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Enduring Isn’t Living

Chris Struyk-Bonn’s Nice Girls Endure tries to deal with heavy-hitting issues, but misses the mark.

Enduring Isn’t Living

BOOK REPORT for Nice Girls Endure by Chris Struyk-Bonn

Cover Story: Sketchy
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Missing the Point
Trigger Warning: Near-Sexual Abuse
Bonus Factors: Keith Mars Award for Awesome Dadhood, Musical Love
Factor: Foot Fetish
Anti-Bonus Factor: Fat Shaming
Relationship Status: Here For You, But ...

Cover Story: Sketchy

I do really like the style of this cover; I will 9 times out of 10 prefer a hand-drawn or computer illustration over the (over)use of stock photography. But it makes me sad—and kind of foreshadows the plot of the novel—to see the “larger” girl walking by herself.

The Deal:

For pretty much as long as she can recall, Chelsea Duvay has been heavier than a majority of the other girls in her class. She developed breasts earlier, she got her period earlier, she started getting bullied and judged about her weight earlier.

But Chelsea isn’t just her weight. She’s a talented singer, loves musicals, and has perfect feet. Sadly, no one—at least that she realizes—can look past her larger exterior. Even she has a hard time seeing what else she has to offer.

BFF Charm: Meh

Don’t get me wrong, as someone who’s dealt with weight issues her whole life, reading about Chelsea’s story both resonated and felt uncomfortably familiar. But I struggled with actually caring about Chelsea, even while understanding what she was going through. There were glimpses of a confident, self-assured young woman under the surface of the story, but it wasn’t until the very end (and with the aid of medication*) that she really began to see how poorly she was treating herself and letting others treat her, too.

*Nothing against medication, mind you. I’ve been there, too, and understand the need for help.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Chelsea’s long had a bit of a crush on Trevor Laats, a kind of geeky kid who wears capri pants, argyle sweater vests, and is totally confident in his own style/skin. (He’s also got really nice feet. More on that below.) Trevor’s never been anything but nice to Chelsea, in the few interactions that they’ve had. And Chelsea would love to increase the number of said interactions, but is worried about Trevor’s reaction to the idea. Eventually, thankfully, the two share an actual conversation, but it’s slow-going.

Talky Talk: Missing the Point

I struggled through the entirety of Nice Girls Endure. It’s a book that covers important topics—self-image issues, abusive bullying, finding confidence in oneself, making friends with people who like you and see you for who you are inside and out—but never did I feel like the resolution of any of the issues really got to the root of the problem, nor were said resolutions satisfying, especially in the case of the abuse.

I’m not sure how much personal experience Chris Struyk-Bonn has with these topics or how much research she put into writing the book, but from the moment I read that Chelsea was “huge” at 5’6” and only 170 pounds, I felt myself shutting off from connecting with the story. It felt like an arbitrary, “this combination equals a BMI number that is considered overweight.” Honesty time: I am 5’6” and weigh more than 170 pounds. I know that each person carries weight differently, but the idea of Chelsea being that height and weight and being categorized as extremely overweight—to the point where she gets stuck in chairs with attached desks—didn’t sit well with me.

Trigger Warning: Near-Sexual Abuse

Everyone in high school deals or dealt with torment of one form or another, but because of Chelsea’s weight and her inability to stand up for herself, she’s seen as an easy target. Particularly by one Nicholas Dunn, the school’s hottest guy and world’s largest asshole. At a school dance, Nicholas corners Chelsea and rips her shirt open, then proceeds to do the same with her bra. He then takes pictures of Chelsea’s chest and posts them on social media.

He receives no punishment for this atrocious act. Chelsea can barely bring herself to tell anyone that it even happened.

Bonus Factor: Keith Mars Award for Awesome Dadhood

Chelsea’s dad is the best person in her life. He’s big, too, but loves himself that way, and never makes Chelsea feel anything other than beautiful. They have a lot in common, and spend a lot of time together. I seriously wanted to give the man a hug for being such a positive influence for his daughter.

Bonus Factor: Musical Love

Thanks to her awesome dad, Chelsea has grown up learning about and loving musical theater. She and her father watch the films together, and sing along at the top of their lungs. And Chelsea is really, really good at singing.

Factor: Foot Fetish

I get that Chelsea needed to find one thing about herself to really love, and, OK, cool, it’s her feet. But her “perfect feet” are mentioned so many times in the book, and by people other than Chelsea. Then she notices a lot of other people’s feet, including her crush, Trevor’s. And then he notices hers! The gratuitous amount of foot noticing and examining in Nice Girls Endure is a little weird.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Fat Shaming

So much of Nice Girls Endure is literally that—Chelsea enduring because she is a nice girl. It’s so hard to read about her getting walked all over, by her classmates, by her doctor, even by her mom.

Casting Call:

A slightly younger Sharon Rooney as Chelsea

Relationship Status: Here For You, But ...

I’ve been where you’ve been, Book. Maybe not to the extent of what you’ve had to deal with, but I know what it’s like to be overweight and struggle with liking who you are because of that. So if you ever want to chat, I’m happy to. I just think you might need more help than I’m able to provide.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Switch Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Nice Girls Endure is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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