There is so much to love in Sweetie and Ashish's story. First, Sweetie herself is an incredible character. Fat representation in general is hard to find (especially fat WOC characters), and it's even more rare that the representation is authentic. Sweetie feels incredibly real. On one hand, she loves what her body can do, like running record-destroying times. On the other hand, she's surrounded by cultural norms that say she can't/shouldn't be happy with her body and that she can't be a full person with her body as is. She has to navigate not only society and her mother especially telling her she can't do certain things, wear certain clothes, or go out with certain people (like Ashish) because of her size, but she's also dealing with internalized fatphobia. Sweetie's journey is learning to stand up for herself and to her mom is beautiful, powerful, and has a very hopeful conclusion.
Ashish isn't taking his breakup well. It's a joy to read a book that shows such a nuanced portrayal of vulnerability and emotion in a male character. His side brings up aspects we don't always see in YA, like how breakups can take a long time (months, or even years) to get over, no matter how good or bad the relationship was, and it's not easy sitting with that hurt. Ashish has to learn to be radically honest and vulnerable at times, both with others and with himself. Something I really appreciate about the romance is that when Ashish and Sweetie start dating, neither of them are magically 'better.' Sweetie is still finding her voice, and Ashish doesn't automatically gain his confidence back. What they each struggle with is ultimately a very personal, individual journey, and not something that should, or truly can be, fixed by another person. They learn to grow while falling for each other.
I also adore the side plots. Oliver and Elijah are hilarious and angsty at the same time. Samir and Ashish have a great friendship arc, and I'm here for a buddy cop spin off with Samir and Pinky.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE has heart, beauty, and deep feelings. Menon has stunned again.