by Jen Larsen
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.
Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is.
But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.
As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.
My favorite books right now are Ash & Bramble, which is kind of an explosion of the Cinderella fairytale, instead of a straight-up retelling, where the heroine is determined to decide what her happily ever after is going be, and the amazing Dumplin’, with one of my favorite fierce fat brave scared sweet main characters ever.
My favorite book OF ALL TIME is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was the book that made me want to be a writer. I had NO IDEA that you could do all those things with language and I loved everything about it.
Right now, though, my best life is binge-watching Supernatural (I love you, Winchester boys) and crocheting.
Pirates of the Caribbean—the first one. We will ignore all the others as lies. It is completely ridiculous, but I could watch it over and over (and over) again for the rest of my life because swashbuckling, and Elizabeth in a pirate hat? Swoon.
When I need to shake myself out of some kind of funk, I crank “Who Runs the World (Girls).” Because we do.
Sushi. I eat really a lot of sushi.
Anhk-Morpork on Discworld, my own snug faculty office at Hogwarts, and Pemberley (with or without Darcy).
"We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down." – Ray Bradbury
I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid and I am always freaking out over the way they’ve become so much more feminist, with more and more amazing and diverse women and girl characters—Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, the female Thor, She-Hulk’s new run, the Wonder Woman coming out (THE CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE COMING OUT) and more independent comics like Lumberjanes and Nimona and Rat Queens (YOU MUST READ RAT QUEENS) And what I love the most is how the comics industry, which has always been traditional male-geek-nerd-bro culture and was really flagging, is suddenly exploding back to life. And that’s because we run the world.
It’s a toss-up between Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Terry Pratchett, all of them mad geniuses.
Hello Jen! We are super excited to have you in our FFBC tours.
Future Perfect is a book about what happens you’re told, by the people who love you the most, that the person you are and the person you want to be isn’t good enough. For Ashley, it’s being told that she is too fat to be successful and confident; for her friend Jolene, a transgender girl, that her gender identity is wrong or that her body needs to be fixed to match it, and for her friend Laura, her uncertainty about her future and what she wants to do with her life is unacceptable.
I have been that teenager! I have spent SO MUCH time hating myself for being overweight, and being embarrassed about my body. Ashley is my answer to me when I was younger—it can be hard to believe in yourself and it can be hard to ignore all the voices that tell you that you’re not good enough, but it is so worth it. And it’s okay to struggle and falter and fall down, but it’s worth fighting for and so are you.
The old stereotypes about fat people—especially fat, happy people—will maybe never die entirely, but I’m seeing more and more powerful, beautiful fat women who are amazing role models shout those stereotypes down, who make it clear they’re no longer interested in the idea that if you’re fat you should spend your whole life apologetically trying to lose weight so that you look the way other people think that you’re supposed to look. Conforming to some imaginary beauty ideal or having to live up to someone else’s idea of what healthy looks like is NOT a prerequisite for being happy, living your life, going after your dreams.
Ashley is the person I wished I had been as a teenager. Instead, I spent most of my life embarrassed about my size and my weight and my body, and I thought that all my problems came directly from my weight. I really believed that if only I lost weight, I could have my fairy tale ending, my happily ever after, because happy is the same thing as thin, right?
I really believed that. So I got weight loss surgery. And it turns out, nope! It wasn’t my size that was the problem; weight was never the thing holding me back. It was my own fear and self-doubt. I could have almost identical self-esteem struggles even after losing all that weight. And I was so very mad I had wasted all that time waiting for my life to start instead of going out and being happy. Waiting for a perfect future instead of grabbing a happy present.
“I look down at my body, which feels hollowed out and empty. But it still belongs to me. I haven’t turned it over yet.
I know every part of it. The scars on my knee from crashing into the net frame during practice, the muscles in my thighs that jump and twitch when I’ve run too far, my belly, which is soft and curved, and the width of my hips and the size of my breasts and the strength in my arms.”
Ashley is kind of a sucker for a cute stray dog, and she ends up with three of them. Any scene where I get to have Sotomayor snuffing and being dignified and Toby bouncing and yapping and Annabelle Lee slightly befuddled and very small was such a super fun scene to write. And I also really loved writing any scene between the three friends—their love for each other and friendship and goofiness was so fun to write bout.
“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift :)
THAT WOULD BE SO AWESOME.
America Ferrera would make such a great Ashley, though she’d have to put on weight for the role.
Meryl Streep can bring that icy, professional coldness and secret fear to Ashley’s grandmother.
Ashley’s boyfriend, Hector, is totally Diego Boneta from Pretty Little Liars
Jolene is Andreja Pejic!
And Laura is Amandla Stenberg.
I’m writing two new YA books—one an adventure story about two girls in love during a scary night in San Francisco, and one about a trickster fairy godmother, based loosely on The Princess and the Pea. I’m so excited to share both of them with the world!
Thank you so much for everything, Jen!
Thank you for having me!
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Jen Larsen is the author of Future Perfect and Stranger Here: How Weight Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed With My Head. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco and currently lives in Madison, WI. Find her at jenlarsen.net.
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