28 Jun 2016

#GuestPost: UNICORN TRACKS by Julia Ember

Hello everyone! I have a special post for you today that I was really lucky to scoop up. Julia Ember, author of UNICORN TRACKS, was talking on Twitter about writing a post about plus-sized heroines and made a general call out for someone to host it on their blog so naturally I said ME PLEASE! I am really glad I did because this is an ah-mazing Guest Post (and it totally made me cry). Read it below to learn about why Julia included a plus sized heroine and why it's so important for body positivity in YA books! But first, let's learn more about Julia's novel...


Author: Julia Ember
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Publication Date: April 21, 2016

After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.

Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.

On Plus-Sized Romantic Heroines in YA Fiction 

Julia Ember for Books and Ladders 

I am a plus-sized woman. Throughout my teen and adult life, my weight has fluctuated greatly. At the time of writing, I weigh 192lbs and wear a UK Size 18.   I’m also a polyamorous bisexual woman. I’ve dated a lot of plus-sized women and I have been deeply sexually attracted to each one of them, often in love to one degree or another. When I look at their bodies, my brain doesn’t see “fat” it sees softness, curves, bright eyes and clever minds. To me, their bodies have always been beautiful. Never mind that two of my SERIOUS celebrity lady crushes, Fluvia Lacerda and Tess Holliday, are both plus sized. I appreciate their bodies. I approached them with wonder. 

But when I look at myself, I often struggle to maintain that feeling of love and appreciation.  Something about that beauty I see in other women doesn’t always translate to how I see myself. I like my eyes. I think my face is pretty from certain angles when my chin doesn’t show. But whatever body dysmorphia exists inside me doesn’t always allow me to see my own body as beautiful. Instead, I see my body as a barrier to the narrative I want for myself.  When I start to date new romantic partners, I think about my size. I wonder if I should bother to take that step towards a first date or if I should put my life on hold to lose weight. Sometimes, I wonder if my existing partners are repulsed by me in bed, even though I have dated women with similar proportions, I have always wanted to touch every inch of them. 

I think in terms of fat representation and acceptance, the world has made a lot of progress in recent years. Stores have expanded their size ranges. Agencies have hired plus-sized models. Celebrities like Meghan Trainor have started bringing curves into vogue. 

But still, there’s that question of narrative. What is the fat girl’s story? If you listen to Hollywood, the fat girl functions for comedy and tragedy. Even though plus-sized actresses like Melissa McCarthy have developed careers for themselves in recent years, they are still only cast in comedies or as sidekicks. They are not the leads. They are not cast opposite Ryan Gosling or Idris Alba. They aren’t the Bond girls.

It’s easy for fat ladies to internalise what our cultural constantly reminds us. We’re for comedy. We’re the sidekicks. Never the stars. Our narratives aren’t sexy or adventurous, and they certainly aren’t filled with clandestine romance with hot people. No, if romance exists for fat women in film at all, it’s with another undesirable stereotype and again for comic relief. Isn’t it funny that the two people nobody else wanted in the film would find each other? 

Sadly, YA Fiction doesn’t do a whole lot better with Fat Representation than Hollywood. The YA community has made great strides too. Books like Dumplin’ have really provided positive role models for heavy teens with narratives. But there is so much work to be done in providing teens with narratives for themselves, where the book does not revolve around fat representation, but where the heroine is simply larger. These girls need to get the hot guy or girl. They need fight bad guys. And they need to do it without losing weight. 

For the purpose of research while writing up this blog posted, I hunted on GoodReads for a more comprehensive list of YA with plus-sized heroines. I think a new one will need to be made, but I did find this: 

What struck me the most while looking through it is the percentage of these books that are somehow about being fat. In other words, they’re issues books. While issues books do have their place, as a fat girl I’ll be the first to tell you, I ALREADY think I have an issue. What I needed as a teen and what I feel I still need to see, are more books with fat heroines whose weight is not something to overcome, but a simply an attribute of them. 

When I dreamed up Unicorn Tracks, I knew that I wanted to cast plus-sized teen as my female romantic lead. Kara is wild, intelligent and fierce. She’s stunningly beautiful with flame-red hair and freckled alabaster skin. She’s also heavy. The main character, Mnemba, is athletic, extremely gifted, romantic. She’s fit, has brutally intense eyes, a flawless umber complexion and badass hair. She’s classically sexy and she’s in love with the fat girl.

I would love to see more fat and sexy heroines in YA, especially in Speculative Fiction, which unfortunately seems to lag chronically behind Contemporary on all issues of diversity. Why this should be the case in fantasy worlds not bound to our own standards of beauty or societal prejudices, I don’t know. As a community, I often feel like we’re failing overweight teenage girls. We need to think beyond comedic sidekicks and issues books. Narrative is so important and I don’t want today’s teen girls to think that they deserve anything less than happiness.  
Originally from Chicago, Julia Ember now resides in Sunny Scotland where she learned to enjoy both haggis and black pudding. She spends her days working as a professional Book Nerd for a large book wholesaler, and her nights writing YA Romantic Fantasy novels.  She also spends an inordinate amount of time managing her growing city-based menagerie of pets with Harry Potter themed names.

A world traveller since childhood, Julia has now visited over 60 countries. Her travels inspire the fictional worlds she writes about and she populates those worlds with magic and monsters.

Connect with the Author:


  1. While I'm not considered plus sized, I'm nowhere near being a size 0. I just consider myself to be average because honestly what adult can fit into half those tiny sizes they sell in the stores? So I can't say I relate to some of these issues but I do understand.

    I did read Unicorns Tracks about a month ago and loved it. I remember the lines saying that Kara was not a small girl but in my mind it didn't matter. She was a great character that I fell in love with without having seen her. I love that you so effortlessly put in so much diversity in your book. You had the plus sized girl, a girl from a different race and even a f/f romance going on and it just worked. I'd love to see more authors take that technique and apply it to their books too! You're doing a great job with our YA community :)

    1. Hi Chelsea!

      Thank you so much! I would definitely love to see more authors write plus-sized YA heroines, as well as inter-racial couples. The world is so vibrant with diversity, no reason books shouldn't reflect that!

  2. Thank you for sharing this! It is so important for young girls and teenage girls to have heroins they can related to and plus size main characters have definitely been lacking. I look forward to picking Unicorn Tracks up soon!

    1. Hi Kristin!

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I absolutely agree with you. I'd love for someone to put together a more definitive list, so teens had somewhere to go to look. But I think it's hard to know how the rep will be done without reading all the books.

      I hope you enjoy UT if you choose to read it!! <3


Thanks for commenting! I cherish each and every comment. If you leave me a link to your blog, I will do my best to comment back!