Bethany Rutter’s must-read books for young people featuring plus size representation

"One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to write books for young people that help them to feel seen."

This post was written by Bethany Rutter, author of Slowcoach.

One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to write books for young people that help them to feel seen. When I was growing up, it didn’t matter how many good things I had in my life or how many friends I had or what I achieved, I always felt somehow out of place, and it was always because of my body. Specifically, because it was ‘too big’. It didn’t matter that I didn’t think there was much wrong with it- I was hyper aware that other people did, and it would affect me whether I liked it or not.

So now, as an adult, I absolutely love to write characters who have these weird, empowering, complex, conflicting, great and terrible feelings about their body, which all feature in my new novel Slowcoach. Ruby, the protagonist of Slowcoach, never feels more out of place than in PE classes at school, where she’s always falling behind and being singled out by her teacher. She takes up running out of spite (which we all know is a powerful motivator!) and has to deal with the self-limiting beliefs that have been imposed on her.

I am by no means the only person writing about fat teenage bodies, and feel really lucky to be writing at a time when there are so many other people doing the same thing from their own unique perspective and experience. Here are a few I would recommend…

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

I had to start with Dumplin’, because for me it was a real lightbulb moment. Dumplin’ came out the year before I wrote No Big Deal, my debut novel, and it really showed me that there was space for stories like this, for protagonists like Julie’s Willowdean, for romances with plus size teen girls at the centre. I feel like many of us owe a lot to Julie Murphy, or at least, I certainly do!


Every Body Shines, edited by Cassandra Newbould

I wasn’t sure whether to include this or another anthology, The Other F Word, edited by Angie Manfredi, but went for Every Body Shines on the grounds it’s explicitly a YA anthology. This is a collection of short stories by different authors with a foreword by the iconic Aubrey Gordon, which means it has the benefit of 16 different people’s perspectives on the fat teenage experience, taking in different sexualities, genders, ethnicities and identities, showing that it’s never just the same thing for all of us.


Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins, translated by Larissa Helena

Because difficult body feelings and experiences aren’t just for girls! And there’s so much to be gained by reading novels in translation (this is a Brazilian novel translated into English). Here the Whole Time gives a charming, funny protagonist in the form of Felipe as well as lots to think about in terms of sexuality, body image and dealing with our insecurities.


Off the Record by Camryn Garrett

This novel by Camryn Garrett (who I regularly find to be extremely bold, radical and refreshing!) is an example of one where body image or the politics of fatness aren’t necessarily the centre of the story, but provide a really meaningful canvas for the ‘main story’ to unfold against. I’m always interested in what Camryn has to say, not least in this novel about abuse of power and finding your own voice.


Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly de Vos

And now for something completely different: fat camp with zombies! Eat Your Heart out is pacy, fun and subversive, and even though it came out a few years ago, anything where the supposed ‘miracle cure’ for fatness is not quite what it seems feels very… timely.



“You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon

Neither YA nor a novel, nor even fiction at all, but I wanted to include it because I think if I had read this as a young person, it would have clarified a lot of things for me much earlier in my life. Even though I instinctively knew how I felt about my body, I was still dealing with the overwhelming shame and stigma of being conspicuously much bigger than my friends, in a culture that prizes thinness. Aubrey’s writing cuts through the cultural noise and gives voice to ideas that might be swirling semi-formed in your head.



Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.