Genre and Themes Young Adult / Contemporary / Romance / STEM / Body Image
Published November 6th 2018
Publisher Turner Publishing
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.
Until it isn’t.
When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery. (via Goodreads)
This book is equal parts about Natalie’s archeology internship and about her self image. These parts were balanced really well and I think the book did a great job of interweaving these two aspects. Natalie struggles a lot with her own self image, especially when she isn’t able to present herself in a way she’s comfortable with. As she proceeds with her internship, she encounters many times when she’s unable to wear the clothes, makeup, and shapewear that she’s comfortable in and has to confront her feelings about that. While this is a body positive book and Natalie ultimately comes away with a happier view of herself, she does have a lot of internalized fatphobia that becomes part of the narrative. Some readers may find this relatable while others may find it upsetting, so keep that in mind before you pick up this book.
"Our little philosophy," she says.
It's more than that. It's my way of life, my means of survival. It's the mantra I whisper to myself when I feel less like Awesome Natalie and more like Fat Nat. It's the persona I put on each day, the tight shapers that bind me, the cute dresses, the flawless makeup. It's everything.
The one thing I couldn’t stand in this book was all of the girl-hate. Natalie quickly decides that the other female intern, Quinn, is her rival and competition. We’re supposed to believe it’s because they are both crushing on Chase, but really the story sets up Quinn as the rival before it even establishes that Chase is the love interest. Quinn goes through some tough stuff throughout the story and Natalie just… doesn’t care. The amount of times that Quinn is clearly upset and no one reaches out to her or tries to help bothered me so much. Sure, Quinn is a flawed characters herself and does some really bad stuff, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that they were enemies for no reason.
Cute (but flawed) romance
I really liked how the romance developed. It was very cute and I ended up really rooting for the couple as the book went on and as they spent more and more time together. However, there was one line from the love interest I really couldn’t get past. At one point, when Natalie is wearing less makeup than usual, her love interest tells her that he prefers that look for her and that she “[looks] more like a person this way.” Natalie gets a little bit irritated at the comment but it otherwise never comes up again. Honestly, that one line really made me question what was otherwise a sweet and supportive relationship.
A lot of the plot of this book revolves around Natalie trying to get recognition… often by doing things that are against the rules. I don’t hate that as a plot device, but I found there were times that I thought it was a bit unrealistic that she would do so many high-risk things when there didn’t seem to be that big of a payoff. However, I did love how the book built up the stakes in a way that was really intense for a contemporary. The climax of the book was more life-or-death than most contemporaries I’ve read and I found that it really kept me glued to the page.
All in all I thought this book was a really unique take on a contemporary romance. I loved the aspects of the internship, Natalie’s drive to be recognized for her work despite significant barriers, and the romance that develops. Even though I had a hard time understanding Natalie’s motivation when she did something impulsive or why she felt so negatively about Quinn, I still found her to be a great character. The ending of the book was truly unique, exciting, and insightful.
Content Warnings: Fatphobia, non-consensual kissing, bullying/cyber bullying