October 3, 2015
Hello readers, and welcome to our Tour Stop for
Future Perfect by Jen Larsen
hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club!
Follow the rest of the tour by clicking on the banner above.
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.
Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is.
But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.
As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.
Thanks so much for taking the time and spending time with us here at Chapter by Chapter!
Thank you so much for having me! I’m so pleased to be here and really excited to talk about Future Perfect.
Describe your book in 140 characters or less (like a Tweet)
What’s a girl to do her reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
What was your inspiration for writing this book? Was it in a dream? A thought while taking a walk?
I did actually plot the whole thing one night while I was walking my dog! I raced home excitedly to write it all down before I forgot how much I loved this fierce character who frowned at me and said, “‘Fat’ is not a dirty word.”
But the inspiration comes from the fact that this is the book I wish I had when I was a teenager, and Ashley is the fat, confident heroine I wished I could be.
My whole life I had been plus sized—anywhere from a size 14 to a size 28/30. I had also spent a really ridiculous amount of time hating myself, wishing my body was different, not ugly, not embarrassing. Knowing that when I walked into a room, the first thing someone thought about me was fat. I discovered the “health at every size” movement in my early twenties, and it felt like a revelation. It’s the crazy, radical idea (ha) that fat does not mean unhealthy, and fat does not mean ugly and it’s a not shortcut for “you should be ashamed of yourself.” I was meeting all these beautiful, amazing, confident fat women who were proud of their bodies, who felt beautiful and strong and pushed back against the haters who told them they didn’t have any right to be happy.
And I loved it so much.
I tried really, really hard to be like them. I tried really hard to be what felt like brave and to love my own body and be comfortable in my skin, but the idea that my weight was the entire reason I was unhappy, depressed, anxious, was something I just could not shake.
It is a frustrating, angry-making true fact that in this sometimes-cruel world, it is easier to be thin than to be fat. And I didn’t feel like I had the strength to keep on fighting that battle. I was tired. And weight loss surgery seemed like a miracle to me—a way to get out of this terrible cycle land myself a happily-ever-after (where happy=thin, of course).
Imagine my astonishment when I realized that losing all that weight made fitting in and being less noticed easier, but it sure didn’t change how I felt about my body, it didn’t fix my self-esteem, it didn’t help me to feel stronger or prettier or smarter or better. Just smaller.
So this book—this book is about the person I wish I had known, when I was young and struggling. The person I wish I could have been. This book is about how hard it is to stay true to yourself, to believe in yourself and be brave and proud and strong—but how important it is, and how worth it it is.
Tell us about the main character(s).
Ashley is ambitious, competitive, athletic, very very smart, very loyal, kind of brash, a little awkward, popular, and fat. She wants to be a doctor, to save the world and change lives and do something real and important and valuable. She’s very aware that people notice her size, that they make judgements about her because of her body, and that she’s expected to want less and thinks she deserves less because of it. Her grandmother has always warned her that the world is already a difficult place to succeed as a woman, especially a Hispanic woman, and warns her that her weight is one more handicap she can’t afford.
Ashley is determined to go to Harvard because it the best school in the country, and she’ll do almost anything to get there. That’s why she finds herself actually torn when her grandmother offers her a bribe: Get weight loss surgery, and I’ll pay your full tuition to Harvard.
Do you have a favorite quote or specific part in the book that you really love?
One of my favorite things about the book is the friendship between the main character and her two best friends. All three of them are struggling with that same issue in three very different ways. Ashley is grappling with her fear that despite her own confidence, her grandmother isn’t wrong. And that’s even harder because her grandmother loves her and wants what’s best for her, right? Jolene is a transgender girl whose parents are really struggling with accepting what they think is their daughter’s choice and her identity; she’s also being pressured into “doing something” about her body. Laura’s parents have very specific ideas about who she should be and what kind of future she should have, and expect her to follow in her father’s footsteps as a lawyer. She wants to be an artist, but she’s not sure what exactly she wants to do with her life.
These three girls love each other fiercely and do their best to support each other even when they don’t get it, even when they mess up, even when they don’t agree with their friend’s choices. So one of my favourite scenes is of them taking a road trip from mid-coast California up to San Francisco, all three of them in the car together and all three of them, for once, feeling peaceful, free, happy, even for just a little while.
Was there a specific part in the book that you had an especially difficult time writing? If so, why?
Ashley’s grandmother adores her—thinks she’s beautiful, brilliant, has an amazing future. Her fierce, uncompromising sternness is coming from a (misguided) sense of protection. She wants Ashley to succeed. She thinks she is being cruel to be kind. There is a scene between Ashley and her grandmother that was just gut-punchingly hard to write. Grandmother is saying all the things to Ashley that I have said a million times in my head, and knowing that it’s all supposed to be “for her own good,” that she’s totally sincere in wanting to help, makes it even worse. She’s not trying to be a villain, but she’s hurting her granddaughter all the same.
What sort of projects do you have going on right now? Any new books coming out?
I’m busy! I always need to keep writing. I’m working on two young adult books—one an adventure novel about two girls in love on the run in San Francisco as everything goes to hell, and the other about a tricky con artist of a fairy godmother, based very loosely on The Princess and the Pea. I’m so excited about both of them—they’re both very different from anything I’ve ever written and I am having a blast.
It was great having you on the blog today! We hope you’ll decide to stop by again someday, and we wish you much success!!
Thank you so much! And I appreciate it hugely. I feel incredibly lucky to get to talk about this book I love so much.