Retro Reads

Retro Reads Thursday: Jemima J

Once upon a time in the 2000s, chatting on the Internet was cool. You could make friends with people FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY WITHOUT HAVING TO LEAVE YOUR CHAIR! We all bought into this amazingness; I can’t tell you how many online buddies I had on my AOL Instant Messenger – seriously, does anyone still use this?

Also, once upon a time in the 2000s, fat = hideous, monstrous, horrible beast.

Today’s Retro Read is Jemima J, by Jane Green.

Jemima J touches on this subject and features a woman in her 20s who is overweight. At 5’7″ and 217 pounds, she’s clearly enormous. I’m talking Shallow Hal Gwyneth in a fat suit enormous. (please note the huge amount of sarcasm here)

In the tradition of “fat characters” Jemima can’t get the attention of any man and only lost her virginity because they were in the dark. She has a crush on her super hot boss, but he barely notices her. Clearly because she’s fat. So, what’s a fat girl in the 2000s to do?! Duh… run to the Internet!

Jemima begins chatting with an American and develops a bit of a crush on him. When he asks for a picture, she panics and does the smartest possible thing: she photoshops (or whatever they had in 2000s England) a picture of herself with an image of a teeny tiny skinny woman. And the man goes nuts. He’s in love with her! He must meet her! When Jemima is faced with having to go visit him in America – Southern California, to be exact – she begins a ridiculous workout/diet schedule. She eats next to nothing and works out 5-6 hours a day. Within 3 months she’s miraculously lost 80 pounds! (Now, I don’t know about you… but when I want to lose weight for a guy I last about an hour before I say “Whatever. His loss if he doesn’t like me just the way I am. Now gimme that cookie.”)

As you can imagine, crazy times ensue and Jemima realizes that being skinny isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That she was probably just as amazing fat as she is now that she’s skinny. Stuff goes wrong with the American man, she gets upset and can’t figure out what’s wrong with her, and she ends up with her hot boss – who finally pays attention to her now that she’s skinny.

At the end Jemima realizes that who she is matters more than what she looks like. She develops healthy eating habits, an appreciation for working out in moderation, and becomes happy with her body. She isn’t anorexic skinny any longer, but she begins to understand the need for maintaining a healthy weight.

As a young adult (early 20s) this was probably not the BEST book to read… I’m not gonna lie: I considered going on the Jemima J diet. Luckily I was on the cusp of self-acceptance when I read it, and I like cookies too much to really care. 🙂

Overall, despite my sort of snarky talkings on about this book, I really remember enjoying it. Jemima J was fun, it eventually had a good message, and there were plenty of snickers. Although it does go against a lot of my lady sensibilities, it was worth the read and, worth mentioning for a Retro Read!

*I think this book was published in 2001… but

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12 thoughts on “Retro Reads Thursday: Jemima J”

  1. I LOVED this book. One of the few back then I actually bought. 2000-2001 sounds right. . .I remember I heard about Jane Green when they published an excerpt from JJ in Cosmo. God I feel old now. ~Maggie


    1. Haha… I know. I was trying to remember when I read this and didn’t realize it was QUITE that long ago! I remember really liking it, thought it was crazy cute.


  2. This book sounds vaguely familiar, though I may have just read something with a very similar plot. You’re right– a lot of the chick lit of the early 2000s was about “fat” girls learning to accept their bodies and find love. I’m not sure I could choke these books down any more. I have a friend who recently did a juice fast for two weeks and it took all of the non-judgmentalness I could muster to NOT lecture her about starving herself. Needless to say, I probably could not hold back my judgment on a fictional character.


    1. I totally agree about not being able to choke down these books anymore. When I was in my younger 20s (wow that makes me feel old just saying that) I loved books like these. Now, however, I find myself being overly cynical about them and get a little offended at the stereotypes in them. I guess my tastes have just changed!


    2. was that book “good in bed” by jennifer weiner, cause it sounds an awful lot like it. it was a really good book (Good in Bed), but had a strange ending. I haven’t read Jemima J, but it sounds good. 🙂 ~dixie


      1. Most likely! I really like Jennifer Weiner, but I’m not sure Good in Bed would resonate with me the same way it did when I first read it. And I remember her being much better about dealing with body image issues than this book sounds like it was.


  3. Oh, Jemima! I totally loved this book when I read it, and you know what’s kind of sad? I don’t really remember reading it and thinking there was anything weird/wrong/backwards about only meeting hot guys when you’re skinny, or going on INSANE diets to get some action. Like, I didn’t think it was weird that Ben doesn’t start LIKING Jemima until he sees her all tiny-hot in California. I mean they were friends before, but he wasn’t attracted to her until she was HOTT. But now that I’m reading your review and remembering, I’m getting all indignant! I feel like you: when I first read this book when it came out, I loved it, but now I’m feeling like they’re kind of bad examples of fat stereotypes and supportive of the idea that attractiveness is impossible for bigger girls. BOO.
    I will say, though, that every time I read this book it makes me want to eat lots of bacon sandwiches. I feel like this is missing the point a little bit. 🙂


    1. Yes! It’s funny how our perspectives change as we get older or when we look back at these things and think “hmm… maaaaaybe that’s wrong.” Although I try to eat healthy (snortlaugh) I think I have a good appreciation for yummy food and I can’t imagine giving up food just to impress a guy.

      I too think about eating bacon sandwiches when I think about this book.. I guess we missed the point together!


  4. I remember wanting to hate this book so much because the whole premise of fat girl (cough, cough) turned skinny girl finally gets the guy is a HUGE pet peeve of mine – but I loved Jemima for some crazy odd reason. Not a book I’ll ever re-read because I think it won’t hold up upon another go. I’ll just pretend Ben was attracted to more than her skinny ‘hotness’.


  5. I haven’t read this book, but will put it on my TBR.

    Although, one of my biggest pet peeves is “fat” girls in novels = unhappy girls. I remember being really annoyed when Bridget Jones weighed 127 lbs., and we were supposed to identify with her for being chubby…


    1. It’s a cute book, for what it’s worth. I agree with you about the “fat” girls. I feel like when a main character is overweight, that seems to be all her life is. Sometimes I get tired of hearing about her body and how it affects her. While I know this is true to life, it makes it really hard to relate to that type of character because I don’t want to read about how depressed she is because she’s fat. And that was a really bad tangent… haha! I totally got annoyed with Bridget Jones. I remember thinking “boy, I wish I weight 127 pounds” haha


  6. I read this one a while ago, but I remember I really enjoyed this one too! I agree, a lot of “fat girl” stories can get me a big bogged down sometimes but this one turned out nicely. I’m very picky about the “chick lit” that I read but I really liked this story a lot.


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