Yay! I finally read The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. I really loved this book but it felt a little dire at first. The main character, Virginia, has a great voice…she is a really likeable character but she seems to have no friends and her parents are just awful and her big sister is in Africa…she just seems to have no one (even her best friend has moved away) … but I hung in there because with all teen novels (and almost all stories) it gets better…and it finally does for Virginia. I found much of this story interesting because Virginia is overweight. Though this seems to be a huge problem for her it is hard to tell just how overweight she is. At times she refers to herself as “chubby” but she shops in the plus size department at Saks where she feels like everything is for 40 yr old women. Well, I am chubby and I don’t need to shop at matronly plus size places…I mean even if my mom dragged me there (like poor Virginia) nothing would fit right. Also, just being “chubby” shouldn’t affect your self esteem to the point of having only one friend in high school. Sometimes when I read these books with a weight issue I wish I could get a photo (because even a number doesn’t always satisfy me…you’ll see why in bit) because I want so deeply to understand what the character is experiencing on that level. I really think Virginia’s biggest problem is not her weight but her mother and that does come through in the book… and though she tries crash dieting Virginia ultimately realizes if she wants to change her shape she needs to do it for herself. And she doesn’t lose it all to become a glam and fabulous person who now is popular etc. … that would really turn me off. But by realizing some other things and changing her outlook and attitude she does gain the friends and confidence she has been looking for. I do like that she didn’t have to lose weight to “win” but she does want to be a more healthy person. I’d love to read about Virginia and her life in another year or two.
Interestingly I read another “weight issue” book just after putting The Earth…down. It’s called Flavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw and Allison blogged it pre-reading. Sorry to beat you to the punch but it’s one of my review books and it just looks so tempting! The cover has a chocolate dipped cherry hovering above the title written in chocolate script….who can resist? It’s also a slim book…meaning: quick read. I absolutely loved this book! It is a gem. Great voice, amazing character development of Cyril (think Cyrano and you will see the major plot line here…nice nod to the inspiration by the way). But what makes this an interesting tie-in to The Earth… is that Cyril is an overweight teen too …but a boy… he loves to cook and wants to be a chef but he also has a bad habit of emotional eating. It’s never explained here why he developed this habit though we see why he does it…stress, nervousness, unpleasantness…and usually we see this as a female trait. But what makes this book different from some of the overweight girl books I have read is that even though Cyril isn’t thrilled about being overweight and it definitely affects his self-esteem he does not diet. Never, not once and never thinks about it. Exercise or lack of is not discussed. It’s just interesting because even though we have seen a lot of change in this area I do think it is more socially acceptable for a male to be overweight than a female. In fact, and this brings me to my photo comment earlier…Cyril is 240 pounds. Now I might not just remember but I don’t think we learn how tall he is and depending on that and his build 240 might not look so bad. If I knew Cyril was 350 then I would know we are talking about a mammoth sized person. Anyway, he has friends, his family does not berate him for his size, he hears maybe one insult…just such a vast difference from the above book but also another one I read recently, Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins (which is fantastic but also a bit on the dire side at first). And I am not saying that Cyril’s life is perfect despite the weight but it’s an interesting difference to notice. It has put me in the mood anyway to re-read Judy Blume’s Blubber just to see how far or little we have come in dealing with weight and body image. I also have Fat Kid Rules the World on my nightstand so I should probably approach that one soon for even more indepth comparisons! Maybe if I ever brave grad school again I will study Children’s Lit and write a thesis on weight in the teen novel….hmmm, has probably been done before. Nevertheless, two great reads!
Oh! I almost forgot…Flavor of the Week includes recipes…ok an overweight female novel would never do this! Am I wrong on that one?