Fat Angie: Homecoming

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.

20 comments

  1. When it comes to father figures it’s like they are either not present or very weak and do not stand up for anything until the very end, then they die or something. They’re kind of like fodder for the story. I’m trying to remember the last time I read about a strong, caring, fierce father and I honestly cannot.

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    • I absolutely believe society has taught us to think fathers are ready to bounce. They don’t care, they don’t want to be involved, and your lucky if they actually come through with child support. Something Nick pointed out to me is that in the 1990s, courts seemed to father mothers as the primary caregiver regardless of what the situation really was. I saw this with my own uncle, who was just trying to keep his kids together while locked in battle with the abusive mom. Nick also points out that when we something a lot in the media, it seems pervasive, so we think it’s true. For example, there’s loads of crime reported in the news; however, crime has gone down drastically in the last 40 years. “But it’s everywhere!” we shout. “It’s on the news ALL THE TIME.” And thus it becomes hard to believe otherwise. Maybe if we get more dad stories, we’ll stop believing they are weak and/or absent.

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      • Yes, as we’ve talked about, my own father experienced that a LOT in the 80s. His stories about it are crazy and mother was ordered to pay a whopping $20/week. Which she did not do and the courts did not go after her like they do men. She essentially got away with it until I was 13 and she got married, filed for income taxes and the feds caught her. At that point she owed around $20,000 in back owed child support? A bench warrant was issued for her arrest in Michigan but she lived in another state so a fat lot of good that did. She eventually stopped paying again.
        I can tell you from experience that people just cannot wrap their head around the idea that a mother would not be in her child’s life but if I said it was my dad their response would probably be, “That sucks……men. Amiright?”

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        • If she ever got pulled over, I would think they would see a warrant for another state. I know they definitely check. Men do get a weird pass, as if it’s normal to not care about children. However, I’ve gone down the deep, dark holes of the interwebs where many women admit they do not like nor want their own children. For instance, one woman became pregnant and the dude bounced. She wanted an abortion, but her parents convinced her not to. She had this kid and . . . didn’t bond with it at all. People kept saying, “Oh, give it time! Mothers have a natural instinct around children!” So this went on for about five years during which she wasn’t meant to her child, but she did not care about it at all and never bonded to it. Finally, she broke down and her parents adopted the kid so the woman could move on with her life. That’s rough because everyone made her feel broken and gaslighted because she’s a woman. Plus, now this kid has to grow up knowing its mother never wanted it, which isn’t the woman’s fault but doesn’t hurt the child any less. I’ve read many stories like this one.

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          • Not every woman should/wants to be a mother and that should be normalized. I get it all the time being childless. I’ve gotten more rude in my responses because really, it’s none of their fucking business. Had a male customer ask me over the phone why I didn’t have any children yet and I told him because I don’t like children and he could not fathom it. I’m about to start telling people it’s because I can’t and fake cry so that they learn a lesson. You never know who desperately wants a child and cannot have them, they don’t need you interrogating them.
            As for my own birth mother, I would understand if she did not want a child but that wasn’t the case. She had one with another man about a year after me and then two more times after that. When I met my half-brother, he told me that she was not a very good mother growing up and was a much better grandmother. I honestly don’t feel like I missed out on anything besides having siblings.

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  2. On the fathers thing, there’s a book called Dad a friend is about to send me, with chapters of memoir by different men who are fathers: that will be interesting. And there was a good one as a minor character in a book I’m reading at the moment but he just died, so …

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  3. I went back to your YA post and read all the comments again. Most come from the angle of girl YA and I think boy YA is slightly different, not so much body image, though it never helps to be a weed in a schoolyard full of jocks. I get embarrassed thinking about girl YA, though with daughters and teenage granddaughters I’ve had to be conscious of girl-problems for a long time.

    I didn’t like my own father particularly so it makes me gag when YA does portray perfect fathers coming over all touchy feely (in a non gross way). No examples, sorry.

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    • I’m only using anecdotal evidence, but I don’t even remember boys reading around that age. When the Lord of the Rings movies came out, everyone tried to read the novels. There was this gross weirdness where the nerdy boys thought that if they could be heroic like the characters in the book, then girls would have to like them. There’s a whole theory behind this be-noble-and-girl-has-to-want-you that suggests when boys think of girls as rewards, you end up getting boys who shoot non-compliant girls. I was going to share a great article about it, but that article is now behind a paywall.

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  4. I agree about weak or absent fathers in YA novels. Although my own dad was and is an exceptionally difficult person in a lot of ways, he always tried very hard with myself and my brother and was very present when we were growing up. Actually I think the whole thing with weak/absent fathers means that authors are missing out on the opportunity to write a character who’s trying but getting it wrong – which is much more interesting narratively than just being absent or weak.

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    • So true! The depth of feeling would be much more, as people often disappoint us in real life, even when they don’t mean to, even when they’re putting their all into it. However, I wonder how much of that complexity and nuance would come through to a teen audience that may be more emotionally prepared to hate a lousy dad and that’s it.

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  5. I love her response to that woman about everyone else struggling with her weight! So good.

    YA is one of those genres that I just can’t get into, and I reject all requests to review it, but I’m glad you are giving me a glimpse of what it could be 🙂

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