Big Girl Panties

Big Girl Panties
by Stephanie Evanovich
Published by William Morrow
486 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
2.5 / 5

It can’t be easy for writers to have a plus-sized heroine.

You know it’s true, so don’t even bother getting your hackles up. When you picture a heroine, you picture a woman with a lingerie model’s physique, not someone who last wore a bikini when she was seven. You know it’s true.

So imagine being a writer and wanting to do away with this mindset. Your fair maiden packs on a few extra pounds, but she’s smart and sassy and vulnerable and gorgeous despite what the scales say. She deserves the hot dude. Can you sell your readers on the concept? Can you remind them every now and then that the woman they might be picturing is not the woman you’re writing about? And how do you address society’s perceptions of women with normal bodies as opposed to those who are genetic freaks?

Jennifer Weiner does this to perfection in books such as Good in Bed. She walks that line between pounding us over the head with how wrong it is to dismiss normal-looking women and with presenting them as heroines.

What about Big Girl Panties? Can Stephanie Evanovich (yes, her sister is Janet) pull it off? (GET IT? Pull it off? Panties. Come on, you know you’re laughing.)

The short answer is: somewhat.

Holly Brennan is someone we all know. In fact, she might even be us: she uses food for comfort, increasingly so since her husband passed away. She winds up seated next to Logan Montgomery, a man so beautiful that he takes away collective breaths, on an airplane. That in itself is horrifying, because those airplane seats are not very welcoming to bigger bodies. Holly’s self-deprecating wit and fragility appeal to Logan, though, and he offers her his business card. Logan is a personal trainer to famous athletes, and he offers to help Holly get physically fit.

And here is where it gets sticky. The premise is adorable, and you know exactly how it will turn out. But to get there, we have to endure Stephanie Evanovich’s clear confusion about what book she’s trying to write. Is it a romance? A screed against society? A self-help guide? An insightful examination of the hypocrisy of those who give voice to progress for the physically imperfect?

There are lectures a-plenty here, kids. If you don’t want to sit through long speeches about loving yourself for who you are and not letting someone’s physical appearance deter you from loving them, then skip on past this one. The problem isn’t necessarily Holly; she’s accurately drawn. We understand her need for comfort, and if her turn at fitness appears too easily done, then so be it. It’s a fantasy, after all, and don’t we all want to think that we can tone our bodies with only one slip-up? Her emotional journey is more hard-fought, though, and that’s the more compelling tale.

Then there is Logan. Good grief. He’s physically perfect, and his growing feelings for Holly are fun to read about. He recognizes how shallow he is, and he even acknowledges his hypocrisy. You might want to smack him occasionally, but he’s a good guy and one worth rooting for. Oh, he’ll learn you some things about fitness and food, and his navel gazing can bring the book to a crawl.

But Logan is far, far more readable than the sub-plot involving his client, Chase, and his wife. When reading their story, you get to the “What the hell is Stephanie Evanovich thinking” part of the festivities. Girl, this is not Fifty Shades of Grey, and your attempt to incorporate a BDSM storyline is beneath you and your readers. For reals, sister. Not only that, but your knowledge of it appears to be flimsy and somewhat lacking, so do yourself a favor and excise this.

The book is fun and not unpleasant to read, but there are better books out there. You want to read about plus-sized girls getting the guy? Try on some Jennifer Weiner. Or go give Dangerous Girls a try if you want a murder mystery involving teenagers.

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Filed under chick lit, romance, sometimes the book just isn't good

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