One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London // Book Review

Let me start this review by saying that I am new to this whole “reviewing books” party, haha! So, if you would be so kind, at the end of this, please leave me comments and feedback. Let me know how I did, if there’s anything I should have talked about, things that I could have left out, or just spread some love! There are no spoilers ahead, so reader…be not afraid. Let’s dive in!

I’m a huge fan of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise so when I heard about this book during a company reads talk at work, I immediately added it to my to-be-read list on Goodreads. I’ve watched most of the seasons that aired in the last decade – I’m a total Jojo/Becca, and yes…you can steal me for a second. Ha! I’ll let you in on a secret: sometimes, I dream of being the very first plus size woman to become a contestant on The Bachelor or star as The Bachelorette. Yes, I allowed myself to live vicariously through Bea Schumacher.

Here’s the premise of One to Watch as told by the book jacket:

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size 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 number 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 this made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men — and herself — for a chance to live happily ever after.

My thoughts

It’s not very often that I read a book where the protagonist is noted as being plus-size. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one other book with a fat girl protagonist. I started reading this book on solo-trip to New Haven, CT back in July and I had to put it back on the shelf for a while. I started having horrible thoughts and feelings toward my thinner friends and acquaintances. I was rude — ruthless…and they didn’t deserve that. I took some time off to cool down before bingeing the book two days ago. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know that I went through a messy relationship and subsequent breakup with my first and only boyfriend. Being in lockdown has made dating hard and weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. Reading about Bea and her journey toward love, as a plus-size woman, reminded me that I am deserving of love as long as I am willing to open myself up to the possibility of love. There’s a moment in the book where one of the men she sends home, after another week of dates, throws what can only be classified as a tantrum and he turns to Bea and says “You know what’s standing between you and marriage? About eighty pounds.” I read that line and felt the gut-punch behind it. This book might not be about me, but Bea represents plus size women, and as a plus size girl I can say that if that’s the thing holding me back, then I am truly fucked.

The chapters of the book are broken down into episodes of the television show — nine episodes in total, if you include the reunion special. I love how the author included the social media speculation (slack channels between friends, articles from various news outlets, Twitter flurries, and even TMZ coverage at one point) going on in the real world but making sure that the focus was on the Bea’s whirlwind romances with each of the men. At the start of her journey, I found it difficult to develop any kind of opinion or attachment to any of the men, until we got passed the first group date. It was quite the travesty. Some of the men are such trash, but there are some real sweethearts in the group. Sam and Asher were my favorites.

The setup for the show is pretty similar to The Bachelor: the host, Johnny Ducey, is basically Chris Harrison and whenever he spoke, I would read his dialogue in Chris’s voice. Since the gimmicky part of the ceremony at the end of each week was a kiss on the cheek rather than a rose, all we were missing was that classic line — “…this is the final rose tonight.” Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember Johnny being involved, as the host, with those ceremonies at the end of each episode.

After all the dates, the tears, the twists-and-turns, the book ended in the what I would consider the perfect ending. Something that made this book especially relatably raw was the hesitancy of the contestants — characters — to open up and revel themselves. It takes real strength to open up completely to a total stranger, to build connections that could crumble at any moment, to share your deepest secrets and fears with someone you haven’t known longer than a month. All of the choices made in Bea’s journey to finding love — romantic love and self-love — were her own, which makes it more of an adventure! I recommend picking up this book as soon as possible because you are guaranteed to enjoy every word.

My rating: I rarely rate books as 5-stars, but this one was deserving of such a distinct honor.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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