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Danielle Steel: Big Girl
Big Girl tells the story of Victoria Dawson; the black sheep in her family. Victoria is the chubby older sister who, by her family's standards, is a loser. She lives her entire life putting up with her father's biting sarcastic comments about her weight and the fact that, unlike her younger sister, she has consistently failed to snatch herself a man. And while Victoria had wanted a career in teaching, her father wanted a more prestigious job for her. Always belittling her academic achievements, Victoria grows up with some serious self-esteem issues.
Every time Victoria receives a confidence boost, it's often related to the presence of a man in her life. She makes it a lifetime habit of seeking solace in ice cream and double portions every time a boyfriend dumps her. The defining moment of her life is a nose job. While we understand that many people resort to plastic surgery to boost their self-esteem, Big Girl should have condemned the emphasis society puts on body image. Victoria is a successful high school teacher and is admired by her students, yet somehow, she only manages to feel better about herself after fixing her nose.
Other characters include Grace; Victoria's younger sister and her only ally at home. Throughout the entire novel, it seemsthat she was the only one who could see sense in the family. However, when she decides to get hitched to a narcissistic wealthy guy who cheats on her, she doesn't seem so full of sense after all.
The rest of the characters are two-dimensional and fail to sound convincing. For a novel that was supposed to tackle a serious problem faced by a lot of women, the fairytale-like ending simply didn't cut it.
Victoria is the novel's main character, and if she was supposed to invoke the reader's sympathy, she only managed to invoke this reader's fury.
Literature, media and film has been a platform for criticising unnecessary body image obsession, but Big Girl ranks at the bottom of that list. It does nothing to empower ‘big girls’; the message it sends can be summed up as follows: if your parents have been verbally abusing you your entire life, there is nothing that can make you feel better about yourself except for finding a man.
Big Girl is a disappointing novel by a long-standing author. The novel is redundant and gives the impression that Steel has run out of ideas. And although Steel has been trying to tackle a serious issue, the outcome is anything but serious.
In a section that discusses guys who marry girls for their money, the author wrote that when she was 'researching' this section, 'I googled 'men who are gold diggers' and that the search only yielded results for female gold diggers [...]'. The author came to the conclusion that male gold diggers only exist in Egypt, since, you know, google said so.
The first impression of main character Abby, a freshman at university, is that she’s a goody-two-shoes and seems to have a reserved, shy personality. She is just starting a new independent life as a student far away from home, but her peace of mind is soon disturbed when she meets Travis; an underground fighter who goes to the same school. He's the kind of guy that every girl should avoid but still dreams of taming. With tattooed arms, the rebellious enigma captures Abby's attention instantly and though he has trouble written all over him, she can't help but get sucked into his world.
But on the other hand, Travis is also somewhat spellbound by Abby's innocence. What he doesn't know, and neither do we at the time, is that he’s in for a surprise; with a sharp tongue and a strong personality, Abby manages to charm the bad boy into submission. As the story progresses, we see Abby building a shield to protect herself from being another challenge that Travis conquers. Frustrated with Abby, Travis is forced to comply with her strict rules and settles for being ‘her friend’.
The novel takes an unusual turn when Abby loses a bet with Travis and is forced to live with him for a whole month. The lines between innocent friendship and love become blurred and as the story goes on, McGuire gradually delves deeper into Abby's fears and the dark past that is still hunting her.
Jumping up the New York Times bestselling charts soon after being published, Beautiful Disaster is much more than a just another romance novel.