Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell
by Taj McCoy
Released on March 22nd, 2022
Published by Mira Books
Adult Fiction—Contemporary, Romance
A delicious debut rom-com about a plus-size sweetheart who gets a full-life makeover after a brutal breakup.
Savvy Sheldon spends a lot of time tiptoeing around the cracks in her life: her high-stress and low-thanks job, her clueless boyfriend and the falling-apart kitchen she inherited from her beloved grandma—who taught her how to cook and how to love people by feeding them. But when Savvy’s world starts to crash down around her, she knows it’s time for some renovations.
Starting from the outside in, Savvy tackles her crumbling kitchen, her relationship with her body, her work–life balance (or lack thereof) and, last but not least, her love life. The only thing that doesn’t seem to require effort is her ride-or-die squad of friends. But as any home-reno-show junkie can tell you, something always falls apart during renovations. First, Savvy passes out during hot yoga. Then it turns out that the contractor she hires is the same sexy stranger she unintentionally offended by judging based on appearances. Worst of all, Savvy can’t seem to go anywhere without tripping over her ex and his latest “upgrade.” Savvy begins to realize that maybe she should’ve started her renovations the other way around: beginning with how she sees herself before building a love that lasts.
Trigger/Content Warning(s): Fatphobia, Body Shaming, Eating Disorder, Toxic Relationship, Emotional Abuse, Alcohol
While reading Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell, it is easy for the reader to be confused. Was this supposed to be a literary fiction novel? Is it actually romance? There seemed to be a mix of literary fiction writing with the wishful prose of the book wanting to be a romance but not succeeding in several regards.
Going into this book, the story started off well but rough. Readers are thrust into the premise of Savvy’s boyfriend dumping her because of his fatphobia. It is after this rising action that problems with the overall story began to rise. Taj McCoy has a nice, easy-going writing style. It calls for your attention to the page, and it keeps readers interested in the story. However, while the writing style was enjoyable, the pacing of the story was not.
The beginning few chapters were quick and to the point. The middle struggled immensely with pacing and felt as though it were repeating events back and forth in a seesaw-like action. As other reviewers have pointed out, it appears that the book has a literary fiction feel to it, and it can be concluded from the middle portions of the book as to why. The romance did not feel as though it were paramount or even important to the story during these chapters, and it took a back seat to the plot while Savvy’s “revenge body” goal and other plans took the front. As the book neared the end, the pacing once again sped up and the romance pushed to the front.
Furthermore, it became confusing at times what the plot of the story wanted. There was a lost count of the number of times that Savvy ran into her ex-boyfriend, and if it were the case that they lived in a small town, it would be understandable for such frequent occurrences to happen. However, they live in a fairly large city, and putting that into perspective, it came across more that the author purposefully shoved in scenes in which they ran into each other more as obstacle points than important pieces to the overall storyline.
Focusing more on the characters, their development can be compared to that of the storyline. Savvy is the main character, the voice of this book, and it did not appear as though her character had been completely developed. Instead, it came across as though we were getting just the fleshings of what was not yet there, and this can be felt with a majority of the side characters too. Two characters—Savvy’s mother and uncle—did not feel impertinent to the story either. Again, it was almost as though they were just added to the story without anything to tie them down securely. Had the scenes involving them been taken out, it would be easy to say that there would not be a major alteration or difference.
Lastly, I wanted to call attention to three issues I found in the book that I could not overlook.
Firstly, on page 170 there is a reference to Harry Potter. I understand that Harry Potter might have been an important influence in this author’s life at one point or another, but taking into consideration all the harm that J. K. Rowling, the author, has done to the trans community (and several other communities too) it is completely inappropriate to continue to include any reference to her work. It is 2022, that reference could have and should have been edited out or replaced before publication.
Secondly, on page 119, Savvy’s uncle—who, may I note has sustained an injury prior to the book’s beginning and is using crutches—says, “…and I wanted a break from feeling like an invalid.” This quote is referencing him not using his crutches because they, and having an injury that prevents him from walking without their assistance, makes him “feel like an invalid.” To put it simply, this is ableist; and frankly, it was completely unneeded and unnecessary to the scene that it was included in.
Lastly, I want to call attention to the several reviewers who have pointed out that this book was not the body-positive story it claims to be. Having read it from start to finish, I will not comment on the representation and ask that you read through their reviews (review one, review two, review three) instead.
Overall, Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell did not live up to expectations, and for that, I do not recommend it. As much as I wanted to love this book, it just did not seem made to be.
Oakland native and law grad, Taj McCoy, is committed to writing stories championing Black and biracial women of color, plus-sized protagonists, Black love, and characters with a strong sense of sisterhood and familial bonds. Taj started writing as a small child, enjoying the success of her first publications in elementary school. Since then, her dream has always been to become a professional writer. As a law student, she attempted her first novels and joined the Twitter writing community. Though Taj has spent more than ten years working in higher education administration, she continued to pursue her goal and ultimately finished her first novel in 2018, securing her agent in 2019.
When she’s not writing, Taj may be on Twitter boosting other marginalized writers, trying to zen out in yoga, sharing recipes on her website, binge-watching her favorite reality tv, or cooking private supper club meals for close friends. Catch her producing and co-hosting the Fat Like Me Podcast, which celebrates body diversity in publishing and entertainment, or watch her join forces with several writer friends on Sundays for the Better Than Brunch video podcast.