From YA Romance to Literary Fiction, Check Out These Books With Plus Size Protagonists

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During this time of year, be it way-too-comfortable family members or seasonal depression, people use body mass and shape (more than usual) to measure how successful others (or themselves) are doing. Even in “positive” phrases and comments, there is an underlying tint of fatphobia and body negativity.

To combat this extra helping of negatively around the holidays, we’ve compiled a list of books that feature plus-size and fat characters being themselves. While we love adventure stories, SFF, and more, fat lead characters in fiction are scarce unless wandering in the realms of romance and/or coming-of-age (YA) stories. It’s probably not a coincidence that women and femmes (whose bodies are more scrutinized) dominate these markets in terms of acclaim and book sales.

Despite the brevity and confidence of saying “fat,” the range of body sizes is so vast in this list that “plus-size” seemed like a better inclusion of all. Also, these books are set in different places and cultures, where one person’s thin is another person’s fat, so we’ll keep the somewhat neutral with the word “plus-size,” unless the author says otherwise.

Just like the range of sizes and people represented, there is a range of their relationships with their bodies—meaning some are already confident with themselves, while others have work to do in addition to the main plot.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Image: Avon Books.)

(Image: Avon Books.)

This bucket list romance follows chronically ill Chloe Brown tackling new experiences (to “Get a Life”) that are not often found in her very structured/organized life—especially number six, “do something bad.” If she has any hope in completing this list, she needs back up, so she enlists the help of handyman-by-day, artist-by-night Redford “Red” Morgan.

Fans of HAE (Happily Ever After) romance books or Talia Hibbert should also check out the other two books in “The Brown Sisters” trilogy.

Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldanado

Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldanado (Image: Holiday House.)

(Image: Holiday House.)

This YA romance follows artistic and ambitious brown girl Charlie Vega in the very white Connecticut suburbs. Charlie’s mother is always trying to get her to be more “acceptable” (white) by constantly suggesting she straighten her hair and stay out of the sun, as well as leaving not-so-subtle weight-loss shakes in her room. At school, Charlie begins talking to her cute classmate Brian, and he accepts every part of her.

Things look perfect until she finds that Brian asked out her best friend, Amelia (who’s both athletic and popular), first. This information sends Charlie into a spiral, wondering if her weight made her a second choice.

If you think this cover is gorgeous, check out her 2022 novel No Filter, and Other Lies.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland by Sarai Walker (Image: Mariner Books.)

(Image: Mariner Books.)


Counting the days until she can afford weight-loss surgery she thinks will change her life, Plum Kettle drones away at her day job answering fan mail for a teen magazine. Everything changes rapidly when a woman wearing bright clothing begins following her. Plum discovers a hidden organization of plus-size women who reject society’s rules.

Swept up by the camaraderie and sense of belonging, Plum dives deep into the rabbit hole. The increasingly violent tactics used by the other women lead Plum to believe she may be a part of a terrorist organization.

AMC produced a one-season (now canceled) adaptation, so there’s a tie-in edition of the novel, too.

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

I’ll Be The One by Lyla Lee (Image: Katherine Tegen Books.)

(Image: Katherine Tegen Books.)

In addition to rejecting the daily fatphobia from her family and peers, Sky Shin dreams of joining the world of K-Pop. When the opportunity to audition on an international TV competition looking for future K-Pop stars, Skye takes it. Even though she is used to, and has defenses built for, American fatphobia, nothing could have prepared her for the world’s (including the K-Pop industry) response to her body.

Skye juggles the unfathomable scrutiny with the will to succeed in the competition and not embarrass herself in front of a competitor she’s developing feelings for.

If this entertainment-themed YA romance sounds interesting, keep an eye out for Lyla Lee’s 2022 release Flip the Script, which dives into K-dramas.

Heft by Liz Moore

Heft by Liz Moore (Image: W. W. Norton & Company.)

(Image: W. W. Norton & Company.)

Weighing in between 500 and 600 pounds, Arthur hasn’t left his home in Brooklyn in about ten years due to the exertion of walking. About an hour away, in Yonkers, a poor kid in a rich school, Kel, dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. Through the connection of Kel’s mother and Arthur’s former student (20 years prior), Charlene, Kel, and Arthur develop a friendship and transform one another’s lives.

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann (Image: Swoon Reads.)

(Image: Swoon Reads.)

Winnie is living her best life working at her Granny’s Diner in the small town of Misty Haven over the summer before college. There is the hustle and bustle of diner life, but also, she’s left great tips, gets to wear this cute ’50s themed uniform, gets to see her grandmother, and is platonically dating her long-term girlfriend, Kara. Her life gets flipped upside down when she is dubbed the Summer Queen of Misty Haven’s matchmaking tradition. Paired up with a Summer King, she’s forced into the limelight of Misty Haven and into so many public events with unsolicited advice.

(via Twitter, image: Mariner Books, Holiday House, and W. W. Norton & Company)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.