Celeste has body image issues, but its no surprise considering she cops it everywhere she goes. At school the kids constantly taunt her about her body and at home she’s in the shadow of her two cousins who are so beautiful that they’re model material – literally. Her cousin Kathleen has been entering herself in beauty pageants for ages now, and Kirsten is a supreme athlete. Celeste is … well, Celeste is just Celeste.
Then one day, Celeste’s Aunt secretly enters her into a plus-sized modelling competition. Celeste’s mother is overjoyed and thinks this is just what Celeste needs, but Celeste doesn’t agree. Don’t they understand how the kids at school will treat her if they see her modelling for a plus-sized clothing company? It would be the most humiliating thing ever, and Celeste isn’t sure she’ll survive it. So she devises a plan to spoil her chances of being selected. You can’t be a plus sized model if you’re not plus sized, right?
So Celeste decides that in order to preserve her dignity, it might be time to step away from the cookies, just for now. She embarks on a weight loss plan and is determined to lose enough weight so that the judges will think she’s not big enough for their competition.
Losing weight is hard. Actually, it bites the big one – badly. Apples are not nearly as interesting as cookies, not even close.
Celeste has other problems, too. Her long time best friend seems to have ditched her for the most popular girl in school – who also happens to be Celeste’s enemy number one. How will Celeste deal with this rejection on top of everything else?
Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies raises some interesting discussion points about body image. As Celeste begins to lose weight, everything in her life seems to fall into place. I have some pretty firm opinions about body image and when I was reading this I actually found myself feeling a little irritated that Celeste’s happiness increased as a direct result of her weight loss. I found myself asking ‘what kind of message does this send to the kids of the world?’ But I realised that because of my own views on the subject, I approached the novel with a very closed mind. Models has a whole stack of really important messages that I think are worth a detailed discussion. For example, yes, Celeste’s life does get better the smaller she becomes but she never lets herself become obsessed with dieting and it is important to note that she ends up at a much healthier body weight at the end of the novel. I think its important to realise that there are important messages about inner health woven into the text as well as messages about body image. If you approach the text with a body-image mindset only, you’re likely to be unsatisfied with the end result. You need to read it as a multi-faceted text, because that’s exactly what it is. While it may seem that Celeste’s family approach her weight-loss from a superficial perspective, if you read a little closer you’ll see that they’re all about Celeste’s health and mental well-being.
Models is like a really pretty dress made from two tone colour fabric: pretty and fresh whichever way you look at it.
Like with any novel that approaches a sensitive subject like this one, I’m sure anyone that reads it is going to want to discuss it somewhere. I am chomping at the bit to talk to someone about this so we’ve decided that we’re going straight to the source. We’re in the process of interviewing Erin Dionne about her novel and her views on the issue of health and body image. Stay tuned for more.