Rebel with a Cupcake is the book of my heart. One year on from its UK publication, here are a few thoughts on why it matters so much to me and why it speaks to so many young people out there.
Rebel with a Cupcake deals with (please excuse the pun) weighty issues. I’m very glad that there a number of novels published which deal with society’s attitudes to weight, the pain of fat-shaming and the importance of body positivity as it’s a subject close to my heart. From childhood onwards, I’ve always been larger than average. As a teacher at form time, I would overhear so many heart-breaking conversations about fear of being fat, the unintentional fat-shaming of others, the horror that being fat has for so many girls, the complex relationship so many of them had with food. They craved food but felt that they weren’t allowed to eat.
Out of all of this, the idea for Rebel with a Cupcake was born. Jess is confident, considered attractive in many ways, but even this confidence is punctured by a combination of pressure from her model mother and teenager vulnerability. I know some readers might find Jess’ choices with regard to food as problematic. There is no doubt in my mind that all the science says that diets don’t work long term. However, diets/products are endorsed by celebrities on social media every second of the day. I wanted to write something that was honest about what it’s like to be a larger person in a society which is often fat-phobic. Body positivity is a wonderful thing. But it is, in my experience, hard won and some days you can be more confident than others. To have a character who never felt any doubt about her appearance, to me felt false. And who wants to write a novel for young people which isn’t grounded in truth? I wanted Jess to feel the doubts and insecurities so many woman and girls feel but still to progress on her journey back to confidence. With a fair few jokes along the way!