Size 12 is Not Fat
Outside of politics and religion, few subjects seem as emotionally charged as weight and body size – especially for women. When my husband asked me the title of the book I was reading, and I told him it was Size 12 is Not Fat, his first response was, “Sure it is. If you were size 12, you’d think you were fat.” I had to explain that for my body type (tall with a small frame) it would be, but that I knew many size twelve women whom I did not consider to be fat. He then asked me was exactly was fat, if size 12 wasn’t it. I gave him an answer so cagey that it almost sounded like I were running for political office. It was amazing to me that I was unwilling to be pinned down on this subject, even in the privacy of my own home. But it’s just that kind of issue, isn’t it?
Heather Wells is a former teen-pop star (a la Tiffany or Debbie Gibson), who earned millions during her teen years singing in malls across the country. Now she’s a little older, a little (two dress sizes) heavier, and a lot poorer – her mom took off with all of her earnings and is living it up in Argentina. To top it off, Heather recently discovered her fiancé, Jordan Cartwright, receiving oral sex from an up-and-coming country singer. Jordan is in a hot boy band (think N’Sync), and his father owned the recording company that both of them worked for. When Heather suggested that she perform her own material instead of the bubblegum pop she is known for, the record label let her go. Now instead of performing, Heather is trying her hand at college. As an assistant in a residence hall (the college frowns on the use of the word “dorm”) at the fictional New York College, Heather has a six month probationary period, but then she can take classes for free. She also has a fortunate living situation. Jordan’s older brother Cooper, the black sheep of the family, is letting her live with him rent-free in exchange for administrative services (he runs a detective agency). Heather secretly lusts after Cooper, but tries not to be too obvious about it.
Heather’s job takes on a little more excitement when a girl plummets down the elevator shaft to her death. The police dismiss the death as an accident, claiming she was elevator surfing, but Heather knows that can’t be right. First of all, girls just don’t elevator surf; it’s a guy thing. Second of all, all indications are that the deceased girl was shy and reserved – definitely not the daredevil type. When Heather tries to communicate these ideas to Cooper, he more or less blows her off, and no one at her workplace seems to want to consider the idea that the death might not have been an accident. Just when things are starting to return to normal, another female student is killed in the elevator shaft. Heather starts investigating in earnest, and she becomes a target herself. Can Heather figure out the killer – and convince the police to take her seriously – before it’s too late?
I picked up this book mostly because it sounded like a lot of fun, and it was. I simply loved Heather; she’s full of self-deprecating charm, wit, and personality. Although she’s been famous and still knows famous people, she still has something of an everywoman quality about her. Most women will be able to relate to her on some level, whether it’s the constant temptation to eat HoHos, the annoyance at a fruitless shopping trip for a formal dress, or even the temptation to be too nice (she still calls her crook mom who stole all her money).
Cooper is – I think – intended to be the eventual hero of the series. He’s a bit of an enigma in this book, probably because it’s the first of several. At least two more are planned, both in the same Chick Lit Mystery vein. Presumably, we’ll be getting to know Cooper a little better as the series progresses. Other characters are poised for reprisal as well, including Heather’s confused and self-absorbed ex-fiancé Jordan, and his new fiancée.
It can be hard to pull off a humorous mystery, but Cabot does an excellent job. Heather is often funny in her own observations, but the situational humor works well too. There are several running gags that are fun – for example, everyone thinks they know Heather, but most of them can’t place exactly where, and this is frequently used for comic effect. Her longing for Cooper is often humorous as well, and Heather is happily able to laugh at herself whenever she’s been a little ridiculous.
The only real problem I had with the book is that at times it is a bit repetitive. Heather does a lot of thinking about how there’s no way those girls died by accident. She ruminates on it all the time, and I wasn’t quite sure why. It was almost as if she was trying to convince the reader, but I was right with her from the beginning. In fact, it doesn’t quite make sense that she should have had to convince anyone. It’s not as if teenage girls never do anything stupid or reckless, but I think we all know that quiet, shy girls don’t tend to elevator surf, and people who do reckless things are more often male. It’s all that testosterone.
An added (and probably unintended) side benefit of this book was that it sparked many interesting conversations. Heather’s a nice girl, but she’s also fairly opinionated. She’s got things to say about people who shower (not as lazy as people who take baths), the availability of clothing sizes (plenty of size 2s, no size 12s), and, well, what is fat and what is average. I assumed, until I read this, that pretty much everyone showered because it was easier. My informal, unscientific poll indicated that I was wrong (and Heather was too): some people prefer baths, and some prefer showers, and nearly everyone has a different reason. Also, the fictional Heather would have way more luck shopping in Denver. Larges and extra larges are plentiful, and small and extra small are always the first to disappear. And what is fat? I’m not answering that one, but I will say it’s not size 12. At any rate, I plan to follow Heather, Cooper and crew in upcoming books, because this one was both fun and interesting.