Disrupting the Status Quo with Dietland by Sarai Walker

Posted June 11, 2015 by LeahAdmin in Reviews / 15 Comments

Book Review: Dietland by Sarai Walker
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 26, 2015
Pages: 310
Genres: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on The Book Depository

Every day, Plum Kettle sits in a Brooklyn caffe, typing out responses to emails young girls have sent to the founder of the teen magazine she works for. But despite sending frequent emails to the tune of “you’re beautiful just the way you are!” she isn’t able to accept her own body; at almost 30 years old, Plum weighs 300 pounds and is saving up for the weight-loss surgery that she believes will allow her life to finally begin.

However, all of Plum’s well-laid plans begin to unravel the day she realizes she’s being followed by a girl wearing brightly colored tights. This discovery sparks a chain of events that will change Plum — and the world around her — in shocking ways. As she becomes involved with an underground feminist collective, she gets to know the paranoid manager of the magazine’s Beauty Closet, the daughter of a weight-loss magnate, and a former beauty icon, among other colorful characters. And at the same time, the news cycle is dominated by numerous assaults on the patriarchy, culminating in the murder of 12 known sexual assailants and rapists by a mysterious killer known only as Jennifer.

“Before, the covers of the men’s and women’s magazines alike had featured women, but now most of them featured men instead. London was being renovated, and the wallpaper covering every surface of the city was no longer decorated with women. The default Londoner, the implied viewer of everything, was no longer male.

Tourism increased, with women from many countries anxious to see what was happening firsthand, but there were also unforeseen consequences. London was scheduled to host the G8 Summit, but world leaders complained. The French president commented on a British television advert that featured a man washing his hair with a new floral-scented shampoo; the man was so excited by the shampooing experience that he made orgasm sounds as he massaged his head. “I cannot be taken seriously in such an environment,” the French president said.”

Based on the cover and title of Dietland, I was expecting something fluffy and shallow. I mean, an overweight woman working for a NYC magazine? How many times has that been done in chick lit? However, once I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. What could have been a predictable novel built on tropes turned out to be a bold, daring book about conventional beauty standards and self-acceptance. I loved the nuanced, honest way it portrays the experience of a woman whose main goal every day is to be invisible — to blend in and not receive any hurtful remarks — because of her socially mandated discomfort with her body.

But beyond that, Dietland is a ridiculously fun novel. As unknown “terrorists” turn the patriarchy upside down, the novel feels like a feminist Fight Club, with its disruption of the status quo. Don’t be fooled by Dietland‘s package; like the cupcake on its cover, it may look sweet, but it’s really a grenade that’s about to blow up.

Disclosure: If you make a purchase through the link above, I will make a tiny commission.

  • I’m a bit surprised to hear that the content of the book doesn’t fit the chick-lit-oriented cover. This book sounds interesting!

  • Words for Worms

    This sounds really cool! The title and cover are certainly deceiving!

  • Amy Sachs

    I ordered this today when my bookstore didn’t have it and I can’t wait for it to come in! I don’t know, I think the cover hints that there’s more to the book than the title suggests. The cupcake is a grenade, while most chick-lit is more pink and – I don’t want to say “frilly” but – frilly.

    • I think the cover is really clever, but I also think that can be easy to mess if you’re just scanning a table covered in books at Barnes & Noble.

  • Isi

    I’ve seen this book everywhere recently, but this is the first review I read, and all I can say is that I thought it was a non-fiction book!!
    It looks fun, so I’ll take it into account.

    • Well, the title is taken from a non-fiction book within the novel’s universe! In the book, Dietland is an expose written about a weight-loss program the protagonist used to belong to.

  • God, this sounds like so much fun. I need to put in a purchase request at my library for it ASAP!

  • Jennifers for the win!! 😀

    I had a great time with this one. I had my issues with some of the characters…heck, even the plot wasn’t constructed particularly well. BUT the message? SO GOOD.

    • You Jennifers just cause so much trouble! The characters could definitely have been better drawn, but the reading experience was just too much fun for me to care!

  • Huh. Like Isi, I thought this might be nonfiction, too. But you make it sound intriguing!

  • The way this book counters expectations sounds really interesting! I’m sold 🙂