Fanfic Review - Fourteen

Body Image Issues
Source: Post Media


Author Summary:
High school is brutal.
It's even worse when you're not a size two.
Worse than that? Having a major crush on the biggest, hottest jerk in high school.
Even worse than that? Being paired up with him for a science project.

Twilight / Rated: M / Chapters: 13 / Published: 10-29-09 / Bella & Edward


I will be discussing details within the story, so please don't read on if you haven't read the story or do not wish to see my thoughts on the story.  This the first time I have felt compelled enough to write about a specific fanfiction story I have read.  I think it cut closer to home than I was comfortable with and I needed to expand on my thoughts to purge myself of these concerns.

Based on the premise, I would assume this story would be very juvenile.  However, it was recommended by my good Twitter friend/Fanfic cohort, @megurbani, so I trusted her judgment. I am so happy I took her recommendation and read it. 

This is your basic coming of age story where the Ugly Duckling becomes the beautiful Swan (no pun intended) and finds her Prince Charming. However, it is never as fabled as that metaphor, nor is it an easy transformation.  This story is painful.  It exposes the teenage mind plus adds the insecurities of weight, popularity, bullying, desolation, and heartache.  As you read, you can feel Bella's pain and see her torment as she experiences it.

Here's the low-down:  Bella is a size 14 girl who in the eyes of her classmates has become the object of all ridicule. She doesn't understand why she has been chosen, but also doesn't fight back because her self-esteem has been ravaged by years of constant abuse.  She has few friends, an absentee mother, and an emotionally unavailable father.  The only thing she has is her determination to make it a few more months until graduation so she can move to New York and attend college at NYU.  She wants the chance to start anew.  Blank slate, no past, no hang ups, and an optimism that life could be better for her if she reinvented herself some place else.

What Bella doesn't take into account is making a connection with the one person she knows she should stay away from. She has been attracted to the star athlete, Mr. Popularity himself, and the most unkind one of the bunch, Edward Cullen, for years.  She knows he is exceptionally cruel, but believes he is a different person when not at school from interactions she has witnessed of him with his family.  It is that sliver of civility that makes her think he could be different.

The story progresses with a conflict between Bella and Edward that changes both their lives.  This conflict caused me to cry uncontrollably as I felt Bella's sorrow, but also because I could relate to her so well.  All these memories from my own childhood started flooding back and I was instantly transported to the place of greatest pain in my own youthful past. These feelings then made me feel insecure about myself today in ways I had not been aware I really was. 

The rest of the story is about building enough trust in someone else to let your own walls down long enough to see that some people can change, including yourself.

I am trying to be vague on purpose because I don't want to give away all of the story, but I thoroughly enjoyed this fanfiction.  It was mostly all BPOV which was necessary to really understand her state of mind.  Her internal dialogue was very similar to my own at times in my life.  She had built so many walls to prevent herself from further hurt or disappointment, that she didn't even know how off-putting she could be.  She ran before someone else had the chance to tell her to go away.  She said she was better than those who attacked her outwardly, yet she attacked them in thought. She always had one hand on the door and one eye looking over her shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It was fear. It was insecurity. It was self-loathing. 

The adage is true that you can't love someone else unless you love yourself.  Bella may have gained her self esteem through someone else, but that person made her see herself for who she was as a whole person.  Her sum was far greater than any one part. And the realization of genuine feelings allowed her to stop getting in her own way.  It's a lifetime struggle, but she had enough to make progress.  

So this brings me back to me and my reactions to the story.  I was telling @megurbani  the other day about my saddest times as a child.  I was in 4th grade.  I had gained moderate popularity because I was in the performing arts and had been on television.  I also was a good dancer and received many compliments for my talent.  Overall, my life was not one of regrets. Then during the start of 4th grade, a new girl arrived.  She was jealous of these things that I thought were strengths and turned my friends against me.  She told them they shouldn't be my friend, and sadly, they all followed her recommendation.  I spent over 6-weeks alone at lunch and recesses because no one would be my friend.  I had become the victim. 

During that lonely period of my life, I never told my parents because I was ashamed.  At first I didn't know why they chose to do this to me, but over time, I began to realize I probably deserved their banishment.  I most likely was not a good person when life was going well for me. I probably was a bully and ostracized others because I thought I had power.  They were all right, but it still hurt and scarred me for a long time.

After that, I sometimes would become too complacent or allow others to take advantage of me. I would give too much of myself away for fear they would not like me or would reject me. I became afraid to boast about anything good that happened to me because success would lead to others seeing me as an outsider and I'd become isolated.  It was better to just fit in.

Strangely, while this was the outward persona I portrayed for awhile, it was never the person I was inside.  I was fiercely critical of myself and always wanted to be the best.  But, as I think about it, did I want to be the best to be better than others or was it so no one would have anything to tease me about?  If I never failed, I would not give them ammunition to confront me.  Confrontation became my enemy and I maintained a far distance from it.

As time went on, these insecurities affected my dating life.  I did not feel worthy of those I should have pursued or I would take it too harshly when spurned by those I did chase.  And some boys were just as mean as Edward Cullen was at the beginning of Fourteen.  That didn't stop when they graduated from high school either.  I met my fair share of jerks in college, and in fact dated the epitome of a Jerk Edward Cullen for far too many years. There were six years of my life that I tried everything I could to please someone who never wanted "me".  He only wanted the fabricated version he could control.  He never looked hard enough to see I was a person with real feelings and real ideas.  He mocked my weight and I starved myself while becoming a gym rat just to become a size 3 for him. He told me to be quiet because no one wanted to know my opinion. He ridiculed the things I liked until I didn't know what I liked anymore. All the while,  I was like Bella wondering why was he so mean to me.  Yet, I stayed because that torment was all I knew and I did not know I could be loved in a way that allowed me to blossom.

Now, I am so grateful that life afforded me the opportunities to find my true love.  He is a person much like the transformed version of Edward Cullen.  A man who can look in my eyes and love every part of me regardless of my size, my opinions, or my likes/dislikes.  He sees my heart and my mind and has fallen in love with the whole package.  I didn't need him to make me feel beautiful, but knowing his love for me has made me know I'm beautiful.   Beautiful in a way that one knows they are the center of someone's world as he is in mine. 

I felt all the insecurities threaten to spill out when I read Fourteen.  They were there; I know it.  They wanted to tell me that I was fat, I was ugly, I wasn't worthy of the life I had, others were judging me, I would not succeed, etc.  But they were wrong.  I hugged my husband after I finished Fourteen and told him "Thank you for loving me so much and making me feel like the most beautiful person in the world."  His response, "It's easy to love you because you are the most beautiful person in the world, inside and out." I know I'm lucky to have him.  


I am very sorry you had to go through what you did, but this was a beautiful and extremely meaningful blog entry. I'm sure your personal story can be related to by many. Thank you for having the courage to share it.

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving me a comment. I just went to your blog and subscribed (I'm a big RSS subscriber because I like having stuff to read off my phone).

I read your "rantry" about The List. I haven't read your fic yet, but it's on my to-read list. I admit I do have a lot of stories in PDF for the simple reason that I can load them on my phone or my nook and take them w/ me regardless of cell reception/wifi availability, not having my laptop, or work blocking & twilighted. So if a story completes, I like having a copy to read later.

Well, thanks again for stopping by and I look forward to learning more about you from your blog. =)

Take care,

Good post, straight to the bone. Please keep doing the good things that you are doing now. Jamel Deighan


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