“Resisting fatphobic messages was one thing – but what about
the insidious, internalized fatphobia she carried around?”
Have you ever read a book that is so relatable you feel like it was written about you*, but it also has a magic to it that you have wished for in your life? That is what There’s Something About Sweetie is like for me. I can relate to Sweetie so much, but the book also has the cheesiness of an old Bollywood movie that I wish real life had sometimes (seriously, Hindi films are the best).
*I acknowledge that part of that feeling comes from simply being able to read a book about an Indian girl and her Indian family, and the fact that there are not enough books about POC out in the world! However, I will not get into that because that would make this already lengthy review far too long!
An example of the cheese:
“She was singing that song ‘Meherbaan’ from that movie, oh,
what was it? Oh, yeah. Bang Bang!, with Hrithik Roshan.
When he’d first heard the song in the movie, he’d liked it.
It was a little sappy, but whatever. It was nice.
But now? It was like listening to music for the very first time.
It was like warm gold being poured into the vessel of his soul.
He listened with every fiber of every muscle.
He listened so intently, he forgot who he was.”
I freaking love this book.
Okay. At a distance, There’s Something About Sweetie is about Sweetie Nair and Ashish Patel and their adorable love story. At it’s core though, it is about so, so, so much more.
Sweetie is Indian. Sweetie is
a track runner the fastest track runner. Sweetie loves to sing, and is really good at it. Sweetie is fat.
Ashish is Indian. Ashish is a
basketball player star basketball player. Ashish is quite privileged because his parents are wealthy. Ashish is not fat.
“My body is strong and does everything I want it to do.”
“Fat” to Sweetie is not a bad word. It is something that describes her, like Indian or runner. She is (mostly) okay with the way she looks. Or at least she wants to be. Sweetie’s mother, however, wants her to lose weight – and she tells her all the time.
When Sweetie learns that Ashish’s parents wanted to set her up with him but *someone* stopped it because of her weight, she takes matters into her own hands. She gets his number and challenges him to a race – she’s the fastest track runner remember, so naturally, she beats him, and he loves it!
Ashish has never dated a brown girl, but when Sweetie texts him out of nowhere, he is intrigued. Not only does she kick his butt at track, she is also the sweetest (see what I did there) person he has ever met. He is still reeling from a pretty bad break up though, so he doesn’t know how much he can truly give to this new relationship.
“‘Okay. I’m fine with taking it slow.’ Then, frowning a little, she said, ‘But kissing is good.’ Ashish laughed. ‘Kissing is good; got it.'”
UGH, I LOVE THIS BOOK!
The adventures of Sweetie and Ashish take us on four sanctioned dates (yes. sanctioned. no. I won’t tell you why or by who.), and I definitely found it strange but also totally loved it. I adore the way these two got to know each other, and although I wish the timeline was a little longer, the romance is the cutest.
I also like how the characters communicate! So many damn issues could be resolved so much faster if people would just communicate. Yes, there are some issues that are more difficult than others, but for the most part, the characters do their best to talk before things become too bottled up. It is so emotionally healthy!
Sweetie also grills Ashish about important things. Like Downtown Abbey. To be honest, this is me too:
“‘Downtown Abbey: Matthew Crawley or Henry Talbot?’
‘I don’t know what any of those words mean in that order.’
Sweetie stared at him. ‘I don’t think we can be friends unless you
have at least a passing understanding of Downtown Abbey.'”
Special note: there is a scene with parrots that is my absolute favourite because it is simultaneously spit-out-your-drink hilarious and clutch-your-heart cute! AND Sandhya Menon herself responded to one of my many freak outs about this book (on Instagram) and said this scene was one of her favourites to write!
“Amma had once told her her arms were her worst feature,
and Sweetie had never quite been able to get over that.”
Sweetie’s relationship with her mother reminded me a lot of my relationship with my mom, and many of my friends’ relationships with their moms. We know our mothers love us, but sometimes they say things that don’t quite sit right, even if they mean well. Having conversations about that can be so tough, but once you do, things will be so much better.
The book mainly focuses on Sweetie and Ashish and their growth, as individuals and as a couple, but their friend groups are pretty cute as well.
Oliver and Elijah, Ashish’s friends, are dating but go through a little rough patch. They’ve also dealt with their own fair share of discrimination, and I’m thinking a book about them is needed in the future…
Pinky, another of Ashish’s friends, is wild. Menon has already confirmed her next book will be about Pinky and Samir, and she definitely sets that up a little bit in this book.
Samir is home-schooled and is Ashish’s neighbour. The crew finds him a little annoying, and to be honest, I did too. He grows though, and I’m excited to see more of him in the next book.
“You’re still thin, and you get to exist in spaces
without constantly being found wanting.”
Kayla, Suki and Izzy are Sweetie’s friend group and track teammates. They are the perfect girl gang and always have Sweetie’s back – both literally and figuratively!
The way Indian culture is represented is somewhere between truly realistic and slightly idealistic. Menon does a great job of portraying real Indian families with just a little bit of that something extra. It makes the story fun and entertaining while also being relatable.
“It was an unspoken rule that you never introduced your girlfriends as girlfriends to the elders in your family; that was too unseemly.”
At the heart of There’s Something About Sweetie, the message is simple:
“Last, but most important, I want to say to all my fat readers
who’ve been told “fat” is a dirty, shameful word:
They’re wrong. You’re enough. You always have been.”
Thank you so much to Sandhya Menon for writing such an amazing book. My teenage self wishes she could have read this book a decade ago, but my adult self is so unbelievably happy that teenagers now, especially Indian ones, will have this.
What else can I tell you about this book?! Well, a lot actually. I could gush about this book for hours. I won’t though, and instead I’ll just say, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
“You’re enough. You always have been.”