Oliver is a morbidly obese, 24-year-old computer programmer who is fed up, literally, with being fat. He hates himself and is determined to make a change. He’s helped, emotionally, in this regard by his close friendship with fellow programmer and work pal, Benjy, who is a thin, fit man about his age. Benjy’s body is everything Ollie’s has never been, and he wishes to be like Benjy, to some degree.
Benjy is a sweet man who suffers debilitating anxiety, but he draws courage from Ollie and they are really good together, most of the time. Benjy notices when Ollie begins to lose weight and is always ready with a pep talk or a kind word. The closer their friendship becomes, the more they learn about each other’s trials. Ollie admits that he’s been depressed about his weight for a long time, revealing how brutal it was growing up as “the fat kid” while Benjy confesses his family disowned him for being gay—and that got to me, because Ollie is gay, too, with a loving supportive family, and yet says nothing about that to Benjy in the moment.
So, I liked this book. It had great bits, really, about Ollie’s physical transformation, a weight loss of nearly 150 pounds that takes place over months and months of intense dieting and exercise. The physiological issues Ollie faced were described carefully, and his slow growth out of his shell is realistic. Unfortunately, he’s not a super nice guy. He’s impatient and short-tempered. He’s got a lot of emotional issues that he doesn’t know how to manage, least of which are his self-hate and inferiority complex. He’s always wanted to have real friends, and he’s never even kissed a boy, let alone had a boyfriend. Yet, despite Benjy’s adamant assurances, Ollie is too afraid to let him close for quite a while. I found myself getting frustrated with Ollie’s anger issues.
Ollie and Benjy do begin dating and it seems to be going really well. They develop a healthy sex life and Ollie wants Benjy to go out and do more things together, but Benjy’s anxiety causes him to hold back. They fight, mostly because Ollie really doesn’t understand the scope of Benjy’s illness, but this rift allows Ollie to find out how shallow some people truly are. Now that Ollie’s lost so much weight, some of the men he meets at his gym are nice on the surface, flattering and seemingly interested, and that’s invigorating, but also a problem. Ollie has no idea how to relate to people; he didn’t build the skills when he was young because he was mostly a doormat fat joke. His new experiences guide him back to Benjy, however, which was a lovely ending. It was clear that Ollie and Benjy need each other and professional counseling assistance, which they both do get.
Honestly, I loved Benjy and the supporting cast far more than I liked Ollie. That said, I got Ollie and his moodiness. I could empathize with him, and even though I thought he was a jerk a lot, I could sense that prickliness sometimes hid his deep insecurity. That he pushed Benjy away at times, because the idea of being hurt by him was too painful to consider. And, Ollie does eventually learn how to manage his anger better, and stand up for himself in appropriate ways. Yay for maturity and emotional wellness!
The epilogue solidifies the happy ending, with a catch up that assures us Benjy and Ollie live a healthy, fulfilled life, together.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.