Length: 264 pages
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Frieda Kunkelheimer lives a scarred life. Fat and unpopular as a child, she finds compassion and love with the animals on her farm even as her grandmother, the only family she knows and the woman who brought her up, ignores and chides her at every given opportunity. Brought up by a woman whose hatred for the world made her as bitter as anyone could be, Frieda found little reason for joy. As the years pass, she grows up to be a stunning beauty, but she remains internally as cold and unforgiving as the world has made her, facing more than her share of challenges and problems. But beauty transcends all and Frieda Kunkelheimer becomes Frie, the popular actress who becomes the world’s sweetheart.
As the actress known for her tantrums travels to South America with her crew, including her gay make-up artist Robin, disaster strikes. The plane crashes down in the middle of Central American jungle and Frie, Robin and Frie’s agent are held captive by money hungry, violent El Salvadoran guerrillas. As events unfold, Frieda and Robin face the most challenging part of their lives yet, a part that forces them to look beyond themselves. They discover compassion, love and forgiveness, a new way of life that of which they’d thought themselves incapable. But with danger mounting and the threat to their lives growing, will Freida and Robin get the chance to truly discover this new life?
When I read the blurb of Fat Girl Fairy Boy, I had expected to read a book of adventure, of deep characterization and something that kept me turning the pages. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what I got. Yes, the characterization exists, but not in any way I had expected. The blurb promises an adventure as we look at Frie and Robin have a change of heart in the face of their unfortunate circumstances. But the book does little in the form of explaining anything about why such a change of heart even occurs, or how.
Half the book is spent on the history of Frieda and Robin. While not completely boring, it does border on uninteresting as it simply goes on and on with a real lack of dialogue and overdose of narration. In addition to that, the narration failed to really evoke any emotional connection with the characters. Yes, at some points I did feel bad for everything that the young girl and boy face, but not enough to really feel compassion or even any connection with the characters. By the end, I couldn’t really care if they suffered more or things turned around. I would chalk that up to the unemphatic writing style which explained every instance in vivid and disturbing detail, but in a matter of fact way. Just because the author tells me that a character suddenly felt dead inside, I’m not going to believe it unless it’s supplemented by some additional emotion that leads to such an extreme. Stating the emotions doesn’t help the reader feel them. The only thing that the apparently traumatic episodes of their lives managed to do was to give me a chronological account of their lives.
Not only was the characterization done weakly, it was not exactly consistent either. One moment, Frieda is a certain way and the next, she does something uncharacteristic. That can happen, you say? Yes, it can. But not when the author continues to chalk the uncharacteristic behavior to the character itself. That led me to further distance myself and not really care about what happened to anyone.
What really bothered me though, was the transition. A entire chunk of the lives of the main characters is simply missing. You reach a point where Frieda finally becomes Frie and then you push forward years to find that she’s bitter and cold and quite the b**ch with absolutely no idea why she became like that when she began so very differently. So the Frie you leave and the Frie you see are two different people altogether.
As the story progresses, you finally (after much too long) come to the part that the blurb sells as the central part – being held captive by El Salvadoran guerrillas. But the book fails to pick up even then. There was more dialogue and more action, but the emotions, characters and feelings still seem disjointed – going from one place to another with no real explanation of why any of it happening.
I may be coming down hard on Fat Girl Fairy Boy, but the truth is that I really wanted to like this book and hoped that the annoying flaws will stop at some time. I read on hoping that it’ll get better. But that didn’t happen and I was severely disappointed, sometimes wanting to stop reading it altogether. Yet, I continued and when I finally closed the book, I had to give it a 2.5 and nothing less. The reason for that was the last page, right before the epilogue.
For all the disappointment that the book brought on, the last page salvaged a huge chunk of it. There was something so touching, so basic and so heart warming about the end, that I couldn’t hate the book or think of it in the same light as I had while reading it. That being said, I still don’t think it’s a great read. In fact, it’s only if you are a die hard fan of books that are female centric and based around a change of heart and life that you would want to spend hours on Fat Girl Fairy Boy. That is, of course, keeping in mind that you don’t mind some disturbing and vivid scenes tossed into the mix either. But if you’re not one of those people who scour the shelves (physical and virtual) for stories of lost women who are forced to finding themselves, then you’d want to skip this one.