Title: To Be Honest
Author: Maggie Ann Martin
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Contemporary
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Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.
Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.
TW/CW: eating disorders, extreme weight loss, talk of body image, fat shaming (suggested)
To Be Honest is a book I honestly thought flew under the radar. It’s one that if I didn’t see Chelsea talk about it, I don’t think I would have even known this one was coming out (or would have picked it up).
That being said, I am SO happy this one was on my radar because this book was so good. I think this book covered some super important topics and is one I wish I could have read back in high school.
“News flash: fat isn’t a bad word, Mom. It’s the twenty-first century. I have blue eyes. I have blond hair. I’m fat. Literally nothing about my life is changed because that word is associated with my physical appearance.”
Savannah: Savannah was one of those main characters that I can see people hating, but I actually really enjoyed. Her views on how other people perceive her, how she perceives the romantic interest, and her relationship with her mom are some things are really resonated with. Savannah is someone I saw myself in, especially when I was younger.
Savannah’s mom: I’m pretty sure she was given a name, but honestly I can’t think of it right now. Sorry. But I thought Savannah’s mom was such an interesting character to include as we do live in a weight obsessed world. The dynamic between Savvy and her mom is something I resonated with. I’ll talk more about this below, but this relationship was probably the most interesting part of the story (at least for me).
“How was I supposed to follow up to that? Say that the thinspirations around the house were good for everyone? That her tiny backhanded comments about my weight inspired me to become fit? All both of those things did was make me feel worse and completely discourage me.“
If you strip away the stuff with Savvy’s mom, it’s a pretty conventional ya contemporary. Savvy meets George at the beginning of her book, he ends up transferring to her school, and she has the hots for him. It’s not that original of a plot, but it’s a formula that works.
That being said, the subplot with Savannah and her mom did add a lot. This subplot takes up a good chunk of the book, but it was an incredibly important angle that I think we need more of in 2018. I have a section down below that’s going to get hella personal, but I felt like this was such an important book.
This book ends pretty dark, when you think about it. Savannah and her family look at the real cost of her mom’s weight loss and I think it was a great way to end the story. I’m not here to bash anyone that likes fitness or clean eating or anything like that, but I think it’s important to address the realities of living in a weight loss obsessed world.
I also loved the care-free attitude of the romance and how it took a “we’re young, so let’s see what happens” approach. I’m not used to seeing this in YA (usually every romance is because the leads are soul mates and it was pretty refreshing to acknowledge that high schoolers might not be soul mates and that they should just play it by ear.
Though, this book isn’t without its flaws. Probably the most glaring issue is what I said above, the non-body positive plot was pretty paint by numbers…including my least favorite trope of all time: getting mad at the love interest over a misunderstanding. Because of this, if you didn’t like the stuff with Savannah and her mom, you’re probably not going to like this book. Fortunately, some of the more cringeworthy parts of this plot were pretty short and I did like the plot with Savvy and her mom, but I can see how people wouldn’t like this book.
“I’m sorry that someone taught you to hate yourself because of your body somewhere along the way, but I’m not going to let you pull me down with you.”
–>let’s get personal<–
TW/CW: I talk a lot about my personal journey with weight and body image. I know that may be triggering for some people and wanted to let you guys know.
Okay, so I think the reason I liked this book as much as I did was because of how much I resonated with the body positivity message. I know I mentioned this a few times already, but I think the strength of this book was Savannah’s relationship with her mom and how this relates to body positivity.
Now, I know this is a touchy subject; body positivity. It can very quickly go into bashing other people if they don’t look a certain way or condoning unheathly lifestyles, but I’m going to avoid crossing that bridge for now.
But, as someone who is plus sized, I’ve struggled with my weight and my self confidence for years. In high school I was one of the heavier kids in my class (at least I thought I was, looking at old photos you can see I was fine), but I had super low self confidence. This past year I gained a lot of weight due to stress and not having the healthiest choices when it came to food, going (or not going to the gym), and I moved several times (which does wonders for my weight I guess). Because of this, I’ve had to upsize my clothes and deal with the repercussions of being heavier in modern day America (mostly just having my weight be a major topic when I go to the doctor, even though I went to get a blood work up to confirm I had a vaccine for an internship – classic).
I’ve also seen people that had my ideal body type talk about “feeling like a whale” and using multi-level marketing products to a loose significant amount of weight in a short period of time and talk about how they feel so much better and that I need to feel better too (they also regularly shame different types of food or diets that are not their’s and I had to unfollow due to personal reasons).
Because of this, having a book that called out our society’s obsession with weight loss and extreme dieting and the realities of crash dieting. This book also doesn’t say that being fat is the best or only way to live OR that if you like fitness and weight loss you’re wrong. But it does call out UNHEALTHY weight loss, which I really appreciate.
I feel like if I had a book like this in high school, I may have started looking at myself in a different way. Even if I didn’t, I would have had a main character I resonated with.
“It took everything within me not to add some extra hashtags, like #LoveYourBody or #AllBodiesAreGoodBodies.“
Okay, I feel like I got a bit repetitive in this review, sorry about that.
I think I made my feelings pretty clear with this book though. I thought it was super important and I saw high school my in Savvy so so much. Between her anxiety and her self confidence, I really related with her.
I also thought that the most interesting part of this book was surrounding Savannah and her mom. The rest of the book was a pretty familiar premise, that really isn’t my favorite, but I thought the plot with Savannah and her mom was interesting and compelling enough for me to still recommend this book.
I think that this is a book that all teens, especially plus size teens should read as it gives such an important and powerful message.