DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the links, at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclaimer here.
Kate Stayman-London has burst onto the scene with her body positive, diverse, and razor-sharp romantic comedy debut, One to Watch. I was so excited for this one as soon as I read the synopsis, and it didn’t disappoint. Equal parts romantic, funny, and vulnerable, this is the perfect summer rom-com!
Bea Schumacher is a plus-size fashion blogger who has built a large social media following with her gorgeous style, authentic voice, and no nonsense attitude. She’s also a fan, like so many others, of the reality dating show Main Squeeze (i.e., The Bachelor/Bachelorette). Reeling from a broken heart (spoiler alert: RAY SUCKS) and a few drinks in, Bea live tweets her reactions to an episode of Main Squeeze, calling the show out for its total lack of diversity.
Bea’s tweets go viral and before long, she gets a surprising offer—Main Squeeze wants Bea to be its first plus-size star. Bea agrees but only on one condition: she’ll fake it for the cameras, but she refuses to fall in love. Soon, Bea finds herself at the center of a media frenzy and is faced with navigating the brutally problematic world of celebrity and notoriety, all the while trying to pretend to fall in love.
One to Watch was fantastic. It hit all of the marks for what I look for in a romantic comedy (with the exception of steam, but I don’t consider that a requirement, just a big plus if done correctly). It’s hilarious and romantic and has fat main character who is so deeply relatable that it almost hurts and a hapa (half-Chinese, no less!!) love interest. So, yeah, I was over the moon while reading this.
This book was also deeply personal to me as a fat woman because it made me feel seen in a way that I have not often experienced. There were so many resonant moments in this book. Bea articulated so many thoughts, feelings, and concerns that I have carried with me for so long that I never really knew how to put into words.
“If you want the audience to buy what we’re selling, you have to stop assuming that I’m going to experience these dates the way you would. I don’t live in your body. Men don’t treat me like they treat you.”
And to see those same thoughts and feelings on the page felt so cathartic. It just goes to show how important representation is. It is exhausting to feel alienated from stories because you can’t relate—and I’m saying this as someone who is half-white, white-passing, and has incredible amounts of privilege, so I don’t even feel this in the same way and to the same extent as so many others do. Still, when you see even a part of yourself reflected on the page, it does something truly restorative for your soul.
Bea’s reticence to voice her desires, even to herself, was so relatable. At one point, she notes that she is terrified because “admitting her desires could only compound her humiliation[.]” THIS HIT HOME. Whew. It REALLY did. Because honestly, fat women aren’t supposed to want anything. We’re not supposed to want anything except to be skinny and classically beautiful. We’re supposed to be happy with what we get and feel lucky when we get anything at all, even if this means accepting scraps of kindness and decency. One to Watch hit this point home and then turned it on its head. And thank God it did. We NEED more stories about fat women getting theirs.
I also love it when authors get creative with the ways that they tell a story and use mixed media to narrate. One to Watch did a great job at this—the story was told, not just through Bea’s narrative, but also through articles, tweets, podcasts, and emails, just to name a few. These conversations and articles were fantastic because, not only did we get to see some hilarious exchanges, but we also got to see very realistic examples of how society takes it upon themselves to either fetishize or criticize the bodies of fat women.
Even if you can’t relate to a lot of what Bea is feeling, this is just an enjoyable story and it’s super addictive. It feels like you’re getting invested in a particularly dishy and fun season of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette (or, my favorite, Bachelor in Paradise). Do yourself a favor and go read this, it’s the perfect summer rom-com and will leave you in the best mood.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has not impacted or influenced my opinions.