Book Review: The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid by Matt Wallace
Matt Wallace, author of Bump, presents a personal, humorous, and body-positive middle grade standalone about a fat kid who wants to stop his bullies . . . and enlists the help of the world’s most infamous supervillain. Perfect for fans of Holly Goldberg Sloan, Julie Murphy, and John David Anderson!
Max’s first year of middle school hasn’t been easy. Eighth-grade hotshot Johnny Pro torments Max constantly, for no other reason than Max is fat and an easy target. Max wishes he could fight back, but he doesn’t want to hurt Johnny . . . just make him feel the way Max feels.
In desperation, Max writes to the only person he thinks will understand: imprisoned supervillain Master Plan, a “gentleman of size.” To his surprise, Master Plan wants to help! He suggests a way for Max to get even with Johnny Pro, and change how the other kids at school see them both.
And it works! When Master Plan’s help pays off for Max in ways he couldn’t have imagined, he starts gaining confidence—enough to finally talk to Marina, the girl he likes in class who shares his passion for baking. With Master Plan in his corner, anything seems possible . . . but is there a price to pay for the supervillain’s help?
* A Junior Library Guild selection *
In a world where there are literal superheroes and villains, Max is interested in the villains—specifically, in imprisoned supervillain Maximo Marconius III, otherwise known as Master Plan. Superheroes just make everything worse, in Max’s eyes, and never have to deal with the fallout of their fights or actions. He feels an affinity for Maximo, and when his woes and stresses of middle school become overwhelming, he writes to Maximo, asking for advice. The two strike up an email correspondence and Maximo offers him surprisingly great advice (surprising because when we think of supervillains, we don’t maybe thinking of being compassionate and of dissuading violence).
Max is being bullied at school by an older boy and his crew, primarily for being fat, and it’s making him miserable. In his initial letter, he tells Maximo he knows there’s nothing wrong with being fat or using the word fat—but knowing those things doesn’t stop the other kids from being brutal or stop Max from being afraid of and tired of their taunting. Maximo, aka Master Plan, reminds him that violence is never the answer, but exposing your enemies’ lack of imagination and own weaknesses is a far more effective tool. They continue to share worries and advice, and again, some of it is so useful for ANYONE to hear. Maximo reminds Max that girls don’t owe him time or attention and that he can’t “make” girls like him, as no one should be made to do anything. He constantly encourages him to be his best self, to feel eligible to participate in his own life, and tells him it is unacceptable to have to live in fear of bullies.
Sound advice that all middle school kids could really use, right?!
But, despite all this great advice, including some advice on how to dress comfortably/for your body type and slowly change your look (after years of your mother basically making all your clothing and appearance choices) and to only make changes that will make you happy (in other words, don’t do them for other people), things eventually go sideways. There’s the fact that Luca, Max’s one friend, who is poor, feels left behind by Max as he has new experiences and gets new clothes, which causes tension between the boys. And there’s the fact that Max is keeping lots of secrets. And that he eventually gets some revenge, but it sure doesn’t feel great, especially once he figures out just exactly what Maximo, called Master Plan for a reason, was up to.
Here’s what I loved: a real and honest friendship between two boys (who eventually learn how to fully confide in each other, how to comfort each other, and how to be vulnerable in front of each other); the confidence Max learns by embracing his full self; that we see a boy dealing with body issues (and that he never hates himself for this, he never attempts to lose weight, and he’s reminded over and over that being fat is okay and the word is simply a descriptor); and the unique setting of a world where there are superheroes and supervillains. The plot moves quickly, the voice is compelling, and while full of smart advice about self-worth and acceptance, readers will know to be on the lookout for something more going on, because a supervillain can’t just be doling out helpful life advice to a middle schooler, can he?
This was a solid read especially for those who need a reminder that being bullied is never their fault and that they deserve to be active participants in their own life—no one should have to hide themselves or live in fear. I loved Bump, also by Wallace, and look forward to seeing what else he writes for this age!
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/25/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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