what I’m reading: dietland by sarai walker.

Dietland by Sarai Walker.dietland

I picked this book up to read because it was trending on Goodreads and I was fascinated by the synopsis.

Plum Kettle is an overweight woman in her late 20’s who, after decades of yo-yo dieting, has decided to have weight loss surgery. In preparation for her post surgery body, Plum spends her paycheck buying clothes for her new thin body and cannot wait to showcase it. When Plum starts being followed by a quirky girl with clunky boots and colored tights, Plum meets a group of women who want to change the world and want to convince Plum to accept herself as she is. Plum agrees to a series of challenges that include a makeover and blind dates. After Plum makes it through the challenges, she will be given the money for her weight loss surgery – if she still wants it. As Plum tries to finds herself, a guerrilla group that calls itself “Jennifer” begins to target men and women who objectify women, and Plum finds herself entwined with these faceless feminists.

I was intrigued. What is this guerrilla group? Will Plum lose the weight? What was going to happen?? I loved Jemima J (by Jane Green) and thought this book might be similar. I am a sucker for a weight loss story and a journey to find yourself.

The first third of this book was entertaining. I enjoyed reading about Plum’s job – Plum is the ghostwriter for the editor of a popular teen magazine and spends her day answering fan mail from teen girls. We learned about Plum’s life growing up and her longtime struggle with her weight. I thought that Calliope House, the community of women Plum meets, were eccentric but I was anxious to see them pull Plum out of her shell. Plum was insecure and timid and I wanted to see her change and find the real Plum.

And then the book takes a strange turn. We are given news story accounts of men who are killed after being thrown off a bridge, men who die after being dropped from a plane, and a porn star and her husband who are killed in broad daylight on a busy street. A guerrilla group named “Jennifer” takes the credit for the killings. Plum is captivated by Jennifer and follows the news stories closely. As Plum becomes enthralled by Jennifer, she slowly begins to change. She starts to take her cues from Jennifer while trying to determine just who Jennifer is.

I honestly felt like there were 2 different books here – the story of Plum, an overweight girl struggling with her weight, and the story of Jennifer, a vigilant group focused on vengeance and killing people – and I didn’t quite get how the 2 meshed together. The Jennifer plotline seemed to come out of nowhere and, in my opinion, had no real purpose to the story.

Was Jennifer supposed to make Plum think about the objectification of women? Because I felt the ladies at Calliope House were already doing a fine job with that. Was it to make Plum feel more confident? Because I thought that was one of the purposes of the challenges. It just seemed a little redundant to me and like it was used more for shock factor than anything else.

Was Jennifer supposed to make Plum change who she was? Because I didn’t like the person that Plum turned into. At the beginning of the book Plum walks with her head down, is covered head to toe in clothing, and tries not to be noticed. Plum definitely needed more confidence and as she learned more about Jennifer and underwent her challenges, Plum changed but not in a good way.

I felt that Plum became confrontational and abrasive. I understand that Plum saw herself as becoming empowered, however I didn’t see her as empowered – I saw her as mean and bitter. She would purposefully dress and wear her makeup in a way to be a turn off to her blind dates and then yell at them when they tried to back out of the date. It’s one thing to talk back to people who are staring at you but Plum seemed to revel in getting into fights. She was deliberately confrontational and rude and I started to dislike the character.

Additionally, she began to act irresponsibility with respect to her job. She basically just stops working without telling anyone and proceeds to just delete hundreds of letters written to the editor. She then proceeds to shoplift lingerie (that she has no plans of wearing as it doesn’t fit her) in a misguided effort to combat the objectification of women. I’m not sure what her plan was to do with all the lingerie other than to look at it and think she was pulling a fast one on the lingerie store.

Coupled with the fact that this seemed to be 2 books in 1, I just wasn’t that big a fan. I thought the Jennifer plotline was interesting and I would read a story about that, I just didn’t understand how it went with the Plum storyline. Also, we never really learned the motivation behind the other characters’ actions and I didn’t really care about the other characters. And the end of the book left me with more questions. Nothing was resolved.

I wanted to read about Plum’s journey. I wanted to read about her metamorphosis. It didn’t matter to me if she lost the weight or didn’t; I wanted to read about Plum finding herself. But that wasn’t the storyline. Instead some bizarre plot about corporate spying and vigilantism emerged.

This book tried so hard to be about women’s rights and gender equality, but the crazy plotlines just didn’t work. I understand that it was supposed to be a satire about the diet industry and feminism but it didn’t work for me. And while I liked the message at the end, to love yourself as you are, I didn’t like Plum.

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4 thoughts on “what I’m reading: dietland by sarai walker.

    • I thought the synopsis was really intriguing too, which is why I read it! But unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews for this book and people love it so don’t just take my word for it.

      Liked by 1 person

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