Changing habits: How books and their protagonists shape our mind

One of my guilty pleasures is corny young adult fiction. And now, during Corona times, I took some time to read a little more and ordered a few books. One of those books I ordered and read is “No Big Deal” by Bethany Rutter. I came across this book in an episode of the Eighty Eight Podcast by Sara Brown and Ella Sisso, two gorgeous plus size bloggers. They introduced the book briefly and I was intrigued immediately: A book with a fat protagonist?

I am 23 years old and I have been fuller figured all my life but I have never read a book with a curvy main character. And although I read a lot during my teenage years I guess I have never really reflected what I read. I read what I enjoyed, what was popular, what made me dream of unrealistic relationships and other fantasies. Now that my experiences made me more aware of the ongoing toxic trends within social media, campaigns, movies, music and more, I began to wonder why I never thought I was missing something. 

Whenever reading a book, I always felt connected to the main characters decisions and emotions, but every time a female character was described I was often introduced to a slender and petite girl with beautiful hair and sparkly blue eyes. When thinking about how this particular underrepresentation in fiction makes me as a reader feel, I cannot help but think about other minorities, too. Where are the elderly women, queer people, people of color, and people with disabilities in literature? Growing up, I can’t recall one major young adult work in which a member of those groups had a leading role. 

Therefore I think we should rethink our reading habits, amongst the consumption habits of any other media. What we see and read shapes our realities and establishes unbalanced standards and ideals. Not only will consuming mainstream media and its normative images effect minorities psychologically, but also will keep you from individual growth and openness towards other experiences. 

So, I am extremely thankful to have found “No Big Deal” by Bethany Rutter. The story is about Emily, who knows that she is worthy, beautiful, and clever, but struggles to prove to the world that she is all of those things. Emily is fat and luckily that is something she does not care about. In contrast to other books with fat characters, who are often concerned about their appearances and weight, this is a refreshing point of view that promotes self-love and body positivity. 

Amongst the typical young adult love dilemmas and romantic aspects, the book also deals with Emily’s struggles regarding friendship and family quite realistically and with a sense of humor. Especially one of the first scenes in which Emily goes shopping with her friends made me realize of how much I needed a book like this. In that particular moment we find Emily in a changing room stuck inside of a shirt. The problem of not fitting into the largest available size in a store is probably something not everyone can relate to, however, the feeling of knowing that you are not alone and that even characters in books can have these struggles is such a joy and relief.

These little moments in the book, sometimes funny, sometimes more serious, and the clear positioning against diet culture makes this a great read for women and men of every age and size. I would love to see more books that challenge our reading habits come our way and help create a colorful and diverse literary world in which all people can feel represented.