Somehow Fat Cat had been almost entirely off of my radar, which is a shame because this book is pretty damn awesome. It’s one of those books very driven by narrative voice, and I happen to love Cat’s voice. Brande tackles some sensitive issues, like weight and diet, thoughtfully and with an eye towards making healthy choices, not to conforming to society.
Fat Cat is one of those books where the fat heroine does lose a lot of the weight by the end, so if that’s not what you want be warned. However, I do think it happens in a really great way. Cat doesn’t lose the weight through a crash diet or anything and she does so for herself with lifestyle changes. I love that at the end it’s stressed that Cat lost the weight for herself and not so that people will think of her differently. She also really considers the behavior of people towards her, and looks askance at those that only liked her after she lost the weight. Brande definitely does not come across as fat-shaming Cat, which I think is the most important thing.
Cat’s got a really great voice. She’s funny and a little judgmental. She’s also inquisitive and set in her ways. She has a lot of trouble looking past her own viewpoint, which is completely accurate. Fat Cat is Cat’s emotional journey to self-awareness and self-acceptance. One of the things she learns, that I also learned and continue to learn even at 26, is that a lot of beauty lies in confidence. If you feel ugly and uncomfortable, you project that and people are more likely to perceive you that way. Looking back at my high school photos, all of my smiles look pained, because, though I’d gotten cuter than in middle school, I still felt ugly and unwanted; in my middle school photos, I mostly just glowered. If you hate yourself, it shows and makes other people more tempted to do the same. That’s hackneyed, but it also happens to be true. Brande really stresses the fact that it’s your opinion of yourself that matters more than any other.
In addition to Cat, I love Amanda, and their friendship. She and Amanda are very different people in a lot of ways, but they have one of the best YA friendships. Amanda and Cat support each other, even if it’s sometimes inconvenient. Cat agrees to give dating a try because Amanda thinks it might be good for her. She also agrees to help Amanda keep a restaurant going. In turn, Amanda’s fully supportive of Cat’s project to live like a hominin, despite believing the project to be overambitious. What’s great is that they don’t always agree but they do help out as much as they can; they express dissenting opinions but agree on a course of action together and have each other’s back all through the process.
The romance was really well done too, with Cat getting to date a couple of different guys before hooking up with the ship, who I totally called by the way and, yes, I ship it. I love the YA novels where the heroine doesn’t HEA with the first guy she ever dates. Even better, Cat very clearly has difficult handling emotions and figuring out whether she’s interested in a particular guy. Then there’s the divide between emotional and physical attraction; I loved the way she was carried away by lust with Nick, despite herself. Such things do not happen enough in YA novels.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The one aspect I didn’t super love was the science fair thing. First of all, this school sounded ridiculous to me, because it’s public but has all of these classes I don’t think most public schools offer, like this advanced science course all geared towards the science fair or sign language. There were a few more, but they escape me at the moment. Anyway, the science fair projects that both she and Matt do don’t really seem particularly original, which would be fine if Cat didn’t make them out to be the best teen scientists to ever happen. The ending helped with this a bit, but I got bored of this aspect really quickly.
The Final Verdict:
Fat Cat made me laugh and smile many times. It’s a fluffy, heart-warming book full of humor and great attitudes. This is a book that I think needs a whole lot more buzz. I’ll definitely be looking for more Robin Brande, because this was fabulous.