Season of Stories: ‘Full Body’ by Mona Awad
This was the second story I received by email through the Season of Stories initiative. For a more general introduction to the Season of Stories, and the plan for these short reviews, have a look at my review for Helen Ellis’ ‘Dumpster Diving with the Stars’. At the time of writing I have received four stories and this story is probably my joint favourite of the stories I have read, along with ‘Dumpster Diving with the Stars’. In a similar way to that first story, reading this one made me consider whether to invest in a copy of the short fiction collection by Mona Awad from which this story originates.
‘Full Body’ is essentially the story of the rapid disintegration of a tentative friendship between the narrator (Lizzie) and China. Awad starts the narrative with Lizzie’s amazement that China is hanging out with her and doing her eye makeup, and follows the girls as Lizzie’s awe of China is gradually diminished after she lets China in on the secret of her online boyfriend and China reacts badly. Awad shows Lizzie’s change of perception towards China strikingly in the presentation they give at the end of the narrative: from leaping at the opportunity to interact with China, Lizzie lets her flounder in the presentation, their friendship fading in the amount of time it takes the eye makeup to fade from Lizzie’s eyes. I enjoyed this very character-focused narrative, and it was very easy to engage with the Lizzie, the narrator. She is a character who is in the middle of making some questionable decisions, but those decisions are very much in the background here; instead, the emphasis is on her friendship with China and her insecurity and anxiety about her weight.
I have to say that this was not a short story that fared as well in an installment format as ‘Dumpster Diving with the Stars’. Although I enjoyed the narrative, the installments felt a little more forced; partly, I’m sure, this is due to the different paces of the narratives. Being more character-focused and introspective, ‘Full Body’ is fairly slow-paced with the main conflict of the narrative not occurring until the last installment. Whilst this makes for a great piece of short fiction, I don’t think it works so well for being read in installments; I would definitely want to read the rest of Awad’s short fiction as it appears in the book. Overall, again, an enjoyable read and the story from this initiative which I have re-read the most.