Sixteen-year-old Jessie, a baking aficionado, is shy, overweight, and worries too much about what people think. But one summer, a family emergency makes her realize that life is too short to live it on autopilot. Taking her life by the reins, she embarks on a journey that involves ditching the apron for her tank top, as she hip-hop dances her way to new friendships, stronger family ties, and into her school’s most elite club.
I’ve heard good things about this book. A lot a lot of good things. I hadn’t had the chance to purchase it though when I went to UNIQUBE to hunt down Songs of Our Breakup. It was there, in bright green paper, Choco Chip Hips was the free e-book that came with my purchase.
I don’t know, maybe something about the concept and the cover subconsciously scared me. I only got around to actually checking out the first chapter last week. And even then, I had to stop and take a break before continuing. Because the feelings… oh, the feelings, you guys. It was just too real. A plump, young girl, struggling with her inner demons, insecurities and love of food, trying to overcome them so she could find her place in the world. Her happy place, to be exact. And dagnabit it hit way too close to home… 😦
Just from that line alone, I really had to prepare myself for what was to come. I knew how hard it was going to hit me. I’m also overweight. And barely 5’2″. Since late elementary school I’ve been yoyo-ing my way through variations of heavy, the past few years my heaviest. And when it’s something you’ve been struggling with all your life, it’s difficult not to get stung when it’s being read back to you. Even if it was through a fictional character’s eyes.
It went back and the forth. The bargaining and the reprimanding. Brain versus appetite.
To say that I related to most of it was an understatement. See, I was a dancer, too. I was in the dance club in 3rd and 4th grade, and became vice president of our dance club in college. The awkwardness she described, the self-consciousness during situations that reflected my past exactly, I felt it right down to my bones.
When you were raised being called pretty up until the point you earned yourself a double chin, it’s not easy being a big girl even with supportive friends. No one understands just how much weight it is on someone’s shoulder to fall into what society’s standards dictate and generalize as unappealing and unhealthy. To get emotional over a lot of the main character, Jessie’s, sentiments was inevitable.
I knew it didn’t make sense, but it felt like Mom had scattered pieces of her in the sky when she died. And it was up to me to gather them…
The feels I got from this book weren’t as in your face as most of the books that had managed to make me cry in the past. The feels on Choco Chip Hips snuck up on me. It crept right up at unassuming stages of the story that I found myself on the verge of tears many times. My eyes stung, my throat hurt, I had to cover my face to hide from my officemates and sneakily wipe at my eyes with my scarf.
Or wipe at the corner of my lips because WOW. This book made me DAMN HUNGRY. All the mentions of cheesecakes, cupcakes, butterscotch bars and pizza, hot chocolate, vivid descriptions of recipes and tastes and just… HELP! I was previously warned but the actual experience was way worse. And yet:
Yup. But is anyone really surprised? Nope. So now let’s move on before I start waxing poetic about his mocha eyes, too. Or the vortex that is his lips.
And the fuss was my beautiful, brave friend not giving a hoot about what people thought, dancing her guts out; because she wanted to prove to me that I could do it too. Her face was red with effort, her bangs matted to her forehead. But she kept at it, dancing like no one was watching.
Choco Chip Hips covered a lot of feels ground. From personal struggles, to family, to school, and friendships. Agay Llanera managed to get me attached to the perfectly paced developments that once resolutions were met, I found myself sincerely cheering on as well.
Simply written, but aggressively packed with feels that slowly crawl up your arm until it reaches your heart. That’s Choco Chip Hips. Whether you’re overweight or not, whether you like to bake or not, whether you like to dance or not, something in this book will resonate with you. I guarantee it.
And until I am able to shrug off my proverbial cardigan, I’ll be keeping young Jessie in my heart, filed under: inspiration. ♥
About the Author
Agay Llanera is a freelance writer for television and a published writer of children’s books. When she’s not busy working or looking after her son, she helps her husband manage their cake shop. Choco Chip Hips is her first Young Adult novella. http://agayisagirl.blogspot.com