by Rae Earl
Reviewed by SA
For some of you, this book needs no introduction – I keep hearing about the show! So naturally, when the book became available on Netgalley, I jumped on it (thanks for approving me, St. Martin’s Press!). It turns out this is a new edition, so it’s not exactly a new book, but it was new for me so I think i can get away with reviewing it!
It’s 1989 and Rae Earl is a fat, boy-mad 17-year-old girl, living in Stamford, Lincolnshire with her mum and their deaf white cat in a council house with a mint green bathroom and a refrigerator Rae can’t keep away from. She’s also just been released from a psychiatric ward. My Mad Fat Diary is the hilarious, harrowing and touching real-life diary Rae kept during that fateful year and the basis of the hit British television series of the same name now coming to HULU. Surrounded by people like her constantly dieting mum, her beautiful frenemy Bethany, her mates from the private school up the road (called “Haddock”, “Battered Sausage” and “Fig”) and the handsome, unattainable boys Rae pines after (who sometimes end up with Bethany…), My Mad Fat Diary is the story of an overweight young woman just hoping to be loved at a time when slim pop singers ruled the charts. Rae’s chronicle of her world will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever been a confused, lonely teenager clashing with her parents, sometimes overeating, hating her body, always taking herself VERY seriously, never knowing how positively brilliant she is and keeping a diary to record it all. My Mad Fat Diary – 365 days with one of the wisest and funniest girls in England.
Funny and witty sure covers it: the author had me even before the novel itself started, when she was still explaining Britishisms and slang. Even though I knew the words themselves, her definitions shed new light on them and had me roaring in laughter. So when the book itself started, I was happy to see that the author’s past self has that same voice: snarky, witty, and above all, incredibly engaging.
The plot itself wasn’t as exciting as I expected. When people call it a fateful year, or talk about having a whole show about this, I wonder what actually happens, because honestly, to me, it was a girl living her life, and looking for love. There are a few dramatic moments, but I guess it was the feeling of watching a year slide by in less than a three hour read that made the novel feel like not much really happened.
Even so, I still enjoyed the book: largely because of just how relatable Rae Earl is. She’s got the same insecurities we all do, worries the same worries, and has some seriously awful friends who are just making it all worse. The diary is a lens into a life some of us have shared, and somehow, her witty comments help validate the struggle in all of us. You can’t help but wish her well – or want to give her a hug and tell her she can make it through this.
But this is a diary: it’s real life, it’s not been made into a nice bundle for us to digest. There’s not always the resolution we want as a reader, not always the wish fulfillment. Life is messy. And this diary is a beautiful way of looking at life and capturing how difficult it can really be. How trying, and stressful, how maddening: how nothing always goes according to plan. Rae’s Diary is just so stinkin’ relatable.
This novel is definitely well worth the read!