Title: Eternal Diet
Author: W.B. Wilson
Format reviewed: Ebook
Length: 182 pages
I want to just add a preface note that when I use the word “fat” in this review, I am not using it in a derogatory way because fat isn’t a derogatory word. It’s a neutral adjective just like the words thin, tall, short, pale, dark, sharp, dull, etc. People in our culture definitely use that word as derogatory, but it is not a derogatory word.
This book has a lot to unpack, so strap in and get ready for a review that is part rant, part praise, and most importantly of all- the body positive message this book hinted at but failed to deliver.
Like most American females, I drank the vampire Kool-Aide when I was a young angsty teen that hated my body. Every vampire book I have ever read has described vampires more or less the same way: stunningly gorgeous, thin, rich, and on a few occasions sparkly. What teen with undeveloped self-esteem wouldn’t want that? At first glance, I wasn’t really interested in this book, but after the front cover hinted that this book could actually have a body-positive message, I took the chance and hoped that this book would be the vampire book to say, “Hey young teen girl, you don’t have to go to extreme measures like dying to achieve that mainstream Hollywood body that is so severely shoved in your face every day. You are perfect the way you are and your body is good.”
Much to my disappointment, that was not what the message of this book was. The message I got was, “Fat (except the author never used the “F” word) is bad. Except in this very rare instance. And being “perfect” is worth dedicating your life to, even if it means literally getting killed to achieve it because you really are nothing unless you are thin.”
Short Synopsis (with spoilers):
Gwen, a fat woman is obsessed with shrinking her body in order to be treated better by the world. After trying everything she can think of, she decides to try and get turned into a vampire so she can be skinny. She goes to New Orleans to pursue this obsession. She meets a vampire, Colin, and convinces him to change her in exchange for help learning technology. After a few weeks of Colin helping her transition into the vampire world, she is dismayed to find that if she feeds until she is full, her thin body reverts back into a fat body. She is completely devastated.
Her friends and sister go to New Orleans to try and find her, as they haven’t heard from her in a few weeks. When they get there, the police seem reluctant to help them search. After her sister, Emily, goes into a seedy-looking bar to try and find Gwen, she is kidnapped by a different vampire coven. She is kept in the basement of an old house in a cage for a few days, until the Madame, a very old and powerful vampire, moves her to a small room where the windows are blacked out.
Gwen meets up with her friends and proves that she’s a vampire by being fat one night and then skinny the next night. She follows a vampire to the house and discovers where her sister is. We learn that her sister is bait so that eventually Colin, who used to be part of this coven who enslaves and tortures humans, will rejoin or fight the Madame.
Willie, one of Gwen’s friends starts having dreams about the Madame. Gwen shows her friends where the house is, and during the day, they sneak in to try and free Emily. In the process, Willie gets turned into a vampire, and Emily and Reba escape.
A plan is hatched. Gwen feeds until she is full, turning her body fat again, and goes to find Willie at the seedy bar. Because she is fat, the other vampires overlook her. She is able to convey a message to Willie about the plan.
Colin battles the Madame in an epic one on one combat while the other vampires of the Coven go back into their coffins, as morning is approaching. The humans nail all the coffins shut, and set the house on fire.
Colin defeats the Madame. Willie seems to have died with the other vampires. No one seems to be that sad about it.
Reba and Emily leave New Orleans, and Gwen asks Emily to tell their family that she is, “happy, healthy, and beautiful.”
What I liked
I liked the author’s ability to set the landscape. I loved the descriptions of New Orleans. I’ve never been there, but as I compared the imagery to pictures, they were actually pretty close to what I was imagining.
I thought the vampire battle at the end was really good! It was really epic, and probably a highlight of the book for me.
Outside of the blatant fat-shaming, I thought the plot was pretty good. It was really easy for me to jump into this book and get lost in it.
When I was living in a thin body, my body was never good enough for me. I was always trying to make myself thinner, and depressed when I wasn’t the thinnest in a room. I had forgotten what that mindset and focus on thinness was like and how exhausting it was. I think at the beginning of the book, the thoughts and pursuit of thinness that Gwen has are so relatable. It was a good reminder of what I’ve accomplished to overcome such terrible self-talk.
