When Elise, a radio DJ and Zoe’s best friend, tells them about a new competition, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn their lives around. Fat Chance will pit six hefty couples against one another to see who can collectively lose the most weight and walk away with a 50,000 prize.
So begins six months of abject misery, tears, and frustration that just might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them in another laugh-out-loud look at the way we live now from bestselling author Nick Spalding.
Plot – the idea is solid. An overweight couple agree to a weight loss contest competition through a local radio station to win big money. Lose weight and win cash? Everybody win. Except no one wins (more on that in a minute).
Writing – The writing is fluid and well structured. We’re taken through the story of Zoe and Greg by alternating diary entrances they’re required to write during the competition.
Story – There are good takeaways here – the fad diets are fads for a reason, long term commitment and a new way of viewing life is really the only way to take weight off safely and keep it off, depending on your partner and being there for him/her through all the ups and downs (numbers on a scale and otherwise). The relationship between Zoe and Greg was stable and they were sweet with one another. Not many books are centered around a solid, anchored couple. It was refreshing to read that part of it.
Character/Development – Neither Zoe and Greg come across as very likable people, especially Greg. There’s a lot of denigrating remarks in Greg’s diary entries about effeminate men vs “real” men then seemed like a touch of poorly disguised homophobia and misogyny. Real men play rugby! Real men only work with a female trainer when they have no other option! Real men eat seven kinds of meat in one meal! Real men think about having affairs all the time! Burps and scratches and body hair! YEAH! The casual references to rape? Do we still really need to tell people that’s not ok? Gah.
I wanted to like Zoe more than I did. Instead of developing her into a character we want to pull for, we’re just told we’re supposed to. It feels a little manipulative when a book is telling the reader “feel sorry for this fat girl who can’t have babies strictly because of her weight” within the first quarter of the book. Also? Not true.
The sketch comedy – The parts that were supposed to be funny (I guess?) read like poorly developed comedy sketches meant to do nothing more than poke fun at the fatties that dare to live a normal life. “Laugh at Zoe when she gets stuck in a dress in a fitting room and ends up in her underwear in front of people! Laugh at Greg who can’t sit in a plastic chair without breaking it! Laugh harder when that chair gets stuck on his ass and needs the help of two people to get it off! Fat people can’t run without falling down! Har har har!”
This book is riddled with clichés and jokes that aren’t true to life. It reads like the author watched ‘Shallow Hal’ or some talk show segment with some pretty girl in a fat suit so he thought he knew what it’s like to be heavy. You want to write a book about living obese in a skinny jeans world? Great. Don’t use your characters to the butt of jokes that seem like they’ve been written by immature fourth grade boys and the local middle school’s mean girls.
Here’s the thing: Being overweight does not transform your life into a Chris Farley sketch.
It could’ve been so much better and it’s too bad that it wasn’t.