Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught

This is the second book that I read where the main character is a "fat girl" making an issue of her weight, the previous book being Go Figure by Jo Edwards (December 17). In the previous book the emphasis bugged me, all she did was whine about being fat, but this book didn't have that effect on me. she used her weight to make a point. This was the "fat girl" empowering book I'd hoped for in the previous one.

Jamie starts a column in her school newspaper called "Fat Girl" where she talks about being fat and those implications. She discusses such things as how in plays (she's an actress) the Fat Girl never gets a lead role. She addresses going to the doctor or shopping at a popular store and how Fat Girls are treated. Many of her points are dead on. Then things get personal when her boyfriend Burke, also known as Fat Boy, decides to have bariatric surgery (his stomach stapled). Soon he's getting thinner and she's questioning her position as Fat Girl. On top of that pressure, her column is getting national attention, which at first is good for the scholarship she wants but emotionally trying when they twist her words, her co-worker Heath is sending her mixed signals, and she has the usual senior year pressures. Pretty soon the line between Jamie and Fat Girl becomes blurred and she needs to figure out what she really wants in life.

This book turned out to be pretty decent. At times it runs a little slow but I liked how strong Jamie was in her beliefs. It's about time that someone speaks out about what it's like to be fat and the public's negative reaction to that state of being. Many of her interpretations were dead on and it was very easy to feel her pain. Anyone who has struggled with weight can relate to her and it's nice not to see her give into public pressures. The other characters in the story are nicely developed. Burke turned out to be a nice contrast to Jamie when he loses weight. His obsession with weight loss further drives Jamie's struggle. The character/storyline of Heath might be a little too much for my cynical mind, but hey, it's fiction so why shouldn't the cute guy fall of the "Fat Girl?" It gives us all a little hope.

Aside from being a little slow, this book was worth the read. And, in an ironic twist for Jamie who was under the impression that Fat Girls couldn't be lead characters, her story proved that they can be just that and more.

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