Blunt, self-aware, and overwhelmingly confident, Bluebelle ‘BB’ is the kind of teen we all wish we’d been
"We are waiting to be told I’m fat… I don’t mind getting on the scales, because I’ve got nothing to hide, nothing to be embarrassed about and nothing to take me by surprise. I have a pair of eyes; I know my own body.”
Teen and young adult fiction isn’t exactly bereft of novels that cover eating disorders; bulimia and anorexia are often covered as central storylines and subplots across a variety of books for pre-teen girls and up. When it comes to plus-size stories though, protagonists who are fat, happy, and proud of themselves are pretty rare to come by – I couldn’t have named one book that combined all three. That is, until I picked up a copy of Laura Dockrill’s latest novel, Big Bones.
Bluebelle, aka BB, is big, bold and beautiful, entering that limbo between the end of school and her GCSEs, and moving on to start the next step towards adulthood. After a health scare and an accident turns family life upside down, BB must keep a food diary and is encouraged to start going to the gym regularly.
“I embrace my body. It’s mine… What I see in the mirror is a beautiful, healthy young woman with a positive attitude towards food,” says BB.
Big Bones isn’t your typical coming-of-age story though. It’s got all the standard elements you would expect from a book of this genre – love, family struggles, dependable friends – but it’s got so much more. At its core, Dockrill’s novel is all about the self – self-love, self-appreciation, and self-esteem. It’s about finding and owning your strength. Loving who you are, how you look, and ignoring the haters who send lingering, judging looks, or use backhanded compliments as their weapons of choice.
Dockrill has created the kind of book I wish I could have read as a teen, when Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls series was the closest I could get to finding a slightly-pudgy leading lady. BB’s blunt, straight-forward attitude and acceptance of who she is is beyond refreshing; it’s inspiring. She’s more confident and put together than most twenty-somethings I know, yet her voice remains completely authentic and believable for a girl of only 16.
BB’s outstanding personality isn’t Big Bones only shining point. While Dockrill avoids pitfalls many media portrayals of fat characters edge towards (at no point is BB reduced to a “fat, funny friend”), she subtly portrays challenges overweight people face, and raises a question that many of us have wondered at one point or another: why is it so hard to grasp that food can be a challenge for some people? While not outright bullied, Bluebelle thinks of the way girls stare when she eats at school or is in the changing room before PE. Her discussion of the hatred of the term “bubbly” to describe fat girls with a smile rings so true, it’s painfully honest, and readers can’t help but feel more closely connected with BB.
BB speaks of this wonderful, unspoken sisterhood that we should have, but often don’t. How we should support each other, and recognise others’ self-confidence and celebrate self-love. Through BB, Dockrill manages to explain why being thin or conforming isn’t for everyone, all without making those who do fit into the “media-perfect” mould seem as though they are being looked down on.
Big Bones reflects an inner-monologue that is relatable, authentic, and often wonderfully sarcastic. BB asks the questions that have crossed plus-size minds around the world, showing the little everyday injustices fat people face, and reflecting the raw emotions and hidden self-doubt even the most confident among us feel at times.
Beneath the self-confidence and bravado, even self-aware and put-together young women like BB have moments of uncertainty. She is a painfully real character who anyone that’s ever needed a confidence boost, or a reminder to practise a little self-love, can learn from.
I want to leave you with one final quote from BB; one that perhaps summarises the whole feel and resounding message left by Dockrill’s outstanding novel: “I am proud to be a girl. Because that’s a fact. But prouder that I love myself. Because that’s a choice.”
Teens will love…
BB’s authentic, frank, funny tone, and inspirational levels of self-confidence, self-love, and self-awareness.
Young adults will love…
the no-shame approach, immersive narrative, and raw, honest feel.
Parents will love…
the relatable struggle of BB’s mother who feels responsible for her daughter’s weight, health, and emotional wellbeing.
Written by Laura Dockrill
Available from 8 March 2018