To Be Honest — Maggie Ann Martin

To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

TITLE: To Be Honest
AUTHOR: Maggie Ann Martin
RELEASES: August 21st, 2018; Swoon Reads
GENRE: Contemporary
AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS: Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

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I don’t read “fluffy” contemporary titles very often; if I do, it’s probably either because it’s a random, rare exception, a nostalgic favorite, or diverse in some way that I can’t pass up the opportunity to promote the story and author. To Be Honest falls into that last category, and as soon as I heard about this book, I knew I absolutely had to get my hands on it.

“News flash: fat isn’t a bad word, Mom. It’s the twenty-first century. I have blue eyes. I have blond hair. I’m fat. Literally nothing about my life is changed because that word is associated with my physical appearance. I’m sorry that someone taught you to hate yourself because of your body somewhere along the way, but I’m not going to let you pull me down with you.”

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To Be Honest is an own-voice story about a fat girl named Savannah, who’s learned to love her body regardless of its size. Fat rep is not something we see often in stories, but it’s slowly becoming a little more common, and I think that’s so important, because we’re finally getting to see in YA books that, just because a character is plus-size, doesn’t mean they’re a villain, or a slob, or a bad person.

How was I supposed to follow up to that? Say that the thinspirations around the house were good for everyone? That her tiny backhanded comments about my weight inspired me to become fit? All both of those things did was make me feel worse and completely discourage me.

Not only does Savvy deal with her weight and the way the world interacts with her, she also has a very toxic home life with a mother who, ever since going on a fad weight loss reality television show, has brought home an obsession with fitness that has reached an unhealthy level. She starts off by promoting a balanced diet and exercise, but it gradually ramps up until she’s trying to coerce Savannah into disordered eating habits. The entire issue stems from something that fat people are very familiar with, something we call “concern trolling”, which is where a person uses the guise of health concerns to harass, belittle, and/or mock overweight people.

“I know that parents shouldn’t be allowed to make their kids feel like shit unless they buy into their culty dogma.”

It’s not only crucial that Savannah breaks down why her mother’s actions are harmful, but also that it comes from her mother in the first place. A lot of people will say that “concern trolling” comes from their own family members most often. Not only can it cause some pretty hurtful effects, but it rarely works, instead making people feel discouraged, self-conscious, and attacked.

It took everything within me not to add some extra hashtags, like #LoveYourBody or #AllBodiesAreGoodBodies.

Savannah has some incredible quotes here and there as she talks about how she has grown to love her body, even if she still has her moments of self-consciousness. We get to see firsthand that being plus-size doesn’t make her unhealthy, but that she also doesn’t have to obsess over weight loss and eat nothing but salads to deserve the basic air she breathes. She’s so empowering, and every time she ranted or went on a tangent, all I could think about was how much a younger Destiny needed stories like this, instead of cruelty from extended family members and crash diets that let to eating disorders. I want to put this book in the hands of every young girl, regardless of size, as we can all use a friendly reminder that we deserve to love our bodies and the amazing things they do for us.

This was why I very rarely hung out with new people—their unknown reactions made me more nervous than it was worth most of the time.

Savannah’s story isn’t all about her weight or her strained relationship with her mother; it’s also about her sister Ashley (her best friend, who happens to be queer and proud), her friend Grace and Grace’s cousin George (who both are Colombian), and how the three of them help Savvy not only with life in general, but with her anxiety disorder, too. As someone who also has severe anxiety, I thought the representation of Savannah’s symptoms and panic attacks was done so well, and I loved that her loved ones never treated her like a burden or as though she could just turn off her anxiety. There’s also a really fun underlying story arc as Savvy and Grace, as school journalists, investigate some unfairness between the boys’ and girls’ sports teams.

Of course he wasn’t interested in me. He was adorable, charming, and actually nice. I was a sometimes-mean and generally unagreeable chubby girl.

Finally, there’s the romance, which was absolutely adorable. I don’t want to get too personal (I think I’ve done that enough in this review already!), but the interactions between Savvy and George reminded me so much of myself and my partner when we first met! The friendship graduating into awkward, sweet flirting, and the fact that neither of them seem to be able to grasp how they landed the other—it’s so sweet and fluffy and cutesy, and I really enjoyed watching them come together.

I blushed a deep red all over. “Can I appoint you as my official hype man?”

To Be Honest was one of the cutest things I’ve read in ages. My only complaint is that I wish it had been longer, but I think that’s a pretty good “complaint” to have, since it just means I loved the story so much, I wanted even more of it. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a cute contemporary read, but especially to anyone who’s looking for a little body positivity in their life. Thank you so much, Maggie, for writing this story—it meant so much to me.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Swoon Reads for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

27 thoughts on “To Be Honest — Maggie Ann Martin

  1. Immediately added this to my TBR! The plot, the quotes, your review, everything is making want to to read it asap! Can’t wait for the release date, the YA contemporaries I’ve been reading this year have been so lacklustre and I have a feeling this will not disappoint 😀

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  2. You’ve officially got me wanting to read this book NOW! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, it seems like there’s heaps of important conversations throughout it. I’m also excited to read the romance between the characters now as well ha! 💖

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  3. Adding to my TBR rogt now. Finally some good plus size rep and it sounds like it’s written in a way that shares my experience with people saying things that hurt me instead of encourage me. I really want to read this… Great review!

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