What I thought the author did well
I don’t think the author meant to do this, but I think this book was such a perfect example of how ridiculous and contradictory diet culture is. I think this book does a great job of showing a thin person what it might feel like to live in a fat body. As I’ve gotten older, had kids, and my body has changed, I definitely see the difference of how the world interacts with me now that my body is bigger, compared to when my body fits more of the standard beauty ideals. This book does a great job of showing how hard that experience is, and how biased people are against bigger-bodied people. Throughout the book, people treat fat Gwen like absolute trash because of her body size, and they treat her exceptionally well when she is thin.
This is most highlighted on the last page, actually, when Gwen is parting from her sister and friend forever, it seems. There is no sadness, no grieving of her human life that she’s left behind, no tears for the relationships that have to end now, no remorse for the fact that she will basically be alone for the rest of eternity. It’s a “positive” ending because she has achieved her goal of finding a way to be thin. Her friends treat her as if she is now finally worthy. The world she lives in finally finds her worthy of love and acceptance, and she now finds herself worthy of the love and acceptance she has always longed for. Nothing about her character developed or changed, the only thing that did was her physical appearance and the fact that she now has to murder people every day to stay alive. The author stares the audience in the face and asks what the cost of beauty is, and is it actually worth it? It is apparent that the author thinks any lengths are worth the cost of beauty. But, as the reader, I can look at this book and say, no, it actually isn’t a worthy pursuit. It isn’t actually worth my main focus and energy. It shows how the pursuit of “perfection,” really doesn’t get her anywhere. Gwen spent her human life chasing unrealistic beauty standards, and as a result, she really didn’t have that great of a life to walk away from. She didn’t have very many loose ends to tie or bridges to burn in her transition to vampire. She missed out on living while she was alive because of her pursuit of thinness, and now has to miss out on a fulfilling life while she is dead.
I also don’t think this was on purpose but the author showed the truth that diets don’t actually work. She shows that just as there are people who are naturally thin, there are people who are naturally fat. It also highlights the truth that thin does not equal healthy. Gwen was only thin because she literally traded her life and soul for it. A lot of people go to such unhealthy lengths for their thin bodies. Drug use, disordered eating, over-exercising, eating disorders, illness, stress, and mental illness can all be contributors to thinness. But, yet our society praises those efforts. I actually liked how this book shined a bright light on the cognitive dissonance of our culture and what we find worthy.
What I didn’t like
I really disliked how this author described fat Gwen. Here are some of the adjectives that were used: overweight, dowdy, slob, an apple on toothpicks, stupid, ugly, and not to mention the whole universe of this book treats Gwen like TRASH. I understand that the people in the book interact with Gwen in a negative way because that is really realistic of a fat person’s experience, but the author was so shaming of fat people. It was actually really offensive. The author uses her derogatory descriptions of Gwen to justify her trying to starve herself, waste tons of money on scam diets that don’t work, and willingly placing herself in dangerous and life-threatening situations. I found phrases like this especially troubling, “Yeah, like some guy is gonna wanna rape me.” As if being hot enough to tempt a rapist is a good thing.
I thought there was going to be some redeeming message after she turned into a vampire and was still fat and somehow she learns to love herself and her body. But, no. Her “unique metabolism” as the book puts it, barely makes a difference to the plot at all. And her solution is that she just will just be pretty hungry for the rest of eternity so that she doesn’t have to be “ugly” Gwen.
What I wish the author had done differently
The first half of this book was SO set up to be a body-positive message. There is one conversation in particular where Gwen asks Colin if she will be beautiful after she becomes a vampire. He tells her she will be “perfect.” I wish that her staying the same would have been a positive thing. I wish that through this experience of trading her life for beauty would have resulted in some actual character development and her achieving a positive sense of self and comfortable being in her own skin. This book was so body-obsessed. I wish there were substance to some of these characters. But there wasn’t.
Thoughts I had while reading this book
“Relatable. How many people punish themselves with undressed salad?”
“Reba is a terrible friend.”
“Wow, that was unexpectedly sexual.”
“I’ve never been to New Orleans, but now I feel like I have. Very nice.”
“I’m disappointed with the messaging that fat isn’t beautiful. Her friends should be horrified that Gwen literally died in order to fit an unrealistic beauty ideal, not horrified that she’s still fat.”
“*eye roll* Super random super sexist comment”
Who is this a good book for?
Definitely fans of vampires.
Find the book for sale (with review): HERE
Goodreads review: HERE