I must say, I really am enjoying this trend of contemporary novels starring young women who are 100% body positive. Laura Dockrill's My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant fits squarely into that category, pulling no punches right from the jump.
In the opening scene, our snarky, self-confident plus-size main character Bluebelle (aka "BB") is visiting the doctor after experiencing her first asthma attack. She immediately runs up against a judgmental nurse who callously informs her that many of her problems would be solved by losing weight.
This very awkward encounter is made more so by BB informing her mum that she has no intention of going back to school after this summer. But before they leave the office, the nurse (for whom the reader has far more empathy after BB's rather manipulative outburst) hands BB a journal and tells her to start keeping a food diary. Not actually knowing what this entails, BB takes the "diary" portion of this assignment to heart. Instead of simply writing down every item she eats, at what time, and in what amounts, BB begins every entry with a food item, and then chronicles her life through her perception of that item.
BB doesn't hold back. All her thoughts and feeling are laid bare; no subject is too odd or taboo. She vividly recounts what life is like as a fat teen, including chunks of social commentary on how exhausting and rude the general populace can be. Not just in her own East London or the UK in general — these terrible perceptions are a worldwide epidemic.
But despite her true love for her own body, BB also displays a great deal of selfishness and self-sabotage. She puts herself in uncomfortable situations on purpose, forcing herself to be brave. Add to this BB's wild imagination and the horrible things she's prepared for strangers to say to her, and you get quite the adventure.
In all honesty, BB is so crass that I wasn't even sure I liked her at first. But as the story unfolded, I began to appreciate her unique perspective, from the truly gross to the beautifully philosophical, all through the lens of food. It's really an ingenious way to frame a narrative — something everyone can relate to. So much of our lives and relationships revolve around food, no matter what size we are.
There is a tiny bit of a romance, with a fellow barista at the coffee shop where BB works. But her crush on Max takes second place to the love she has for her little sister, Dove. Their relationship is the most wonderful facet of this story.
BB and Dove fight like cats and dogs at times, but their bond always holds. They also appreciate one another for who they are. Dove is 13, tiny, and loves parkour — and still looks up to her older sister for being so incredibly brave on a daily basis. But that admiration spurs Dove to take one jump a little too far, resulting in a fall that lands her in the hospital.
Stalwart BB finds herself having more difficulty than usual adjusting to the situation, and she has to dig a little deeper emotionally and communicate a little better with those around her to work through the problem. BB's tale ends on a heartwarming note, and we are left loving all of these complicated characters even more for their trials.
As a bonus, Anglophile readers will thoroughly enjoy this distilled bit of East London life. By the time you turn the last page, don't be surprised if you find yourself craving cheese toasties, jacket potatoes, banoffee pie, jammie dodgers, and a trip across the pond. I certainly did!
Alethea Kontis is a voice actress and award-winning author of over 20 books for children and teens.