Do you ever get those random perks of a job that you never got told about? Y’know, like free coffee from the coffee shop you work at, or always having a parking space when you drive into town? One of the ones of being a bookseller is that some lovely publishers will just send you a book that they think you’ll enjoy. No one told me about this. No one. So, I was SHOOK the first time this happened, which happened to be a copy of No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter. And boy was I glad that they did!
No Big Deal is the story of Emily, a girl from Croydon in her last year of school who is cool and confident and bubbly and fat. Fat, here, not being an insult in any way shape or form. Emily is happy with herself, with her body (despite some people in her life telling her she shouldn’t be) and has no plans in changing. It’s a story of body confidence, self love (not that kind, don’t be so uncouth), friendship, family, and growing up. It’s also hella cool because each chapter has a song that goes with it and if you listen to them as a playlist it is the BEST thing.
I could go on and on about the story line because it’s honestly brilliant. Like, its honestly so good. The characters are all, to a person, absolutely brilliant and I would want to be friends with almost all of them (except Joe, because he’s a dick and doesn’t deserve it). But, the most important thing about No Big Deal is the message of body positivity and self acceptance.
Emily is fat. What’s more, shes happy being fat, and doesn’t understand why she should have to change to meet some standard that some boring dude in a suit who’s deciding what is “attractive” has set. And that’s really important, because of how focused on aesthetics and weight society is, especially for young people. No Big Deal is so important because it presents a main character whose weight is important but not to fuel some journey of self discovery and weight loss in order to get the guy, but instead about a girl who is cool and confident and fashionable and says “Fuck it, I do/eat/wear what I want!”
I know a lot of people who have read it and loved it, who said it spoke to them on a deep, personal level. I didn’t think it would do anything to me: I’m basically a conventionally attractive, average bodied white gay (Steph’s words, not mine). I have all the privilege and very little critique of my body. But boy, was I wrong. Reading Emily’s story, and her occasional moments of self doubt, I found a lot resonating. Probably not for the same reasons as friends who read it, but I was reduced to a sobbing heap a couple of times (quel surpise).
What hit me hardest was thinking about how we as a society view weight as some kind of determiner of worth. When I was a teacher, I taught Year 4 (that’s 8/9 years old, if you’re not familiar with the English system). In the time I was teaching, I had more that one child say that they couldn’t eat something at lunch because they were on a diet. At 8. None of these kids where what would be called fat, none of them were unable to take part in activities or classes, none of them were unhappy with their appearance. And yet, they were being told that they needed to change. Newsflash: If you think there’s an issue with an 8 year old’s weight, maybe the problem is you.
If you need another reason to read No Big Deal, I present to you the absolute rock star and fashionista that is Bethany Rutter. I was lucky enough to meet her when she came to Newcastle for an event (hosted by the excellent Steph), and all I can say is I WISH I were even half as cool as she is. Like, seriously, I want to be her. Bethany is similar to Emily in a lot of ways, but the most obvious similarities to me are the effortless charisma and confidence they both exude. (This has turned into me being a Bethany Rutter stan. I have no regrets.)
No Big Deal is important for so many reasons, and it should be required reading for everyone, regardless of weight, gender, age. Just read it and know that you are so much bigger and better than the sum of your parts and what you’re told makes you attractive or valid.
No Big Deal – Bethany Rutter ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