Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland by Sarai WalkerDietland by Sarai Walker
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 26, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Literary
Pages: 272
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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The diet revolution is here. And it’s armed. Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse. With her job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls’ magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. Only then can her true life as a thin person finally begin. Then, when a mysterious woman starts following her, Plum finds herself falling down a rabbit hole and into an underground community of women who live life on their own terms. There Plum agrees to a series of challenges that force her to deal with her past, her doubts, and the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a dangerous guerrilla group called “Jennifer” begins to terrorize a world that mistreats women, and as Plum grapples with her personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive. Dietland is a bold, original, and funny debut novel that takes on the beauty industry, gender inequality, and our weight loss obsession—from the inside out, and with fists flying.

Sometimes, fiction that contains a lot of social commentary and/or satire can start to feel more like a manifesto as the story progresses. That can really bog a reader down. Who wants to feel like they were being preached at? In Dietland, Sarai Walker has found the perfect balance between social commentary and entertaining storytelling. It’s a feminist call to arms that reads like chick lit. Readers are in for an entertaining, wild ride from start to finish, while still prompted to consider a variety of issues; mainly, how women are treated in our society and how we define beauty.

Some aspects of this book are completely over the top, yet I laughed out loud time and time again. Some of the minor characters seem quickly sketched out and never really develop beyond that. . .but it was almost as if they were caricature representations of common attitudes women face (from others, from themselves, or both). Maybe I’m way off on that, but that’s how they came across to me, and to be honest, it totally worked. My only sticking point about the book was its general attitude toward antidepressants. I couldn’t tell exactly what the opinion was; maybe there was some satire going on that fell flat. But the use of antidepressants always came along with a negative feel, unfair due to its overgeneralization.

That aside, Dietland was still a winner for me. Meaty, discussion-worthy issues and a main character who experiences a major transformation, delivered with a lot of fun, a little silly, a healthy dose of mystery, and a dash of action.

  • This sounds like a good one for my book club! It sounds like a fun read, but with some great discussion points. Were they poo-pooing antidepressants or implying that they are being overused, or used inappropriately?

    • I felt like it was viewed as a crutch. As in, all you have to do is change your attitude and you won’t need medication anymore.

  • I was so surprised by this book! “Overweight woman working for a NYC teen magazine” could have been so shallow and predictable, but I loved how it turned into a kind of feminist Fight Club.

  • This just came into the library for me, and I’m SO excited to get to it! Glad yours is another vote in the positive column 🙂

  • I’ve got to be honest, I keep hearing about this one and I keep not catching the buzz. But, I’ve felt that way about other books that I ended up loving. And – April mentioned she felt that way about this one too and ended up loving it. So….I might give it a try at some point later this year.

  • I think I would really enjoy this one, Monika, and I’ve heard such great things about it. What a great way to present an important topic, without it feeling like a nonfiction bore, right? Great idea! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  • “In Dietland, Sarai Walker has found the perfect balance between social commentary and entertaining storytelling.” Thank goodness! This is usually irksome to me if a book can’t walk that line. I thought this book wouldn’t be for me, but now I’m getting excited about the prospect of reading it!

    • Oh goodness yes, social commentary can get so preachy and heavy. This one is pretty entertaining (definitely over the top at times).

  • Lilly

    I thought this looked interesting just from the title and cover, but I hadn’t read anything about it other than seeing it on your Goodreads…. but your review makes me definitely want to check it out!

  • This sounds so good! I hate feeling preached at and am always impressed by a book that can deliver a message and make me think without being too heavy handed about it.

  • I liked Dietland, but didn’t love it. I think I came into it with super high expectations and parts just fell flat to me. But still the majority of the message was great. I linked to your review –

  • I’ve heard so many good things about this one, and I really can’t resist that cupcake grenade cover!

    Bummer to hear about the negativity about antidepressants… sure, they aren’t a magic cure-all for everyone, but as someone whose anxiety used to be downright debilitating, 50mg of Zoloft + a good therapist has been a godsend.

    I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for this one to come in at the library!