Book Review: Jemima Small Versus the Universe

Jemima Small Versus the Universe
Release Date: 11th July 2019
Publisher: Usbourne Publishing
Buy: Paperback | eBook

Jemima Small is funny and smart. She knows a lot of things. Like the fact that she's made of 206 bones, over 600 muscles and trillions of cells. What she doesn't know is how that can be true and yet she can still sometimes feel like nothing… Or how being made to join the school's "special" healthy lifestyle group - aka Fat Club - could feel any less special. But Jemima also knows that the biggest stars in the universe are the brightest. And maybe it's her time to shine…  

Twelve year old Jemima hates the irony of having a surname like Small. As someone who is struggling with her weight it provides much amusement to other pupils in her school who think it's hilarious to nickname her 'Jemima Big.'
There are a few things you should know about Jemima. 1) She lives with her Dad and older brother, Jasper, after her Mum walked out on them when Jemima was young 2) She is desperate to colour her hair but her Dad has a habit of infringing her human rights so refuses to let her 3) She is smart. And I'm talking super-duper-can-practically-resight-the-whole-of-wikipedia type smart.
As if Jemima wasn't exposed to enough trials and tribulations throughout her life, she is mortified to be selected for her school's 'healthy lifestyle group' or 'Fat Club' to give it it's proper name. As soon as word gets out about Fat Club Jemima knows that school will be unbearable and attract the attention of all the school bullies - particularly Lottie.

However, when the opportunity comes up for Jemima to apply for one of her favourite TV quiz shows, Brainiacs, her friends & family tell her that she absolutely MUST apply. Whilst Jemima would love to take part in Brainiacs there is one thing on her mind - her appearance. Who would want to see someone on TV looking like her? And what if her Mum happens to see her? 

Can she overcome the worries about her appearance and control her anxieties enough to appear on Brainiacs and take on the world at the same time (or at least conquer Camp Go Wild!...)

You know sometimes you see or hear about a book and you know that you just HAVE to read it? That was me with Jemima Small Verses the Universe. I love Tamsin's writing and as soon as I read the synopsis for this novel I just knew it was going to be something special. And it certainly didn't disappoint.
This inspiring, relatable novel spoke to me in so many ways. I loved Jemima and felt as though twelve year old me could really relate to her. (Not because I was super brainy...I wish!...But as the girl who was always on a diet and was way too concerned with body image.) But here's the thing - despite everyone else being obsessed with Jemina's size and whilst she was obviously uncomfortable with how she looked - she never let these comments lead her to crash diet and her weight or any weight she lost throughout the story was never documented in the book...And I absolutely LOVED this. It didn't turn into a book where Jemima joined 'Fat Club' and suddenly started shedding the pounds and getting compliments and everything turned out brilliantly. Yes she joined her schools healthy lifestyle group, yes she tried some healthy foods and yes she attempted to include more exercise in her day - but her journey was ultimately about so much more than her weight. It was about self-confidence, self-appreciation and being proud of who you were and what you could achieve, as opposed to letting something like your appearance hold you back. Because ultimately, we are so much more than what we look like.
I was rooting for Jemima all the way. All I wanted was to give her a big hug, punch Lottie in the face and tell her that she absolutely must go on Brainiacs because she was amazing and I wished she could see how much.

I feel as though this is book that will resonate with SO many young people today. We've all been in Jemima's shoes at one point or another and some of the worries that she has will sound all too familiar to many readers of this book.
I took away a really positive message from this book and I'm sure that everyone who picks it up will feel the same way.  It made me realise just how much time we spend worrying about body image and perhaps neglecting to celebrate the things that should be celebrated; such as intelligence, compassion, kindness and confidence.

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