Fat Angie: Homecoming is the latest book about Angie from author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (they/them). This character is also one of the few that I enjoy so much that I’m happy to read about high school life, dating, and how important song lyrics are (or, straight to the point, a YA book. You can read more about why YA drives me bonkers here). However, Angie reads differently. She never does what I think she will, she tries to navigate life ethically but isn’t an unbelievable woke teen, and her way of thinking about accuracy — using the right word or making one up to get the job done, memorizing factoids, enjoying numbers, etc. — all compile to make an interesting human.
“Anyway,” Lucas said. “She found this Chevy in a salvage yard. Fully rebuilt the engine herself. Four-fifty-four big block V8.”
Lucas could have literally spoken Mandarin to Angie.
“I’m not car-ish,” she said.
In Homecoming Angie has just returned home from her road trip to Cleveland (Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution), and her mother is furious. Angie’s mother isn’t just worried that this teen was missing, but about how it looks. In the first Fat Angie, we learn that Angie’s older sister, a solider, was killed by terrorists while being filmed. After, Angie attempts suicide, which the whole school sees.
While Angie tries to get it together with her friends on the road trip, Angie’s mom is embarrassed to have a fat, disobedient, lesbian daughter. And Angie’s brother, Wang, who was adopted, fails to academically achieve what he is capable of in order to prove stereotypes incorrect. It’s a dysfunctional family. So, now that a movie about the murdered military daughter is in the process of getting started, the whole family seems like a public disappointment with the eyes of the nation upon them — at least, according to their mother.
The father, remarried and living in a different city, serves as no buffer or counterargument to the mother. She drinks all day, doesn’t seem to go to work anymore (she’s a lawyer), she slept with her son’s therapist, and she verbally abuses Wang and Angie. Surprisingly, given the fires of hatred between them in previous books, Wang and Angie bond over Angie’s desire to start a band and enter a competition. This is a traditional plot in movies and books about teens, leading to standard questions: Will Angie’s head get too big? Will one of the band members break an arm right before they compete? Will someone quit and storm off? Whose boyfriend/girlfriend is going to be an issue?
Angie’s band, Go Feral, comes together like a modern feminist version of Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr. and his attempt to overthrow Dublin with a band that speaks to working people. Angie wants to be seen, to be heard, especially by people who tell her what her story is — that she’s just the kid sister of a war hero, that she’s a crackpot who tried to kill herself, that she’s only a fat girl, that she has no opinions about what she tells media.
Angie’s voice starts to come out in the novel when her father shows up for a short hello to his children, and he has his new wife, Sharon, in tow. When Angie’s nerves keep her from eating at an unappetizing buffet restaurant, Sharon thinks Angie is just trying to avoid food in an effort to lost weight. Attempting to empathize, Sharon says she remembers when she struggled with her weight in high school. Angie replies,
“The thing is, I’m not struggling with my weight. Everyone else is.”
Caught in the middle is a love-triangle-not-love-triangle. Angie’s old girlfriend, KC Romance, comes back to town, just when Angie’s about to ask her newest crush, Jamboree, to be her girlfriend. KC is a first love, edgy, jaded, a tortured soul. Jamboree seems more laid back, caring, musical. But author Charlton-Trujillo avoids a predictable love triangle by giving Angie the sense to see what’s in front of her, even when she’s confused.
Although Fat Angie: Homecoming was a bit more predictable than its predecessors, it was still a nerdy yet deeply feeling novel about a person whose voice is silenced. And, it has a lot of tense domestic moments that give the book life for how realistically concerning it can be. Be aware that if you’re interested in Angie’s story, you’ll need to read these novels in order.
CW: verbal and some physical abuse, mention of self-injury and suicide, fat shaming, homophobia.