5 Stars Reviews

Book Review: Nothing is Okay by Rachel Wiley

Nothing is Okay is Rachel Wiley’s second full-length poetry collection, in which she tackles issues such as race, queerness, fatness, and feminism. It is at once a celebration of the self and a critique of society, asking us to reconsider the ways in which we treat ourselves and others.

"I am still learning how to ask for what I deserve without it also sounding like an apology." - Rachel Wiley, Nothing is Okay
from ‘Belly Kisses’ – Rachel Wiley – Button Poetry

I absolutely adored this collection. It was honest and moving, yet simultaneously had me laughing out loud. The poems vary in structure; some are more traditional, whilst others are more prose than poetry. Some even come in the form of recipes. It made for fun reading that never felt like too much of the same thing.

There were poems which were hilarious – ‘An Incomplete Pinterest Board of Uses for the Abundance of Condoms that Expired After He Left’ and ‘Potential Slogans for OkCupid’ were two of my favourites; I was cracking up reading those two! The overall structure of the collection felt like a comedy routine, as ‘Form Letter to My Exes to Prepare Them for an Oncoming Plague of Girls Who Were Just So Sure’ harkens back to previous poems, which makes it all the more funnier – you feel like you’re in on a particularly witty yet self-depreciating joke.

Then ‘The Fat Joke’ gets real, and I loved it. You can see Rachel Wiley perform this here. It illustrates the reality that for most fat people, any and every ailment is considered by doctors to be caused by their weight, regardless of the complete lack of evidence for that conclusion. This is something that really frustrates me. I’ve always been plus size. As a UK size 16, I’m what the fat community considers ‘small fat’. Yet I’ve still had this happen to me. A doctor once told me that I should lose weight if I wanted to stay on my choice of contraceptive, despite being several points below the maximum recommended BMI for that particular medication. (Not to mention BMI is bullshit). It’s so incredibly frustrating (and interesting that this was from a male doctor, and no female medical professional has ever brought up my weight during an appointment). I definitely could relate to where Wiley was coming from with ‘The Fat Joke’, and it must be so much more common for people fatter than myself.

The comedic aspects of this collection was such a surprise to me, and it was what elevated this collection to five stars in my eyes, but it’s really a very moving and beautiful collection that also has some tender moments in amongst the jest, not to mention some spot-on and sharp critiques of our culture.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Read for the NEWTs Magical Readathon. Class: Ancient Runes. Grade: O.

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