I actually didn’t think I would like this book. It was the title. Diary of a Mad Fat Girl. Fat just isn’t a politically correct word, and I wondered how the author could get me past the initial stereotyped image she was presenting.
Honestly, it didn’t take long. Once I got into the first few chapters I was hooked, and I didn’t care who saw the cover! Stephanie McAfee’s skillful characterizations of protagonist Graciela “Ace” Jones, her best friend Lilly, mutual friend Chloe, their boyfriends, lovers, spouses and an adorable Chiweeenie dog named Buster Loo brought me right into their lives in current day Mississippi and I never wanted to leave.
Ace Jones, the mad fat girl of the title, and her tall, willowy and beautiful BFF Lilly reminded me of girls I used to teach with when I was young, single and figuring out the world. Ace and Lilly teach, live and love with passion. Ace leads with her heart and not her head, a strategy which lends itself to poignant humor and situations the reader can imagine herself alongside the characters – well, maybe not the hilarious drag bar scene!
As if Ace and her pals weren’t enough, Stephanie McAfee’s addition of the fabulous Gloria Peacock and her friends Daisy, Birdie and Temple absolutely sealed the deal for me. The addition of these mature, wise matriarchs provides grounding and depth for the story and characters.
I could just picture Ace and her girlfriends, desperate for advice on their love lives, grasping for advice from the more ‘experienced’ ladies: “I look at Gloria Peacock, who smiles at me. ‘Follow your heart. It won’t lead you wrong.’ ‘Mind did,’ Daisy says. ‘More than once.’ ‘I think you were following something besides your heart, Daisy,’ Birdie says.
Gloria and her cohort represent female strength at a mature age, and highlight McAfee’s ability to create complex female characters. Add in a bit of tragedy and a whole bunch of humor, and you’ve got a book to lose yourself in for an afternoon.
But Diary of a Mad Fat Girl isn’t a typical single-girl-finds-the-right-guy predictable type of love story. Ace and her pals sample life with enviable gusto, and just when I thought I had it all figured out, I didn’t. Kind of like life.
I’m still not crazy about the title, but Diary of a Mad Fat Girl has the ability to move the reader out of their own reality and into the lives of these strong women living in Bugtussle, Mississippi, and to let us know that stereotypes are meant to be broken.
This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.