Long review: Spoiler Alert
Author: Olivia Dade, 2020
Disclaimer: ARC via Edelweiss, links affiliate
Content/Trigger warning(s): fatphobia and toxic family, both of which are addressed and dismantled in this book. The below review will touch broadly on these topics, and I’ll flag before I delve into anything specific.
This book is an homage to fat girls and fanfic and hero worship and, also, Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth’s scuppered romantic arc. But it’s mostly the first thing.
This is a book I wish I could travel back in time and make 14 year old Esme read this because of The Message; plus it made my belly do the swoopy thing on account of how fluffy and romantic it was. More steam and erotic tension would have pushed this to a full five star for me.
Reading this was a deeply emotional experience, and consequently this review has a first class ticket on the Hot Mess Express, as my thoughts are still quite raw and scattered. But I wrote and I cut and I wrote again, and finally here we are.
LET’S DO THIS.
I’m house Brienne-and-Jaime-were-End-Game. And I’m pretty sure Olivia Dade agrees.
This story blends together a lot of really lovely threads and tropes. Professional actor Marcus presents (deliberately!) as a himbo but is secretly a mega nerd. He plays fictional (well, meta fictional) TV star Aeneas but moonlights as a fanfiction writer, funneling his displeasure in his scripts and character arcs into his corrective fanfic.
Queen of the nerds April is a cosplaying, fanfic writing, Twittering maestro. They both write fanfic and have been reading eachother’s work for years, but April doesn’t know that Marcus is the actor on TV who plays the hero she writes fics about.
They meet IRL when tiny-brain-trolls get April a date with Marcus, in all of his TV-star-glory.
Sexy? Also yes!
Would I ever in a million years go out with a famous actor? NO WAY.
However in Spoiler Alert April and Marcus DO go out because Marcus does a hero maneuver and saves her from fatphobic trolls online — LOVE that. Love a man who will tell a bigot to get f’d.
This books leans into its tropey tropey goodness at every turn.
And despite the fact that meeting famous people is my idea of hell, I could lean into the trope. It really helped that the book did give air to the weirder parts of this trope — like writing sex scenes about actual people AND THEN having sex with them oneself. Fear not, this is well addressed.
Also, as something of a recovering teen actor myself, I liked that Spoiler Alert showed that Marcus’ job is a job, not a dream. Early nights, long days, exhaustion, etc etc. Marcus had to learn lines, and keeping his body looking like a sculpture was just part of the job.
Suffice to say, I was thinking of Jaime and Brianne the whole time and I thoroughly believe that’s what Olivia Dade wanted me to do.
Sidebar: I think I watch the scene where Brienne kicks The Hound’s ass like once a month, it’s still my ultimate in seeing badass women on screen. I love action movies (does this surprise you? It surprises people I know IRL whenever I say this) but it’s obvious that the action and thriller genres have a dearth of characters like Brienne.
She’s hard. Fierce. Sexy as all hell. And she doesn’t have beauty as a character trait. (Although obviously Gwendolyn Christie is a babe — this point is made in Spoiler Alert too! Although it’s through the gauzy veil of the made up fandom of God of the Gates).
Anyway. Now I have to get to the real reason this review has taken me three solid months of drafting.
CW, TW: size, weight
I’m a plus woman. If you want to get technical, (which I’m reluctant to do because I don’t owe anyone that, but also I’ve been imagining potential subtweets all day, so I decided it was best to get in there first) — I’m a US size 16 or 18. Tik Tok calls bodies like mine midsize, Instagram calls me Small Fat, my Dr calls it overweight. I try to ignore stigmatized metrics, but suffice to say, I’m not straight-sized and it’s unusual for me to be able to buy clothes in store.
As any one in similar shoes knows, one of the worst things is the internalized fatphobia. Sometimes I have a lock on it and my head is good and other times I don’t.
For me, one of the hardest bits is learning to loosen the reins on how others view and categorize me. Like, I’m the queen of amping other plus size babes and then not applying it to myself, which is the REAL nasty. For example, I am the master of the Instagram crop so that even in pictures with my body in it, I crop it or bend to warp the perspective so I could be either large or medium size, it’s hard to tell. Crop crop crop, angle angle angle.
What can I say, other than it’s deeply ingrained and I’m working on it. I want to be able to let go of some of this in 2021, and post an image of myself without crafting it. But it’s a long journey.
Reading this book was an important positive experience.
I’ve written thousands and thousands of words about how much I loved Spoiler Alert, how reading it felt like an anti-inflammatory balm for all the weight-based wounds I’ve accumulated, and how righteous I was to see a story like April’s pubbed in mass market, and how much we need positive fat stories like this.
Don’t get me wrong, plenty of straight-sized women will relate to April too, because patriarchy teaches us that thinness is best.
That’s how much patriarchy sucks — even people who don’t face external tangible hardship because of their size (ie people who can buy jeans in a shop or don’t have to worry about fitting at a table at a restaurant or getting verbal abuse about their bodies on the street); are STILL taught to hate their bodies.
The patriarchy conditions all women to hate their bods and to chase thin, white, ageless perfection.
Once again, fuck it. Fuck the patriarchy.
Size inclusivity, fat positivity, and dismantling fatphobia are all feminist issues. And then below that on the severity pyramid is body positivity — which is a related topic, but a different one.
In summary, I enjoyed this book a lot.
I enjoyed a fat protag who didn’t apologize for her size, and wasn’t defined by external struggles. And I enjoyed living Brienne and Jaime’s arc out RIGHT.
THAT’S IT THAT’S THE REVIEW, I DID IT.
Whew, I think this was one of the hardest I’ve ever written. Ever.
Similar reading recs
- Anything by Olivia Dade
- Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean — historical romance; a plus size shipping empire hottie falls in love with an underworld kingpin
- Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert — contemporary romance; a curvy computer geek with a list to spice up her life but then enter leather jacket wearing hottie Red who is NOT on the list but kinda is …
- Anything by Xan West
- A Worthy Opponent by Katee Robert — contemporary erotica; this is the Tinkerbell and Hook fic of dreams and Tink is curvy curvy perfection
And two I haven’t read yet but have heard are great:
- Misadventures of a Curvy Girl by Sierra Simone
- Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner
The master of lists Talk About Swoon has done great posts on books with curvy heroine and heroes for her trope Tuesday posts and you should definitely check these out.
Further swoony viewing
If you need more Jaime and Brienne cuteness, I really recommend this YouTube compilation of Gwen and Nikolaj’s great interview moments. I’ve watched this so many times.
LOOK AT THE WAY HE LOOKS AT HER.