If Amy Schumer turned her subversive feminist sketches into a novel, dark on the inside but coated with a glossy, palatable sheen, it would probably look a lot like Dietland—a thrilling, incendiary manifesto disguised as a beach read ... a giddy revenge fantasy that will shake up your thinking and burrow under your skin, no matter its size.
...the novel doesn't rest with a predictable message of sugary self-acceptance: Dietland swerves suddenly and powerfully from chick lit to revenge fantasy ... Dietland resonated with the part of me that wants, just once, to deck a street harasser. At the very least, I wish an incurable itch upon everyone who has catcalled me on the street. I wish food poisoning and public embarrassment on everyone I've heard make a rape joke. I wish toothache and head lice and too-small shoes upon every stranger who has told me to smile. Which is to say, sometimes I forget I'm angry, but I am. Dietland is a complicated, thoughtful and powerful expression of that same anger.
The writing in Dietland is functional and doesn’t call attention to itself one way or another. But the spliced-in accounts are structurally inelegant, and occasionally give the novel a patchwork quality, like an unfinished garment marked up with pins and tailor’s chalk. The marriage of gonzo satire with a more earnest heroine’s awakening was never going to be an entirely comfortable one, although it allows for great moments ... Dietland’s structural oddities notwithstanding, its message resonates. It’s vanishingly rare (in fact I can’t think of an example, although that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist) to see a novel that looks like the much-maligned 'chick lit' – and sometimes reads like it – so gleefully censorious of rape culture. If its satire is sometimes a little on-the-nose, it’s only because real life, when you are talking about female grievances, is a dog’s breakfast of things so terrible they hardly need to be satirized.
Dietland is a curious concoction—part exploration of the way society treats the female body, part thriller. Using Plum’s desperate efforts to shed her bulk, Ms Walker unpicks the way in which women are encouraged literally to take up less space ... The discrepancy between the way that male and female nakedness is treated is hardly a new theme, but Ms Walker’s light touch makes it feels fresh. Her writing can spit with venom, at the rigid expectations of women’s weight and sexuality ... As a social commentary, Dietland is no shrill tirade. Ms Walker captures the misery of failing to fit in, to fit into the right clothes, to fit in with the right people and their expectations.
Dietland is, not to put too fine a point on it, subversive and even shocking. It is discomforting to read, exploring as it does unsettling themes of body shaming, misogyny and hypersexualized mores. This is an unflinching look at a society that is very much our own, although it feels as if the novel is set perhaps 15 minutes in the future.
Through her protagonist, debut novelist Walker gives a plaintive yet powerful voice to anyone who has struggled with body image, feelings of marginalization, and sexual manipulation. Her robust satire also vibrantly redefines what it means to be a woman in contemporary society.
Hilarious, surreal, and bracingly original, Walker’s ambitious debut avoids moralistic traps to achieve something rarer: a genuinely subversive novel that’s also serious fun ... Ultimately, for all the unsettling pleasure of Walker’s splashier scenarios—and there are many—it’s Plum’s achingly real inner life that gives the novel its arresting emotional weight. Part Fight Club, part feminist manifesto, an offbeat and genre-bending novel that aims high—and delivers.
Walker successfully lampoons the diet industry through Adventures in Dietland, replete with insinuations about similar programs' intentions to make money off of desperate weight-conscious women of all sizes. But when Plum gets involved with Verena Baptist (writer of the expose and daughter of Eulayla), the book devolves into violence as feminist terrorists start wreaking havoc around the world. What could have been an insightful tale of a plus-size woman's empowerment and self-acceptance misses the mark.