Nice Girls Endure by Chris Struyk-Bonn (2016)
Teen Fiction | Contemporary | Bullying
“Chelsea Duvay is so many things. She’s an avid musical lover, she’s a gifted singer, and she has the most perfect, beautiful feet. But no one ever notices that. All they notice is Chelsea’s weight. Daily, Chelsea endures endless comments about her appearance from well-meaning adults and cruel classmates. So she keeps to herself and just tries to make it through. Don’t make waves. Don’t draw attention. That’s how life is for Chelsea until a special class project pushes the energetic and incessantly social Melody into Chelsea’s world. As their unlikely friendship grows, Chelsea emerges from her isolated existence, and she begins to find the confidence to enjoy life. But bullies are bullies, and they remain as vicious as ever. One terrible encounter threatens to destroy everything Chelsea has worked so hard to achieve. Readers will be captivated by Chelsea’s journey as she discovers the courage to declare her own beauty and self-worth, no matter what others might think. A must-read for anyone who loves to explore the personal but powerful territory of everyday life.” -Goodreads
Expected Publication Date: August 01, 2016
pooled ink Review:
I began hesitant, I hunched down in sadness, I reared with anger, but at the end I smiled. This is only the beginning for Chelsea and I wish I could know where she ends up 10 years into her future because I’m confident she will be great.
This book is broken into a bajillion bite-sized chapters and in my opinion this was a smart move. It works perfectly for the story. Rather than feeling obligated to fatten up the chapters with length and mundane filler the author instead has no qualms about beginning and ending each scene succinctly providing only the important bits, sort of like a movie. The story covers the expanse of a school year and the short chapters help create the accurate feeling of how time flies by (and it also makes reading this book feel much quicker). We watch in short snippets how Chelsea has been, is, changes, and may become. Flashes, that’s what we are given, flashes into the life of a heavy set teen with an earth shattering singing voice and apparently model-worthy feet. I must say, it is quite the sobering journey.
There’s a reason I typically stay away from Teen or YA Contemporary books. It’s because most of them revolve around high school and talk ceaselessly about how much it sucks. I know this to be true for many people out there but not me and that makes it hard to relate to the characters so I fall disinterested by their whining and I toss the book out the window (I can also be an ice queen so maybe that’s also a factor). But every once in a while I pull out a Contemporary book and give it a read because how can you possibly begin to understand the world around you if you rely solely on your own experiences? I know my world, but unless you tell me about yours then I will be forever imprisoned in ignorance.
Look, when I was in high school I was a stick figure, I was a nerd, I was of average attractiveness, but I enjoyed my classes, I loved performing in the school musicals, and I had friends. I was very much a floater, meaning that my friends were parts of different groups: video gamers, spirit squad, NHS leaders, partiers, etcetera. I’m an easygoing reserved person (with a hidden dark fire in my soul) who drifts through life with a talent for avoiding drama. I hate drama. I don’t like drama in my life and most of the time I really don’t care about drama in your life (I’m an ice queen, remember?). Chelsea is also good at avoiding waves but besides that her high school experience was quite different from mine. …Anyway, who cares about me? This is supposed to be about Chelsea and her high school experience.
Okay, breathe in, hold, breathe out. Okay, if I’m going to continue trying to be honest about books then I admit that I have conflicting emotions about this book. It’s a story about bullying and therefore I feel obligated to sing its praises, but that wouldn’t be 100% truthful. There were moments that I enjoyed, I smiled, I laughed, I envied, I avoided, I chased, I rolled my eyes, I doubted, I sighed, I cheered, and I ho-hummed. Chelsea’s is a complex story and I appreciate that because people are beautifully complex. And, I dunno, maybe it’s because I’m an adult now (as much I hate to accept that reality) but there were several moments I didn’t understand – moments where I sighed past because I know that when she is older she too will look back on those moments with a different perspective.
It’s sort of like how teenagers think their life is over and the world is ending all the time and the adults around them just titter “there there” but inside they want to smack their little heads and somehow get it through their thick skulls that there is more to life than freaking high school. But, that being said, I do think that many middle and high schoolers who read this book will most certainly find themselves able to relate to Chelsea’s struggles in part or in whole.
The ending was great…but I still wish Chelsea would have reported Nicholas. He needs to be punished. I love the way the author had Chelsea take her life back at the end but regardless I think Nicholas needs to be reported, tried, and punished. Ugh, he is disgusting and utterly inexcusable.
Something minor that was a little irritating is Chelsea’s constant inconsistency with her self-image. She claims that she is happy with her body and what other people think doesn’t really matter and yet whenever she is actually around other people she worries that they’ll see her true self a.k.a. “overweight and a social pariah.” She’s in denial or something. It’s irritating and yet it’s so confrontationally realistic. And it is made more irritating because I do the exact same thing to myself (but to a lesser extent). I am confident, and beautiful, and talented, and strong…I am nothing, I am unworthy, I am small, I am a waste. I do it to myself almost every day. Unfortunately it’s something that almost everyone struggles with and it’s something that will never fully go away. You have to find something to keep you going and throughout this book we witness Chelsea starting to find that anchor for herself.
