One to Watch went above and beyond my expectations! It’s highly entertaining, super cute, and has diverse characters. Reality dating shows are my guilty pleasure and this is the book version of one. I loved this book and I’m here to gush about it. Without further ado, let’s get into the review.
- Book: One to Watch
- Genre: Romance, Contemporary
- Page count: 417
- Published: July 7, 2020
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?
Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.
But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale.
Bea Schumacher — I loved her personality and how she handled some truly awful situations with grace. She’s smart, funny, and she speaks her mind. It’s a peeve of mine when the characters in romance novels are passive. That’s not the case here. Bea’s actions have clear cause and effect, which is a huge plus for this book because it makes it more realistic. I had a clear understanding of who Bea is and what she’s been through. I was rooting for her right from the start.
The Main Squeeze contestants — Kate Stayman-London did a fantastic job of writing these characters. Their personalities come to life and it’s easy to picture them. She doesn’t rely on stock-characters types and created unique upbringings and motivations for Bea’s suitors. Some of the men are awful and others are such romantics, I was practically yelling at Bea to open herself up to them.
Side note: discussing diversity and representation in One to Watch gives away spoilers about some parts of the plot, which I want to avoid. I will say that there is LBTQ+ representation and BIPOC contestants. Also, both Asian and Jewish characters are underrepresented in mainstream fiction, so I was pleasantly surprised that one of the main contestants was Asian-Jewish.
After going through heartbreak, Bea does the last thing on earth she ever thought she would do. She agrees to date 25 men on live TV. Bea is a plus-size woman who has dealt with constant public shaming for being overweight. Given her large online presence, when she vents about how dating shows only cast skinny, hyperfeminine women, she goes viral. One thing leads to another, and Bea becomes the lead on a show that is essentially identical to The Bachelorette.
One to watch is an experience. Kate Stayman-London uses texts, e-mails, tweets, blog posts, tabloid articles, and more to tell this story. These elements added so much to the plot and made me feel like I was in Bea’s world. As the show goes on, we see reactions from celebrities, fans, and haters. It makes everything feel so real, and we get to see the behind-the-scenes parts of the show too. The process seems authentic to how a real reality show works, which is cool. I love how each chapter consists of one episode of Main Squeeze because it builds the suspense at the perfect pace.
I’m glad I read this book because the messages in it are so important. I haven’t been in Bea’s shoes, but I could empathize with her. Kate Stayman-London doesn’t hold back from showing the nasty hate comments that Bea gets for simply existing as a plus-size woman. I thought it was smart of her to expose this reality without hurting Bea in the process. Bea doesn’t have her phone while filming, so she doesn’t know what people are saying about her. Casually inserting articles and tweets from viewers took me by surprise and left a strong impression. I was angry on Bea’s behalf about the cruel assumptions people make about her, but it made her unapologetic self-acceptance feel more powerful.
There are so many twists I didn’t find the plot predictable at all. The supporting characters were another nice touch. Bea’s best friend is so genuine I loved her advice to Bea towards the end of the show. She proved she’s a real friend by giving Bea tough love about her decisions.
The writing makes this book a solid five-stars. I was curious about how the plot would revolve around Bea being on TV, but it couldn’t have been better. One to Watch is full of action and never gets boring. The chapters are very long, but I didn’t mind. I felt like I was racing to get to the end of each one because I was so invested.
If you like reality dating shows, One to Watch will be perfect for you. There isn’t a single thing I can point out that I disliked. If reality TV isn’t your thing, I still highly recommend this book for its positive messages about self-love, self-acceptance, and staying true to who you are. The narrative style is creative and very engaging. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I can’t believe this is a debut; I absolutely can’t wait to read more books from Kate Stayman-London.