One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?
Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.
But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after.
July 7th, 2020
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Bachelor Inspired…with a Twist!
One to Watch sounded like the perfect weekend escape reading and when I read the book summary I had high hopes! While it has been years since I have watched, I was an avid fan of The Bachelor and many other questionable but totally entertaining “romance” reality shows for many years. And of course, even if you haven’t watched, everyone knows how those shows go, the main participants are almost always stereotypically beautiful, which means they tend to be thin.
Bea is a stylish, confident, and adored woman who also happens to have legions on fans on Instagram as a “plus-size influencer”. When she calls out Main Squeeze on their underrepresentation of the “American woman” and their lack of size diversity, she gets the chance to mix things up. She is chosen to be the star of the latest season of the hit reality show Main Squeeze, with the one caveat, she will do this to further her career, NOT to fall in love.
This all sounded so great and I was excited about the prospect of a leading lady in contemporary literature that also happened to be closer to the size of the “average American woman”. I loved that she had body confidence and was excited to see where it took her when she was introduced to a group of 25 men vying for her love and affection. Unfortunately, this is where it went downhill for me…
Bea, normally in charge of what she presents on social media, is taken for a ride by both the producer of the show and some of the contestants. I was so excited for the chance for her to come across as the confident woman that she was, but instead, the fat-shaming and self-depreciation was almost unbearable. It was like Bea did a 180 from what we were presented at the beginning of the book.
While I get that some men really would be shallow enough to not be interested, even the “good guys” had enough red flags from the start it was hard to believe it could ever be genuine. This was such a turnoff, both in the presentation of Bea and also the one-dimensional presentation of the male contestants, who were unlikeable at best.
I also struggled with the fluidity of both the narrative and dialogue. While it creatively incorporated transcripts, texts, and news articles, it also made for quite the choppy reading experience. I enjoyed the premise, but the execution of this one just left much to be desired.
Thank you to NetGalley and The Dial Press for an advanced copy. I also purchased a hard copy through my Book of the Month subscription. All opinions are my own.
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