Okay the other little irritant is Chelsea’s view on her weight. I can’t help but agree with Bridget. Don’t lose the weight for anyone else, don’t do it because society tells you to, don’t do it because your family tells you to, don’t do it for boys, no no no. Only do it because you want to. Bridget: And do it because it means being healthy and fit. Do it for yourself. Chelsea fights the idea of losing weight despite love-hating her overweight reality. While bullying is never okay and there is beauty in everyone inside and outside…there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy. Skinny people can be unhealthy just as much as heavy people. Some people are given more curvaceous shapes and that’s just as beautiful as a person with a willowy stature.
The important thing is: are you healthy? Chelsea “apparently” has a better diet than I do (she constantly likes to say she eats vegetables but I don’t think TV dinners and caramel brownies are exactly healthy) but even so eating right isn’t enough, you’ve got to really commit to exercising as well. Why would anyone wait to contract diabetes to start eating right and exercising regularly? It’s preventive medicine and I’ll never understand why people resist it, just because it’s not as fun or convenient or whatever. (um okay and full confession: I did just eat a cookie, two slices of pizza, and three squares of Cadbury chocolate for lunch before typing this review…I’m a work in progress but that doesn’t mean I’m not at least trying). *Sigh* Then again do whatever you want, it’s your life and no one else’s. That is something that Chelsea definitely got right in this book.
Third irritant: When Chelsea criticizes the lack of equality between men and women with regards to being fat I agree to a degree. I’m pretty sure an athletic slim or muscled body would win versus a fat guy for most females just like Chelsea knows that most guys would go for a slim-figured woman. Fat guys are also generally shunted off to the comedy world just like Chelsea points out happens to large women but there are always exceptions because hello has anyone heard of Melissa McCarthy?? She’s gorgeous, curvy, talented, and hilarious. Also, bigger guys may have football but so do bigger women. Ever heard of powderpuff football or wrestling, Chelsea? AND bloody hell, Chelsea you can sing! How can you not think of opera singers? Opera singers are a wide range of sizes! You can be big and talented and beautiful, ya know. I think the difference between men and women is that women are far more pressured to change (as opposed to men) because beauty standards are far more rigorously enforced with women. Yeah in large it’s because of men, but honestly it’s largely because of women themselves. It’s a terrifying cat fight and rat race towards ever-changing impossible beauty goals. Blehhh!
Look, it’s easy to tell yourself you have no prospects in life, and that’s a realistic train of thought for Chelsea to have, but I really wish the author would have contradicted her false view points in this book. It’s important to let readers know that Chelsea isn’t always right, because she isn’t. Stereotypes only endure for maybe three reasons: a) they’re quite largely true, b) the stereotypers enforce the stereotype, and/or c) the stereotyped accept the stereotype. It’s all a cycle. And yeah, it sucks, but nothing is forever unless you let it be.
But yeah, I get it. When one is in the minority, and particularly when they are a hormonal teenager going through high school, it can be really hard to see past anything other than your own misery. Lesson number one: Life isn’t fair…but that doesn’t mean it can’t be happy.
Okay now that the world probably hates me…(just kidding, or maybe not because people are ridiculously sensitive these days). Maybe I have a few qualms with the book but that doesn’t tarnish the fact that it lays out a painful and relatable story of a girl named Chelsea who was a nobody and is now learning that she is and was always a somebody. I really love the character Melody because sometimes it just takes one smile, one kind word, one extended hand in friendship to save someone’s life.
Nice Girls Endure is a quick Contemporary read that scrapes off the icing and pierces deep below the surface of the heart diving into friendship, insecurity, and courage. Relatable in so many different aspects this book will be sure to touch the lives of many different readers. With any luck Chelsea’s story will be one step further towards a brighter hope for teens who read it.
P.S. I really love the cover 🙂
Purchase here: Nice Girls Endure
Meet Chris Struyk-Bonn!
I live in Portland, Oregon, even though I am originally from Iowa. I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for so long that I can hardly claim to be a midwesterner anymore.
My family keeps me pretty busy and on my toes! I have two boys who have decided that it is their goal and ambition in life to make my days as difficult as possible. We have soccer balls in every room, we have darts stuck to every window, and my cats are losing fur in clumps because of the teasing they must endure.
I love cats. I have three of them and one of them is about twenty pounds. I have been trying to figure out how to help him lose some weight, but he is just not interested, and the treadmill has not been working.
Reading and writing young adult literature is a favorite past time of mine. I try to keep up on trends in YA, and find myself astounded by some of the amazing novels that are available for teens. I am thrilled to see my own book in print and hope that you will let me know what you think.