Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: dieting, bullying, emotional trauma.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
“You can’t listen to audiobooks and call it f*cking reading!”
– Fran, Shrill (the TV show)
Actually, Fran, yes I can. As a matter of fact, that is exactly how I read Shrill. Fran’s response?
It’s okay Fran, I still freaking love you and the rest of the Shrill cast. After getting hooked on the all-too-short Hulu series, I decided I had to read the book that inspired the show. To clarify, the book is a memoir, but the series is a fictional plot based on the life experiences of Lindy West and Aidy Bryant, the actress of main character Annie. However, both demonstrate what it’s like to finally be unapologetically themselves. When I learned that West was the author, I knew I was going to love it. I followed her on Instagram some time ago, encouraged by a blog post from Jes Baker (read my reviews on her awesome books here and here). West is hilarious, speaks her mind, and is one of the leaders of the body acceptance movement… all things I adore, and I honestly can’t explain why Shrill wasn’t on my radar before.
Shrill is a memoir of West’s experiences growing up as a fat, outspoken, funny woman. West discusses topics such as her love for Dan Conner of Roseanne, the role models of her youth, the struggle with her dad’s illness, her marriage and sexuality, coming out as fat, her relationship with her mother and dieting, and the reason why women are funny and rape jokes are not. As I listened to West narrate her own story, it brought up a whole roller coaster of emotions in me: sadness, anger, frustration, relief, vindication, acceptance. Her experiences may not have perfectly reflected my own, but many of her emotional responses did. West’s conversational writing style made it easy to listen to her audiobook, but her compelling arguments and insightful observations kept me enraptured.
Touching back on the television series, I contemplated waiting to watch until after I read the book, but I kept hearing how amazing it was, and then could not peel my eyes from the screen once I started. For the first time (in my experience), there was a lead character who completely understood EXACTLY what it’s like to be a fat girl. Even better, she becomes a voice for the fat babes who decide that it’s time for the world to change, not her. I am so, so, SO sick of fat actresses whose main story line involves weight loss as the be-all to end-all, because in the end, what does that say to their audience? For me, it’s you can be accepted, loved, and seen for who you are, once you lose those pounds. It’s an ultimatum, a challenge. Now, there are plenty out there who say, rise to the challenge! That’s not the answer though. That’s still implying that if you can’t do it, you’re a failure. It’s still implying that our weight is our biggest encumbrance. This is why Shrill is important. It gives representation to those who decide to challenge the beauty standard, to push back against everyone who says we need to change.
I highly suggest you not only watch the show, but you pick up a copy of Shrill– in whichever format you choose- and give it a read. I can’t stress this enough- IT. IS. EVERYTHING.
TL/DR: Shrill by Lindy West is a memoir about a woman’s struggle with her past and body acceptance, and how she came to love herself.
Read it? YES, no matter what medium.
Recommend it? Yes, absolutely!
Buy it? Yes, and a few extra copies for your friends!
Watch the show? YESSS. You’ll be like the rest of us out there, waiting for the next season!
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads: