I think I first read an extract of this online, a sneak peek published to advertise the book. I had recently rewatched Matilda, fallen in love with her story and the character all over again, and found Mara Wilson’s twitter of funny and current retweets and original one liners. So I was intrigued by her new book, exploring her transition from child star to young woman no longer in the lime light, and wanted to know a bit more about Mara herself.
There were a few point throughout the book where I had to sit back and go ‘yeah. That.’ I’m not going into detail, but she talks about her mothers death, growing up with only one parent, and that connection she feels when she meets someone else who has lost a parent. My dad died when I was younger, and I feel that hesitation too, when people ask you ‘what so your parents do?’ or something like that. That ‘how do I tell them the truth without making them pity me, or dampen the mood, how do I get it out there when I meet new friends, that it’s a thing, just know this fact about me, and then act like I’ve never told you’ awkwardness. I don’t talk about my dad, I’m okay about him being dead (okay, obviously I’m not, but I was 7 when it happened. I’m now 23. I don’t mean that I’m ‘okay’ about it, but it’s been my life for so long now that I can get by just fine.) But it’s awkward. I have friends from uni who I’ve known for 5 years now, and I haven’t told them, because I don’t know how to bring it up without making it awkward, or at least awkward for them (which I know I shouldn’t be bothered about but, you know. I seem to have gone on a tangent here.)
She also talks about Matilda, and how it meant so much to her, but also how much that fictional little girl meant to so many other little girls around the world. Who needed to hear that it was okay to be smart and like reading and now have loads of friends and that if you have bad parents, there are ways out of those shitty situations. I know how unlikely it is for a teacher to adopt a student, but the message of ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’ always made me love Matilda more.
One of the main topics that keeps rearing it’s ugly head (pun not intended) is that of Hollywood beauty standards and how cute little girls growing up through puberty while in the public eye is full of insecurities and being sexualised far before it should be deemed okay (it should never be okay, but you know what I mean. These are preteen girls.) Emma Watson has talked about this a lot, as a prominent female figure who went through the same thing as Mara, and how as soon as she turned 16 or 18 or whatever the media deemed a ‘suitable’ age, the attitude towards her changed, and she felt harassed and violated. Talking from first hand experience, Mara delves into these experiences with a seriousness that makes you know it’s so far from okay, but with a light touch of humour that she spreads throughout the whole book.
And then there’s the beauty standards thing too, how she’s not deemed ‘naturally beautiful’ or some other bullshit like that, how she, as a normal sized teenager was put up for the roles of the ‘fat friend’, and how it’s left her with enormous insecurities. And she touched on how she knows that she, as a white woman, has it easy when it comes to this. How she has no idea what other women of colour, actual plus size ladies, trans woman, disabled women, and other marginalised groups go through in the same industry.
Overall, I thought this was a really interesting read. I flew through it and it proved to be an eye opening insight into an industry which I think we all know is hugely problematic and harmful. She’s open and honest, from losing those close to her, to mental health issues and beyond, and I would definitely be interested in reading anything else Mara Wilson puts out in the future. Definitely recommend, 4/5 stars.