An overweight woman turns from ugly duckling to swan in British novelist Green’s American debut: a tale that offers plenty of engaging plot twists but not much substance.
Jemima spends many secret hours pouring over fashion magazines, whose cheeky, “how to improve your [fill in the blank]” tone the novel echoes. It’s a depressing activity, since Jemima—a good hundred pounds over the limit for contemporary beauty—looks nothing like the supermodels who cavort through those glossy pages. Her job writing the household hints column for a London newspaper bums her out too, as does the fact that gorgeous Ben, the man of her dreams, adores her as a friend but nothing more. When Jemima gets on the Internet for the first time, she realizes that in cyberspace a little extra fat doesn't matter if it isn't mentioned. So she begins an online flirtation with Brad from L.A., who sends a picture and turns out to be a real hunk. Thanks to a computer-enhanced photo of herself (thinner all over), Brad wants Jemima to fly to California for a rendezvous. So she loses weight, dyes her hair blond, and dons the wardrobe of a sophisticated ‘somebody.’ Now known as J.J., Jemima gets to California and is so shocked that a man like Brad would be interested in her that she wills herself to fall in love. But something is wrong: sweet Ben never leaves her mind. Sure, Brad is good-looking, but what else? Has Jemima met Mr. Perfect? Or should she hold out for Ben—that is, if she ever sees him again? (Readers should not spend a lot of time worrying about this last question.)
Slightly unpredictable story development saves this from exactly duplicating the vast mound of similar feel-good modern fairy tales for women, but it lives in the same neighborhood.