Our friend is here! is a guest feature A quiet pond, where authors, creators and fellow readers are invited to “visit” the pond! Our friend is here! guest records, our visitors (like their unique character!) chat friendly about everything related to books or the reader – and make friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Our friend is here: Latin Heritage Monthly Edition September 15-October 15 The Quiet Pond, where we invite Latin authors to celebrate Latin and Latin books! An introductory record of Latin Heritage Month can be found here.
When I saw the cover Fat odds, Charlie Vega, I knew I had to pick it up. On top of him — a gorgeous, thick Latin teen girl with a beautiful lace-adorned green dress — a dress that becomes essential in the pages of her journey. It was one of my favorite books this spring and covered relationships I won’t soon forget, from Charlie’s best friendship with Amelia, her starting relationship with Bryan, and the complex dynamics of a mother and daughter. I knew right away that I wanted to talk to Crystal so I could tell you more about all these dynamics, and I am immensely grateful that she joined our Latin Heritage Month.
If you haven’t read Fat odds, Charlie Vega, well, let me introduce you to my review here, I promise it will be a book that will live in your heart for a long time.
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, by Crystal Maldonado
Charlie Vega has a lot of things to do. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.
People sometimes have problems with the latter. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and mom, who has left a billion weight-loss dresses on her dresser, isn’t helping. The world and everyone in it has ideas for what it should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer face, straighter hair. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.
But there is one man who is always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally doping. So when Charlie has a relationship with his lovely classmate Brian, the first worthy guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing – he first asked Amelia. So is she his second choice or not? Does he really see her?
Because it’s time for people.
Author Interview: Crystal Maldonado
Joce: Hello, Crystal, and sincerely congratulate Pond! Could you start with an introduction?
Crystal: Hello, friends of The Quiet Pond! Thank you so much for having me and I am very happy to be in the pond. The vibrations here are amazing. I’m the author of the books FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA, and the upcoming NO FILTER AND OTHER LIES, both from Holiday House, and I have a lot of feelings. Besides writing, I love sequins, shopping and Beyoncé!
Joce: What was your writing process like Fat odds, Charlie Vega How? Were there any surprises along the way?
Crystal: My writing process for the debut compared to my second year book writing process was so different that it surprised me! Because of Fat odds, Charlie VegaReally in no hurry. Writing was a luxurious process, and I was able to view the story as soon as the mood was up – in cafes, lazy Saturday mornings, evenings when it was raining. It was so nice! However, I wrote my next book at the set time during the pandemic before the world was in complete chaos, so I think the biggest surprise in both cases was that I actually finished the books. I tried to write a novel so many times before Charlie and never reached the finish line, but both of these things seemed so right, and I’m very grateful for that.
Joce: Charlie has a complex relationship with social media where people get conflicting messages about promoting self-love rather than promoting popularity and lean body celebration. How did you create Charlie’s journey to access social media?
Crystal: I have tried to include very real ways in which social media can affect us – both good and bad. I find it especially difficult for women to be constantly bombarded with messages saying we need to be slimmer or change ourselves in some ways, while saying that we can’t succeed if we don’t love ourselves and wake up completely happy with our looks every day. How tiring! Charlie, like many of us, can cognitively acknowledge that she doesn’t need to lose weight and that her body is great as it is, but has a hard time applying that mentality. The truth is that love for yourself is a process, and imperfect, that I think many people can associate with.
Social media is such a powerful tool, and we see Charlie at the beginning of the book still leaning a bit after those mixed messages; later in the book, she comes up with a better way to curate her feed. She follows thick fashion bloggers, looks at photos of girls with a body like her, looking for fashion from other fats. This is really where the power of social media lies – when we can look for and celebrate things about ourselves that have historically made us feel insecure and find community with others like us.
Joce: I enjoyed every healthy and every complex aspect of Charlie’s friendship with his best friend Amelia. What would you like readers to know about their friendship?
Crystal: Thank you very much! I really hoped to make a friendship between Charlie and Amelia that reflected the many friendships I was lucky enough to have throughout my life, but also a friendship that seemed real to me. They experience ups and downs: they feel jealous and sometimes have communication problems, but at the end of the day, both girls know they would do absolutely everything for each other. I hope that someday we will all find a version of our strong, grounded friendship.
