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 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, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.
“It’s about choice. A lot of people live their lives by default, walking through the doors in front of them because it seems expedient. That’s one way to have a family. But us? We chose each other. And that’s what you’re doing here, Bean… You’re choosing your family.”bob, bea shumacher’s stepdad
The idea of the book is brilliant – a plus sized heroine appearing on a Bachelorette-esque reality show – fantastic! Bea is super likeable. Being a plus-sized woman is no easy road, and I’m sure being a woman of size in the public eye can be utterly soul-crushing. I thought Kate Stayman-London did a great job of showing how Bea is able to mostly shrug off the awful things people say to her over social media, but that some of the hate directed at her manages to get through her armour. Even though she’s generally pretty confident, when the hate seeps in, she starts to doubt herself.
The men on Bea’s show are all interesting characters. Without spilling any details, I liked that even the man who ends up being a real dog, and betrays Bea in a pretty epic fashion, still seems like a human being. Even though he was a total ass, he truly did like and care about Bea. It would have been really easy to hate him, but he’s written so that you can see the nuances in his personality. He’s kind of a douche – and he did something really awful to Bea, but he is written as a real person, not just a villain. It becomes obvious that his awful behaviour toward Bea has nothing to do with HER – he would have acted the same way with any woman, no matter who she was or what she looked like. It made the character feel more real, if not more likeable!
The only part in the book I didn’t like was the excerpts and snippets from various podcasts and fan blogs, twitter feeds, etc, dissecting Bea’s show. I can understand why they are there, but I found them boring and ended up simply skipping over them.
I enjoyed One To Watch so much that I found myself dreaming about the characters! That doesn’t often happen to me, so I know it really resonated! I have the same feeling about Bea as I do about Aidy Bryant‘s character in the Hulu show Shrill (based on the incredible Lindy West’s work). I admire her so much for her strength and courage, but I understand how hard it can be to stop hating yourself because you don’t look like a model. No matter how much you work at it, some bad stuff is probably always going to get through. You need to learn how to work around it.
There is a ton more I would love to say about this book – it really got under my skin in the best way. But I’ll end by saying that if you want to read a really great story about a really lovely girl with whom you’d love to share a bottle of wine, pick up One To Watch.