Review by Booklist Review
Haylah Swinton's mother works nights as a nurse, so Haylah doubles as a second mother to her four-year-old fireball of a brother, Noah, while dreaming of being a standup comic. When she's not making her family and friends laugh or studying comics online, she's writing jokes in her notebook and developing bits. Her only obstacle is not believing that she can make it on stage as a plus-size working-class girl. Enter Leo, her longtime crush, who reveals his funny side at the school talent show. Her heart flutters when he asks her to write his next set with him, but when reality hits, Haylah must take steps to validate herself. Haylah's is a feel-good story featuring a narrator who's likable and genuinely funny, even at her most self-deprecating. Dreams, being true to oneself, body-image issues, single parenting, family dynamics, self-confidence, and a realistic depiction of friendship make this a refreshing coming-of-age read full of optimism, dreams, and plenty of stereotype-smashing laughs. A natural pick for Dumplin' (2015) fans.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Fourteen-year-old Haylah, who is fat and white, tells readers early on not to expect a story where "I have an epiphany and become a slim, sexy, health freak who's into yoga and mung beans." Instead, Elliott (the Owl Diaries series) gives sharp, funny Haylah multiple slower realizations--about friendship, her single mother and the man she's been dating, and, most importantly, about pursuing her dream of doing stand-up. Haylah's a comedy nerd: she watches it obsessively and keeps a notebook of material, so when it turns out that handsome, popular Leo, who is Black, also does stand-up, she can't resist slipping him some of her jokes. And when he likes them, how could she not develop a massive crush on him? The working-class British milieu feels freshly wrought, and Elliott's characters are well balanced: Leo's a bit of a user but not a heel, Haylah's conventionally pretty friends have their own insecurities, and her relationship with her four-year-old brother is lovingly depicted. Her comedy routine, though at times self-deprecating, also flips some stereotypes, and by book's end Haylah has begun taking charge of her present and her future. Ages 12--16. (Oct.)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 7 Up--Teenager Haylah Swinton wants to be a comedian. Not that there's much about her life that's funny: Her single mother works long shifts as a nurse, so Haylah is often the main caregiver for her four-year-old brother Noah. But after she's finished her homework, Haylah will try to find the humor in her life and create comedy routines. She obsessively watches stand-up comics on television for inspiration. She gave herself the nickname "Pig" at the beginning of "big school," as a preemptive strike so her peers wouldn't forever name her "Fatso" or "Chubster." The narrative covers a few months of her life as she comes to terms with her roles as a friend, a daughter, a sister, and as a young woman. She learns that she doesn't have to hide behind her "clumsy" persona and her baggy clothes, that she is an equal to her two best friends, and that even though she's not sure who she really is, finding out can be enjoyable. Elliott, who has previously published picture books and early readers, nails the voice and persona of a high school girl. VERDICT A good purchase for libraries that need coming-of-age books centering body-positivity.--Marlyn Beebe, Long Beach P.L., CA
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
An English teen who struggles with body image dreams of following in the footsteps of famous funny women. Haylah Swinton isn't thin, girly, or boy crazy like her best friends, Chloe and Kas, but she is funny and dreams of pursuing a comedy career. When an otherwise forgettable school talent show reveals that cute, popular Leo Jackson is a gifted stand-up, Haylah, who's called "Pig" at school at her insistence (her response to bullying), is instantly lovestruck. Unable to get up the nerve to talk to Leo, Haylah leaves anonymous jokes in his locker. Leo figures out she's the secret comedian and asks her to help him write a set for a youth comedy contest in London. Haylah agrees even though her two besties warn her that he's using her for her talent. The author seems well versed in comedy writing and the sexism women face in that profession. Haylah's relationships with her mother and 4-year-old brother, Noah, are well developed (she has a sweet and somewhat maternal connection with Noah). Unfortunately, the story suffers from weaknesses in pacing, and Haylah's overdone self-deprecating humor undermines the central message of size acceptance, which is mentioned a great deal but not fully explored. Without body-positive role models, the resolution is boiled down to a simple makeover and excessive jokes at her own expense. Most characters are cued as White; Kas is a Polish immigrant, and Leo is Black. This coming-of-age comedy is frothy, if uneven, fun. (Fiction. 12-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.