ARC Review: The Big Reveal by Jen Larsen | Teen Ink

ARC Review: The Big Reveal by Jen Larsen

September 30, 2021
By WesleyHarkov PLATINUM, Saint Paul, Minnesota
WesleyHarkov PLATINUM, Saint Paul, Minnesota
21 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." - W. Somerset Maugham

Jen Larsen dives into the joys and challenges of body image, sexuality, and high school life with the YA gem that is The Big Reveal. It’s senior year at a boarding school tucked into the snow-covered Michigan woods, and plus-sized dancer Addie has the whole world in front of her: her three outrageous, wonderful friends, a mentorship program with younger dancers, and acceptance to her dream school in Milan. There’s just one problem: she’s $6,000 short, and the deposit deadline is in a month. When “secret underground burlesque club” shows up on her friends’ list of outlandish suggestions, she dismisses it out of hand. But something about the idea sticks with her: the glitter, the spotlight, the unapologetic confidence that her body is beautiful and belongs on the stage. “Secret underground burlesque show” is really happening - but when word starts to spread, taking pride in her body and standing tall against slut-shaming peers and a sexist administration will be harder than ever.

    Right off the bat, Larsen introduces a set of characters that instantly come to life as nuanced, unique, and realistically teenage. Addie and her friends form exactly the kind of team dynamic I love to read: witty, prone to outrageous ideas like starting their own burlesque club, but also supportive and fiercely loyal. Addie herself hits the skillful balance of a plus-sized protagonist who is confident and comfortable with her body while still being realistically impacted by a culture obsessed with unattainable female beauty standards. Although the main romance plot is straight, Larsen also weaves in a strong queer cast - almost all of the supporting characters, in fact.

    The writing itself is a breath of fresh air in a genre where weak prose is all too common. Larsen’s style is gripping, emotional, and refreshingly original, a perfect fit for the voice of the protagonist. I especially loved her descriptions of ballet and burlesque, and the ways she dives into the movements and sensations of both shows how deeply Addie loves dance and how burlesque becomes a way to reclaim her body. The Big Reveal proves that writing for a teen audience doesn’t mean the author has to sacrifice quality, and its writing secures it a place as a captivating read for any age.

    The plot too felt delightfully fresh and successfully takes on a topic that could easily have been handled poorly. The reader savors the initial adrenaline rush of the rebellion of Addie’s idea, but, along with the characters, they also come to appreciate burlesque as an art and a way of reclaiming control over and pride in their bodies. Then they are swept away in the visceral outrage when things take a downward turn and Addie and her friends experience all the stigma that goes along with women - especially plus-size women - taking ownership of their bodies and sexuality.

    Addie’s story is truly a delight to read, the elusive combination of an original yet timely story, a unique cast to fall in love with, and a fresh voice that draws the reader in and packs an emotional punch. If you’ve been searching for the YA story to curl up with in a window seat for the fall, look no farther than The Big Reveal.

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