Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion 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 amount 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 anti-fat 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 a 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.
One to Watch was my June Book of the Month pick, and I am on a winning streak when it comes to choosing my monthly installments. The Wives was the last BotM book I read, so that makes two five-star reads in a row!
If you skimmed the blurb above, you already get the gist of this story. The main character, Bea, is instafamous, and gained her followers through fashion blogging for plus-size women. Like a lot of us, she’s a sucker for some trashy reality TV, and after one-too-many seasons of Main Squeeze – a bacheloresque dating show – she gets so pissed off about the lack of diversity that write a scathing blog post about it.
The post goes viral, and it lands her in the crosshairs of the show’s producers. Against her better judgment, Bea agrees to be the next contestant, and from that moment on, her life goes completely sideways.
If shows like UnReal have taught me anything, it’s that Hollywood producers are all assholes.
Bea buys their B.S. in the beginning, trusting them in a way that was totally believable because when the reader is introduced to them, they seem trustworthy. They show their true colors soon enough, and even after Bea tells them to cut the crap, they still manage to screw things up for her.
Thanks to the machinations and blundering of the producers, there are some incredibly difficult scenes to read in this book, filled with the kind of fat-shaming and narrow-mindedness and straight up ignorance that has driven many a woman off of social media, so be prepared to get a bit stabby while reading this.
Aside from those brief enraging scenes, this book is one roller coaster ride of drama in all the best ways. There are several “holy shit” moments that would be right at home in any popular reality dating show. The style of story-telling makes it even more intense, because we jump from Bea’s perspective to news articles to twitter rants and even to a chain of emails between several people in a betting ring centered around which man Bea chooses in the end.
It might sound complicated, but it works so well, and once I sat down to read this, I struggled to pull myself out of it and do things like fold the laundry or take a shower. Thank God I’ve been married so long that my husband probably didn’t notice the smell.
I don’t want to say too much else about the story because this is one of those books that really needs to be read for you to understand what a wild ride it is. I will say that on top of having a killer plot and excellent characterization, this book has a lot of really important messages about love and acceptance and body positivity and the importance of diverse representation in television and it manages to do it all without ever feeling preachy.
So if you’re in the mood for some high drama, I cannot recommend this book enough!