Review: Jemima Small versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter

Blurb: I’m going to tell you the word that ruins my entire life: Big. Because my name is Jemima Small. But I am exactly the opposite.
Jemima Small is funny and smart. She know 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…

Title: Jemima Small versus the Universe

Author: Tamsin Winter

Publisher: Usborne

Genre: Fiction, YA, Contemporary


Meet Jemima Small, astoundingly intelligent and plucky but constantly made fun of for being fat. It takes a while for her to realise it but your worth isn’t defined by what you weigh and sometimes the biggest stars shine the brightest.

I absolutely love seeing body positive YA (and younger) fiction as is everything I would have wanted to read when I was younger. I was a chubby kid and definitely would have benefitted from the message that we get from Jemima’s journey to self confidence. I loved the way that Jemima was written – her intelligence is obvious but pared with a sarcastic sense of humour means that it’s not annoying. I liked that Jemima obviously knows she has talents which only makes it all the more heartbreaking that she feels as though she can’t follow through with her dreams because of her weight. There was such a variety of characters in this story (some who were incredibly supportive, and others who weren’t) but they were all well written. Luna was one of my favourites as she walked the right side of the line between being a free-spirit but not over the top ditzy. A stand out for me was the brother/sister relationship between Jemima and Jasper which was brilliantly written. Full of the teasing that comes along with being siblings but with a wonderful tenderness beneath it all that makes it all worthwhile. There’s such a vulnerability about this story which really stayed with me and had me rooting for Jemima from the start.

I also really appreciated that the Healthy Lifestyle club wasn’t just about losing weight and shaming the kids to exercise more but was more about educating them about different foods and advising gentle exercise with an emphasis on being happy in your own skin. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book as much if this had been different.

As for what I disliked, there wasn’t really much. The only thing I’d pick out is that for a lot of the book, Jemima… Also, there’s mention that Jemima’s mum left them when she was young but the resolution in this case (SPOILER: that she’s on the cruise ship and doesn’t want to talk to them) felt a little bit too minor to really add much. I can understand how it was another way to boost Jemima’s confidence in herself, demonstrating that she doesn’t need her mother to be happy, I would have liked more to come of it in some way.

Overall, I would 100% recommend this book to anyone who needs a little reminder that weight doesn’t define worth and that there’s so much more to all of us than how big or small we are.

Rating: 4/5

Recommend?: Yes

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to know!

You can always find me over on Instagram and Twitter if you’d like to discuss this book (or any others that I’ve created) in more detail 😌

2 thoughts on “Review: Jemima Small versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter

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