Joce: Brian is the nicest, most patient, real guy, and I could seriously start a fan club for him. What was your inspiration or introductory ideas for his relationship with Charlie?
Crystal: Ahhh, thanks! He’s really so healthy. My inspiration for Brian was twofold. First, I wanted to create this cute, cheerful, and gentle character that would embrace things that might not be “traditionally masculine” (whatever that means!) and who also had to be a really cute boy who was crushed by the main character. Hopefully fellow silent artists feel a little confirmed when they see how great Brajen is! Also, Brian was very inspired by my real husband I met in high school. He’s actually the most thoughtful, caring and patient person in the world, so I wanted to pay tribute to him through Brian. Since I am Crystal and my husband’s name is Bill, I also intentionally gave Charlie C a name and Brian B a name as a brief glimpse into our true love story.
Joce: Charlie’s mom is well known or bad to many people. What would you want readers to take away from their relationship?
Crystal: Charlie’s mom is really challenging. The first thing I would like readers to take away from this character is that if they have such a person in their life, in their family or not, what a person says or does is not good. I think Charlie’s mom is good at what he does, but it’s still wrong. That’s why it’s so hard for poor Charlie! She loves her mother, but her mother actively hurts her. So, unfortunately, Charlie has to set boundaries and decide what she will agree and what will not. It’s extremely difficult, especially with loved ones, and no matter how old we are. But it’s an important skill to work on (and I’m still working with myself!).
I would also like to say that we can also learn from Charlie’s mother, including the importance of taking care of our mental health. Obviously, she still regrets the loss of her husband and does not treat her healthiest. Unfortunately, Charlie suffers as a result. In addition, I firmly believe that we should not comment on the human body – good or bad. It almost never helps, and as a fat man who has received comments about his body all his life, I can confirm that no one said anything miraculously at me. Let only thick people live!
Joce: Tell me a little bit about that amazing cover! I adore endlessly that it depicts the most important and beautiful green dress on it.
Crystal: I am still so obsessed with this cover and I give all my credit to the incredible illustrator Ericka Lugo, who captured Charlie so well. Initially, Ericka created three versions of the cover, but it was this that stole everyone’s heart – the way Charlie looks in such a calm, bold posture, the flowers blooming behind her (a little tribute to Charlie’s own prosperity), the body. It felt so powerful! And that dress. While the night Charlie has is flawed, the green dress symbolizes where she’s going to go, and she commemorates the night she felt beautiful. We all deserve it. If I ever have the opportunity to visit Charlie again, I would like the green dress to be back!
Joce: To celebrate Latin Heritage Month, what names written by Latin authors would you recommend to our friends?
Crystal: I have so many Latin names I can share with you! Some of my favorites at the moment:
Everything readers can do to help support the release of books into the pandemic, especially for marginalized authors, is huge. So thank you for allowing me to shout out some amazing titles and authors!
Joce: What’s next for you? (And I hope it’s a lot more books because Charlie is one of my favorites!)
Crystal: You are so cute! I sincerely hope to write a lot of books for fat brown girls in the future – books on fatness and books that aren’t. My next book will be published in 2022. February 1 And that’s called “NO FILTER AND OTHER LIES.” This is followed by 17-year-old Kat Sanchez, a fat, Puerto Rican photographer who desperately wants to be recognized for her art. After a bad night left by a feeling repulsed by friends, family and almost everyone around her, she decides she is tired of being herself. So, she steals a friend’s photos and creates a new account as a fake person on Instagram, and suddenly she finally has the influence and shiny, perfect life she’s always dreamed of. Everything goes great until she meets someone she likes like this catfish … and everything goes down. This book explores self-image, first love, strangeness, and complex, messy relationships. And it also has a lot of cute, beloved dogs!
about the author
Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, Fat odds, Charlie Vega, was Cosmopolitan Best New Book and POPSUGAR Best YA Novel. Her next novel, No filter and no other lies, explores the lives of teens in the age of social media – and the lies we tell ourselves and others.
During the day, Crystal is a social media manager working in high school, and at night, she is a writer who enjoys Beyoncé, shopping, spending too much time on the phone and being extra. Her work was also published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and Hartford curator.
She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter and dog.