Title: Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy
Author: Bil Wright
Publisher: Simon & Shuster
Amazon: Buy Link Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy
Genre: contemporary YA (publisher puts it as Grade 7 and up and ages 12 and up, but since YA is age 13-18, I guess it is still YA)
Length: 240 pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: I loved this story of the teenager who wanted to be a makeup artist and who just happened to be gay.
Carlos Duarte knows that he’s fabulous. He’s got a better sense of style than half the fashionistas in New York City, and he can definitely apply makeup like nobody’s business. He may only be in high school, but when he lands the job of his dreams–makeup artist at the FeatureFace counter in Macy’s–he’s sure that he’s finally on his way to great things.
But the makeup artist world is competitive and cutthroat, and for Carlos to reach his dreams, he’ll have to believe in himself more than ever.
Once upon a time when I had not yet discovered the Amazon as a super convenient place to buy my books and did not have my awesome device named Kindle, I visited Barnes and Noble stores and Borders stores and any kind of book stores I could possibly find as often as I could. I still visit Barnes and Noble from time to time to not forget old times completely. I accidentally found this book during my last visit and yes, I bought it in paperback, but as you can see awesome Amazon has it in ebook as well.
You can see from the grade that I loved this book, so all that is left is for me to try and explain why 😀
This story is not a romance at all, about that I want to be very clear. It does not even have romantic elements. It has a little unrequited crush, but it is mostly a story of growing up, story of love of the family, friendship bonds and testing of those bonds, but most importantly it is a story of a teenager who wants to be somebody when he grows up. It is a story of a teenager with real ambition and I really really loved it. I just think that we need more books about young people, teenagers who know what they want to do when they grow up and who are willing to try hard to achieve their dreams.
Carlos, the narrator and main character in this book is sixteen years old and really loves to work with make-up and wants to be a make up artist. He knew that he is good with make-up since he was twelve years old and when now Carlos wants to work in Macy’s as a part-time makeup artist. And trust me when I tell you Carlos would do a lot of things to be hired by Macy’s and to achieve his dreams. I really really loved Carlos’ voice and I thought his character was very well drawn. I know it is getting to be a cliche description, but I honestly felt that this young man was so realistically done that I could find him if I just walk in Macy’s store on 34th street and walk to their make up counter. He dreams and he dreams big and I rooted for him to achieve what he wanted from life. Carlos does some idiotic things in the name of achieving his dream, but I just could not even stay mad at him for too long. He is not a bad kid/teenager at all. He wants to not be poor and he wants to be a makeup artist for the stars, because he correctly believes that he has a talent. I have not been a teenager for quite some time now, so as much as I love Young Adult books, of course I cannot be sure how a young person would relate to this character. I do really want to imagine though that this book could be inspirational in a sense that it shows that if you try hard, your dreams could really come true.
Granted, there was one lucky occasion which significantly helps Carlos to get what he wants the most, but I did think that it was at least believable enough to buy that such thing could have happened. That plot development did not feel contrived to me, but of course it is up to you to decide whether you find it believable or not. Regardless, I did not think that it takes away from Carlos’ determination and talent no matter which way you view that plot development.
Oh, did I mention that Carlos is also gay? I am mentioning it now and not in the beginning of the review because the fact that Carlos is gay does not occupy his thoughts much and it does not define his whole existence and does not fully define him as a person and I really loved that. It defines him somewhat of course – he has a crush on a boy instead of a girl and unfortunately people who decide to define him by the way of his sexual orientation do exist in the book, but those people are given as much place as they deserve. Carlos most definitely does not spend pages wondering what does it mean for him and he does not produce loads and loads of angst. Carlos is shown in interactions with his friends, his mother, his coworkers, he has some very real flaws, but he is also shown to learn from them. I think that this is a wonderful coming of age story, just the process of growing up for the main character is shown through different angles than him just realising that he is gay. Carlos learns how far he is willing to go to become who he wants and how far he will go to protect his family and what he will and will not do for his friends.
Speaking about friends and family – a lot of them are just as interesting and layered characters as Carlos is. Carlos’ mother for example; I was so worried when there is a possible hint in the first pages of the book that she may be uncomfortable with Carlos’ sexuality. But it was very clear throughout the book that she loves her son very much and wants the best for him. At the same time, I am not sure if that hint of her being uncomfortable ever went away.
Several female friends of the main character were also interesting, even if they played mostly supporting small roles. Angie especially was not a stereotypical sidekick and the author showed some of her insecurities and still made me like her a lot.
I really loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough if you enjoy YA coming of age stories.