Dionne, Erin. Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies. Penguin Group, 2014.
I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. When I was a teenager, book heroines were typically described as being like the women I saw on television and in movies—slim and effortlessly beautiful.
Thankfully, teen readers have a lot of plus-size protagonists to admire these days. Eleanor from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and Willowdean Dickson from Julie Murphy’s Dumplin immediately come to mind. I can now add an additional name to the list: Celeste Harris from Erin Dionne’s Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies.
Celeste has always been round, sporting a body type that makes shopping for clothes and participating in PE class less than enjoyable experiences. Additionally, Celeste must deal with cruel remarks from a bully, Lively, who seems to relish calling Celeste a cow each school day. Suddenly, Celeste’s life gets much worse—her best friend Sandra becomes Lively’s new best friend, and Celeste’s pushy aunt enters her in a plus-size modeling competition.
Celeste can’t think of anything more mortifying than the thought of being Miss HuskyPeach. She strategizes various ways to lose the contest, from dropping twenty pounds to being as unfriendly as possible in her interview with the judges. But, as the contest continues, she finds that her confidence grows. Will Celeste take a shine to modeling and become Miss HuskyPeach? Will Sandra come to her senses and become Celeste’s friend once again? Will Celeste ever stand up to the vicious Lively?
There are great moments of humor in Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies. From a gym class puking episode to a bursting water bra to a “peach monstrosity” junior bridesmaid dress, Dionne expertly weaves funny moments throughout the narrative. And the overall message of the novel is an important one. Celeste’s most powerful moments don’t come with weight loss or the implementation of makeup or stylish clothes, but when she makes the decision to stay true to herself.
With that said, I found the characterization of both Celeste and Lively a bit off. Lively, like many YA school bullies, is so thoroughly mean that she loses all depth. Celeste, for most of the book, is an extreme, unbelievable pushover.
Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies would be a great way to springboard conversations about body image and gender. This would be the perfect book to recommend to young female readers. It’s a nice reminder that confidence and kindness are beautiful attributes that do not go out of style.