Book: Worth the Weight by Mara Jacobs
Preferred Reading Environment: At home, wearing your comfy robe and whatever gives you the most self-confidence!
Reading Accoutrements: Ugh! I wanted all of the food Lizzie said she couldn’t have – ice cream, potato chips, all of the Chinese food, tortilla chips, etc. – so kick those cravings with a healthy snack! Or…and I’m just throwing this out there…eat what will make you happy 😉
Content Notes: This one can be hard on the body image; there is some serious self-fat-shaming that can read as straight up fat-shaming if you’re in that frame of mind. Be aware of your body image before, during, and after reading this one.
It is the second month of 2019 and I have to tell you guys – I am struggling to keep my New Year’s Resolutions going. I thought I’d review this book because it gave me an excuse to reread a book with a lot of body image-related themes, in the hope that it would give me a boost of confidence to help push me through February.
My family bought me a Kindle the Christmas between graduating my undergraduate degree and going to get my master’s degree. In that year, when I wasn’t applying to jobs, I was reading every free book I could get my hands on in the Kindle book store. That’s how I came across Worth the Weight (Worth Series Book 1): A Copper Country Romance, by Mara Jacobs. Be warned: this series has some errors – switching “hes” and “shes” or flipping letters in random words, like “orgainzed” instead of “organized.” It pulled me out of the books a couple of times, but the writing yanked me back with relative ease. Moving on…
For those of you who don’t know, the Copper Country is a part of the Upper Peninsula (the U.P.) of Michigan, on the other side of Lake Michigan from the rest of the state (the mitten-shaped part). It is actually easier to drive through Wisconsin to get to parts of the U.P. than it is to drive through Michigan. People from the U.P. are often referred to as Yoopers (there are a lot of families with Scandinavian ancestry in that part of the U.S. and their accent is pretty distinctive; they pronounce the “U.P.” as “Yoop.” Hence, Yoopers). I was living in Michigan when I read this book, so a lot of the lingo was natural to me as I read it. When I reread it to prepare for this review, I needed a bit of a refresher.
Anyway, the main character of this book is Lizzie Hampton, a native of the Copper Country and now business owner in Detroit where she is a public relations guru for professional athletes, singers, actors, and politicians. Lizzie dated Finn Robbins the summer before her freshman year of college but the two broke up because of Finn’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks syndrome – he figured he wasn’t good enough for Lizzie and so he broke up with her before he could bring her down to his level…or some such convoluted logic.
Fast forward eighteen years and Lizzie is coming back to the Yoop on a mission to regain her self-confidence. A lot happened while she was gone – she became a successful businesswoman and gained a bunch of weight, but in the past three years has worked hard to lose enough to be considered a healthy weight again – and she plans to test drive her new body on Finn Robbins, the guy who broke her heart so long ago.
Finn also went through a lot in the time that Lizzie was gone. He got married, had two children, got divorced, and discovered that his daughter would not be able to walk without an expensive operation. He has been working hard trying to save enough money for the operation that could give his daughter more mobility, but obstacles seem to appear at every turn. Enter Lizzie.
When Lizzie finds out about Finn’s daughter, she knows that she can help. She works hard to arrange a fundraiser – calling in favors with her professional clients to get them to attend – and finds herself spending a lot more time with Finn and his family than she intended.
This story has a lot of meat to it and I found myself chewing for a while on the various parts. What it boils down to is two adults who don’t feel worthy of love for personal reasons: Lizzie feels unworthy first because she’s a virgin (when they were teenagers) and then because she “allowed herself to become fat.” Finn feels unworthy because of his wrong-side-of-the-tracks mentality and the fact that he can’t provide the surgery for his daughter the way he feels he should. Both of them need to get out of their own way to process their problems before they can love each other again.
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that this book has a lot of body image-related themes, and it does. Lizzie lost a lot of weight – good for her! – but she is uncomfortable with the stretch marks and sagging skin left behind. She has a couple of really pretty best friends that she negatively compares herself to on a regular basis and who help her see that they also have insecurities. This book doesn’t exactly tackle body image as the primary issue – Lizzie is very uncomfortable in her own skin and that only slightly improves over the course of the story – it does, however, explore some of the deeper issues underneath her body image.
There are several parts of the story where Lizzie ruminates on the psychological reasons she became fat. She tends to control her environment with rigid structure and she says that food was one place she allowed herself to lose control. She realizes that (what she sees as) her downhill slide started her senior year of college when she had several disappointing sexual encounters – including losing her virginity – and then found out that Finn had gotten married. Over the course of the book, Lizzie makes several “revelations” about why she got fat. My favorite part was when she remembered that the weight loss psychiatrist she saw at the beginning of her weight loss journey told her that she may never know why she gained all of the weight – it wasn’t really important to know. My least favorite part was when Lizzie promptly ignored that advice and mentally circled back to why continuously. It’s like a scab she picks at and it’s really annoying.
I’d like to say that the message of this book is great for girls of all sizes and shapes, but I can’t. The book does not say that being overweight is bad, but Lizzie herself does a lot of self-fat-shaming and blaming herself for her body and everything she hates about it. While there are some redeeming moments – Flynn works hard to show Lizzie that he thinks she is beautiful and I mentioned earlier that Lizzie’s pretty friends also have insecurities about their own bodies – the overall message is to change until you like yourself. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for every person with low self-esteem. I would much rather have seen a book that ended with Lizzie confident in herself, regardless of how anyone else might see her.
In the end, Lizzie and Finn have to realize that why doesn’t matter as long as they are willing to work together to heal as individuals and to make their relationship work. If they don’t, they’ll miss out on something wonderful.
I really like Mara Jacobs’s Worth Series. The books each have unique, main characters with psychological issues that are addressed throughout the course of the story. One character struggles with her infertility, another has Seasonal Affective Disorder, etc. All of the characters have to learn to see their own worth. Along the way, the people they interact with must also learn – to deal with the emotional fallout, to be supportive, and to take care of their own personal needs, as well. It’s an inspiring series and one I recommend…especially because – who doesn’t love a happy ending?
What’s your favorite inspiration read? Share in the comments!