Author Jane Green opens her debut novel, Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans (2001), with a phrase women the world over have uttered time and time again: "God, I wish I were thin."
Readers meet Jemima Jones, a newspaper reporter, who is repeatedly passed over because of her weight; she describes herself as "bored, fat and unhappy." She keeps a drawer full of pictures of supermodels for inspiration; "Laetitia's there for her sex appeal, Christy's there for her lips and nose, and Cindy's there for the body." Jemima does not get promoted at work because of her appearance; it seems she is forever doomed to write the "Top Tips" column about home improvements. The man of her dreams, star reporter Ben, is certainly not interested in anything she has to offer. And sadly, Jemima goes home each night to roommates who are less than sympathetic to her plight, thin and gorgeous themselves.
At the behest of her friend, Geraldine, Jemima joins an online dating service and posts a picture of what she wouldlook like if she lost that pesky extra 100 pounds she has been carrying around. Jemima meets Brad virtually, a gym owner based in Los Angeles. After Brad invites Jemima (known simply as "JJ" in cyberspace), she realizes that she has sold him a false bill of goods. Determined to look the part, Jemima joins a gym, colors her hair and becomes the woman in the photo. Jemima heads to Los Angeles to meet Brad in person. Once there, she learns that all is not as it seems and that perhaps even perfect Brad has a few secrets.
Even after Jemima becomes the person she wants to be on the outside, she still has unresolved issues on the inside. Through it all, she learns to be happy with who she is and that being thin does not always translate into happiness. Jemima J embraces the spirit of the ugly duckling turned into a swan premise, delivering a happy ending for all.