Expected publication: October 10, 2018
Mammoth was provided to me as a physical ARC by Eric Smith and Jill Baguchinsky in return for an honest review.
I am a fat woman. It is what it is. The books that I read growing up didn’t have me in them, or if they did I was the comic relief, the best friend, or the tomboy. Never the main character. In recent years books like Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock have put girls that are larger or different on the main stage ans asked readers to understand them. Representation matters.
When I started Mammoth my initial reaction was that there was too much going on. The main character Natalie is fat, dealing with her bullying past, running a blog about vintage fashion and paleontology, and getting ready to do an internship at Austin State University. In the beginning we are treated to a lot of details about the shapers that she wears and how clammy they get as well as how she guesses the weight of everyone she meets. We’re also treated to a possible love triangle with an Iowa farmboy. It was all a bit shallow and strained and I almost put the book down.
When she arrived at her internship it got even worse. She’s wearing self-made dresses and fashion shoes to this paleontology internship where she has to know she’s going to be in the mud and dirt a lot of the time. Has this girl never dressed down for gym? She’s a self-professed paleo-geek, a fossilista, but she doesn’t know she needs a pair of cargo shorts, boots, and a sturdy tank top, flabby arms be damned? I kept reading but after she spends the first half of her internship reapplying makeup and struggling to breathe because of her wet, sweaty body shaper, I felt like the story was lacking in realism a bit.
I was ready to tear this book apart, to say that it portrays fat girls as shallow and fashion obsessed and hoping to be beautiful using makeup and clothes, but then about 60% of the way through, something happened. Natalie gets in trouble for drinking with her fellow interns and sneaking off with the farmboy to make out. She’s given a second chance and suddenly we start to see Cody as more than just the guy who gives tours at the Mammoth Welcome Center. Her paleo hero Dr. Carver steals credit for something she finds in the bone storage and forces her to reassess her worship of his work.
The layers start stripping away bit by bit, and we hear less about fashion and more about integrity. Less about hero worship and presentation and more about risking it for what matters. Less about performing for a large audience and more about brushing away the dust at the surface to find the sabercat underneath. The book that was a bit revolting to me at the start suddenly had its arms wrapped around my heart and was telling me that it was okay to not wear make up, it was okay to be comfortable, and it was okay to pursue what I really cared about.
I am glad I finished this book. If I had given up when I felt like I wanted to, my review would have been much different. I believe that this book does justice to fat girls everywhere and shows that it’s okay to be who you are, as long as you know who that is and what you want. As for knowing those things, you shouldn’t let anyone get in your way of those important discoveries. If you have a young lady in your life that is prospecting, get her this book. She might find something she’s been looking for.
Read. Be brave. Stay angry. And go get you some. 🙂