what is "too far gone" fat. Fatness at higher numbers is stigmatized heavily, and called "grotesque" in text.

I want to make a point about numbers here: the book is very careful never to give weights for Georgia and Marley, though we can guess at their sizes based on the clothing shops they visit and how they describe their bodies. Emerson, the dead friend and cautionary tale, is not provided that courtesy; we learn actual numbers for her weight at the start of her diary and then later near the end. The narrative very clearly considers these numbers too much, too big, too unhealthy, and pushes the idea that such numbers will lead to loneliness and death. This is NOT a novel which is accepting to fat people in the higher ranges, and I found that very hurtful as a fat person myself.

Some trigger warnings need to apply to this book. Weight is given for Emerson, along with her blood pressure and various other vitals. Calorie counts for food are given in multiple places. There are careless, casual, and almost callous mentions of eating disorders; characters will drop anorexia ("Every fat girl starves herself at one point or another. ") or bulimia ("Once upon a time, I hadn't been above sticking my finger down my throat.") into the text without warning. I am a surviving bulimic, and that quote occurs in chapter 5, which drove some of my choice to DNF. One of the middle chapters I read was a very disturbing and (in my mind) entirely unnecessary scene of Emerson binge-eating pizza while crying. This is not plot relevant (Emerson is, at this point, long dead), except to show how Emerson became fat--which is only "plot" if you think fatness needs a driving reason behind it.

The plot: Emerson dies and asks her two childhood friends to fulfill a "When We're Skinny" bucket list they once put together in fat camp (which is portrayed as a lovely, idealized summer camp where fat girls go to make friends). Much of the bucket list no longer applies (for example, Georgia was married to a hot guy so she's nailed the "Hold hands with a cute guy in public" entry), but Georgia and Marley realize they're unhappy and haven't been living their best lives because they're so obsessed with losing weight. They decide to stop being unhappy and eventually do so--though we are reassured at points that they're still exercising. Marley runs, kickboxes, and does Zumba and yoga. She's also curvy and has proportional breasts, so we can be assured she's a Good Fatty and not a Bad Fatty. Georgia is not actually fat, as best I can tell and to her own admission in points of the narrative; she used to be fat and believes that past has indelibly marked her ("Once a fat girl, always a fat girl."). This means that the fattest girl in the book (Emerson) dies as an impetus for her two thinner friends to live their best, most joyful lives.

Spoilers: Marley marries a guy who is one of her clients (she's a personal chef) whose declaration of love reveals he abused his position as a client to gratify his desire to see her (he would deliberately take a long time writing her check and fuss over checking each meal, so she would stay in his house longer with him); he asks Marley during an episode of TLC's stigmatizing "My 600-Pound Life" television show (which is mentioned at least 3 times in text and all the characters seem to watch) whether *she* will ever weigh 600 pounds. I think we're supposed to like him in spite of all this; I do not. Georgia's love interest is her ex-husband, to whom she confesses that she broke their marriage with her eating disorders and weight obsession, but she's decided to not do that anymore. If she receives any counseling for the serious illness that disordered eating is, I could not find any mention of it. Emerson is a (Dead) Bad Fatty, so her love interest is a "Feeder": a man who fetishizes fat people and gets off on watching us eat.

A word about Emerson: she dies in Chapter 2 to kick off the plot. What we see of her throughout the book are in diary entries she wrote in the four years prior to her death. These are lavish scenes of the hatred she experiences as a fat person, but these scenes also attempt to show her spiraling into deeper, badder weight. These diary entries feel like cautionary tales--"don't do this or bad things will happen!"--and were deeply triggering for me as a fat person. I do think the author feels compassion that Emerson is treated badly by society, but any compassion here sits alongside a very strong insistence that fatness is a choice she is making, and that her choices are bad. Emerson obsesses in her diary entries over a thin version of herself, an "Other Emerson", and how much better her thin life would be than her fat life. Her last entry before dying is a love letter to "Other Emerson", apologizing that Emerson couldn't be her. This was profoundly disturbing to me as a fat reader, and a big reason why I had to stop.

I performed a live-read of this book on twitter, and you can find them under the hashtag "ANAGLWT", or you can read them on my blog under the tag "deconstruction (glwt)". Another reason why I stopped reading was because I was not the only one triggered; dozens of followers wrote me asking that I stop because they were deeply upset by the book quotes I was posting. I do not think this book would be safe for *anyone* who identifies with Emerson or is in one of the higher fat ranges, and I would urge anyone of ANY size who has eating disorders to not read this.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book.

~ Ana Mardoll


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