Given the strained and perilous relationship I have with my own mother, I have a lot of admiration for any mother-daughter pair that get along well enough to successfully negotiate the writing of a novel. That said, Fed Up could have been a lot better than it was.
I give the authors points for creating a strong and opinionated female character, Chloe, who solves the mystery of a poisoned woman on her own through a rough mixture of luck and logic. Apart from the protagonist, I found a lot to underline and scribble about in anger. Every female character that was introduced, apart from Chloe’s blonde, pregnant, about-to-be-married best friend, was negatively described in terms of clothing, the amount of makeup worn (less is ugly, more is good), and body type (“slightly plump,” or “almost scrawny” or “blah and shapeless”). I would have thought that writers, especially women, would have moved on from the sexist device of making their likeable characters beautiful, and all other women ugly, as decreed by Vogue. I have no intention of warming up more to the sexy and curvaceous characters than to the ones whose haircuts do not flatter their face shapes.
The characters are all heterosexual, almost all white, and consistently upper-middle class. Chloe is in graduate school because her uncle’s will states that she has to obtain a master’s degree before she can collect her inheritance. She’s quite a snob about the correct type of cracker to spread cheese on, and the differences between how white and red wines ought to be served.
At the beginning of the novel there is some lip service played towards how lovely it would be if the cooking show/contest at the center of the plot was targeting unsuspecting middle- and lower-income families to cook surprise gourmet meals for, instead of searching for affluent audiences, but this thought is never expanded on. At another point in the story, Chloe has a three-line-each exchange with her mother’s new assistant over the need to supply cheaper, environmentally friendly gardening and landscaping solutions to the less wealthy. But class issues are never serious for the girl whose parents are paying for her best friend’s entire wedding. At most, Chloe seems to believe that providing rain barrels to rich people, hidden in designs that match their homes or garden styles, is a “political” concern.
All in all, Fed Up was entertaining, which is perhaps what it was meant to be. I still found it hard to believe that after watching a woman die on a bathroom floor, vapid Chloe was traumatized only up until the next day when she went over to see her best friend, who did her hair because, “the best route to feeling good is looking good.”