The Makedown Review
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After reading a few too many books about terrorists and serial killers, I was long overdue for some fun and fluffy chick lit. To me, it’s the literary equivalent of a fruity cocktail by the pool in a sunny, seaside resort. Unfortunately, though, this literary vacation went horribly wrong.

Gitty Daneshvari’s The Makedown tells the story of Anna Norton, a brainy girl who spent most of her life drowning her sorrows in Cheetos. After four friendless years of college, she returns home, gets a job, and settles into the idea of spending the rest of her life with her fat, nerdy boyfriend, Harry—until an unexpected announcement prompts Anna to dump Harry and move to New York in search of her long-lost Fairy Godmother.

In the Big Apple, Anna’s “FG” comes in the form of caterer and former fatty Janice, who gives Anna a job—along with the motivation to be more than a slob in stretch pants. It works, too. But Anna’s fat-girl insecurity returns when she meets Ben—a gorgeous, successful lawyer who can get any woman he wants. What he wants is plain old Anna—but she’s convinced that the only way to keep him is to make him less desirable to everyone else. She calls it The Makedown; I call it excruciating.

  
 
While The Makedown may sound like a quirky romantic comedy, it’s actually a long, uncomfortable study in insecurity and superficiality. For the first 90 pages or so, it focuses on fat, disgusting, nerdy Anna—a slob of a girl with oily hair, horrible acne, and a collection of grease-stained neon T-shirts. Daneshvari goes into stomach-turning detail about her binge-eating and poor hygiene—and the resulting self-loathing (which she documents on the pages of her journal, in a collection of “Dear Fatty” letters). Though it’s supposed to make you feel bad for Anna (or at least I think it is), it goes too far—and it makes for an unpleasant read. Where, I’d like to know, is the humor in such extreme self-hatred?

Then along comes Janice—who, like a verbally abusive drill sergeant, beats Anna into submission. Maybe it’s what she needs—and, sure, it does the trick—but the insults and demands (no matter how well-meaning) make her less than likeable.

Then, finally, there’s Ben—a gorgeous but shallow flirt who knows he’s hot and loves the attention, even if it makes his girlfriend feel insecure. Again, not exactly a lovable character. But even he doesn’t deserve the torture that’s inflicted upon him by the woman who supposedly loves him. We’re not talking about slightly diminishing his good looks; we’re talking about all-out war. Anna proceeds to wreak havoc on his appearance, his health, and his mental well-being—just to make herself feel better. With every page, she becomes more and more detestable. And though she does learn a few valuable lessons in the end, it’s just not enough to redeem her.

So if you’re looking for a light and enjoyable literary vacation, steer clear of The Makedown. I’d happily choose a whole band of terrorists any day over this one terrifying girlfriend.

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