Review: To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Rating: 3.5 stars
Release Date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: young adult contemporary
Format/Source: ARC, ALA annual conference
audiobook, purchased from Audible
Status: standalone

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she'll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn't count on is that her mother's obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy's mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom's diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

I am so excited about all the fat positive books coming out right now! If To Be Honest were just about the fat and anxiety rep, I would give it 5 stars, hands down. And the best part about Savvy being fat AND anxious is that her anxiety is not caused by her fatness, although she has normal moments in which she doesn't feel confident about how others will react to her body (YAY for a book mentioning stretch marks! Normalize that shit!). I thought the descriptions of Savvy's panic attacks were spot on, and it was awesome how most people around her were so supportive during these moments.

Savvy is a boss fat girl who loves math, wants to be an engineer, AND is a killer journalist as well. I am so happy with a character who is not YAY-STEM-BOO-HUMANITIES or HUMANITIES-FOREVER-MATH-SUX. It's great to have a character, especially a teenage girl, who is great at both! Savvy's voice reads like an authentic teen voice to me, and I appreciate that she sounds pretty age-appropriate. I do love YA, but I think right now the category as a whole is struggling with tone (part of this is that older readers complain all the dang time that teen characters sound too young, but that is a discussion for another day). Maggie really nails that teen voice here. And Savvy is another girl after my own heart like Willowdean from Dumplin who owns her body and celebrates her curves. I love seeing female teen characters have that positive relationship with their own bodies and modeling what that looks like.

The romance between Savvy and George is really sweet and not overbearing. There IS that romantic story, but if you notice the genre, I list To Be Honest as a YA contemporary, NOT a contemporary romance because the romance is more of a side story here rather than the focus of the story. And I think their relationship really shone bright. Honestly, Savvy and George reminded me a big of Cady and Aaron from Mean Girls but if Cady were tutoring Aaron instead of pretending to be bad at math to win him over. Savvy would never! She's smart, and she doesn't hide it! Four for you, Savvy! You Go, Savvy! I love how their relationship progresses at a slower pace. First it's more of a tutor/tutee relationship, then friendship, and then it slooooowly grows into that flirty high school romance. But they also hit a couple setbacks throughout the story, and that's how real life relationships are. It's not just the steady climb. These two are so sweet and cute together. I feel like that gif from Zootopia during every one of their scenes together!

That's the one

For me, the parts with Savvy's mom were among the hardest to read. My mom also didn't have a very healthy relationship with food and dieting when I was a child, and that's something that I definitely struggle with now. Savvy DOES have a pretty healthy mindset so it was hard to watch her struggle with her mom's opposing views. To Be Honest is a stark example how healthy habits can actually be UNhealthy when taken to the extreme. I also didn't care for the way the reality show part was handled. I'm an avid reality show fan (especially of The Bachelor/ette), but like in Prince in Disguise, I have problem here with how the show really manipulated Savvy, who is a minor, and I hate that Savvy's mom exposed her to that toxic situation.

As I've seen in other reviews, one of the most frustrating things about To Be Honest is that most of the topics in the book don't go quite deep enough. I think the fat rep and anxiety rep is absolutely superb. A+++++. But the struggle with Savvy's mom, the journalism story, how estranged Savvy is from her dad... there's just a LOT going on in this book, and it's barely over 300 pages. I definitely think Savvy and her family deserved a deeper cut. Even 50 more pages would have afforded every plot point a little more attention.

All in all, To Be Honest was a good book. If you're looking for great fat rep and a sweet romance, I definitely recommend. Just keep in mind it will end before you want it to and stay toward the surface of a few topics, rather than giving them full attention.

Purchase Links:

About the Author:
Maggie Ann Martin hails from Des Moines, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet.

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  1. Thanks for this review! I am going to pick this one up for sure. I am also really enjoying all the fat positive rep lately! It's nice to see myself represented.

  2. I adored this book too! We need more like it. :D

  3. It does sound like there's a lot going on in this book!

  4. This book is on my TBR and it's too bad that the more difficult topics were only skimmed on the surface instead of being explored deeper. Maybe this will be one of my "mix-it up" reads after a heavier, more emotional one. I do think this sounds like an important book based on the characters alone.

  5. In our time, few people read books :( I think that this book is worthy of attention, and I will read it.
    I adore books like these and often reread this series of books, and the book is better than the movie :)