Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

Taking Shots
Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I pretty much knew by page 15 that this was going to be a rough one for me and I basically forced myself to finish it. Lo and behold, my very first one star review.

When you write a book where one of the main themes is about the weight of the heroine, you have to be careful because a woman's weight is a sensitive thing. I'll be honest, part of the appeal of this book for me was that I thought the heroine was plus-sized (an erroneous assumption I made based on the Amazon synopsis). The heroine, Ellie, was a size two, but due to hypothyroidism, she ballooned up to 180 pounds and currently, she's down to a size ten, which she still considers fat. Towards the end of the book, when she drops down to a 'single digit' size, it's the one bright spot in her depression at the time.

I struggled with this. A lot. I told myself that any unwanted alteration to a woman's body, whether it be weight gain, scars, what have you, is going to be traumatic for that person. I wouldn't have a problem, after all, if she was calling herself ugly after gaining facial scars from a car crash, but I couldn't help it, I did have a problem with how Ellie's weight was portrayed. The median size for an American woman is 14. Set aside the weight issue, in 1941, the average height for a woman was 5'2". Today, it's 5'4". That means, based on your frame and bone structure, a woman's weight could range from 114lbs to 151lbs and still be considered healthy. Ellie's obsession with her weight, therefore, is practically an eating disorder.

One could argue that Ellie has a warped self-view, due to her mother's and sister's treatment of her, and therefore, doesn't recognize that she's on the low end of the scale. I'm not denying the likelihood of this, but Ellie has made every effort to cut her mother & sister out of her life. She clearly recognizes they're not a healthy influence nor do they have her best interests at heart. So I don't understand why she would continue to take their criticism about her weight to heart or why she'd believe her sister when her sister claims that Shea kissed her, leading Ellie to spectacularly dump him without listening to a word of explanation.

Furthermore, Ellie claims to be devoted to her nieces & nephews, taking them once a month for Aunt Ellie time, but then she abandons them at Christmas without a second look because she likes Shea's family better. Ellie talks about how pissed her siblings & parents were, but didn't mention a single word about the kids. There wasn't even a throwaway mention of 'Oh, I have to mail their presents,' or, 'Let me call the kids before we do anything.' Nothing.

It also turns out that her uncle is the owner of the team and therefore the man who signs Shea's paychecks. However, Ellie doesn't seem to think that Shea needs to be aware of this fact, despite the implications it could have for his career. She continually hides things from him, even when she knows she should tell him. This is nowhere more apparent than when Shea meets her family for the first time and she lets him be blindsided by her parents.

To me, throughout the entire book, Ellie is shallow and selfish. At one point, even her best friend calls her on her behavior, telling her if she doesn't get her head out of her ass, their friendship is over. In comparison, Shea comes off like a freaking saint for putting up with her (although some of the scenes with his twin sister skirted just along the edge of creepy and co-dependent) rather than an actual human being.

What made it even worse for me was that the hockey stuff was pretty good. Aleo achieved just the right balance of giving the reader enough sports stuff to make it seem legit, but not enough to overwhelm the book or intimidate readers looking for a contemporary. I also liked most of the supporting characters. If Aleo had avoided committing Ellie to specific clothing sizes and made her a dutiful daughter instead of a rebellious one (thereby eliminating some of the character inconsistencies), this probably would have been at least a three star book for me.

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