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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: 45 Pounds (more or less)

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson

Book Type: YA lit, summer story

Stereotype Alert: Mean Girls, 

Cover Art: Meh.  Pretty chick-lit-y.

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Jon/ Grandma/mom or Courtney

Character Score: 7 out of 10 Mr. Micawbers

X-Factor: Tell it like it is, sister!

What's the Story?:  16 year-old Ann is sick of being fat and sick of comparing herself to her perfect size 6 mother.  When her aunt Jackie asks Ann to be in her wedding, the horrifying thought of bridesmaid dress shopping gives Ann a new reason to try and diet.  Again.

Stereotype Alert: There was def some Mean Girls type stuff going on here.  And not the ditzy, quotable one-liner type stuff, either.  Bullying isn't cool, guys. And neither are cliques. Quit being so lame.

Cover Art: Meh.  I know this is supposed to be Ann at a department store trying on a bunch of clothes and hating every minute of it, but it's so... chick-lit-y.  I feel like there is more to this book than that and that it should be reflected on the cover.  *sigh*

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Um, anyone would sleep with Jon- he's super hawt.  I want to marry Ann's Grandma so I can hang out with her and see all of her hilarious outfits.  And I have equal parts hatred for both Courtney and Ann's Mom.

Character Score: I love Ann.  I love her.  I don't care what size she is, she is sweet and awesome.  Pepper in Ann's grandmother and Raynee and we have a great cast of characters that keep me reading.

What's the Story?:  16 year-old Ann Galardi doesn’t exactly have a perfect life.  Her parents got divorced and her mother remarried and had twins.  Her brother doesn’t talk to any of the family.  Her best (and pretty much only) friend changed schools.  Her perfect size 6 mother is making her go shopping for a swimming suit.  But if Ann admits to her mother that she is a size 17, she knows it will only cause her mother to guilt her into yet another diet.  And Ann has tried them all.  Several times. 

But when Ann’s aunt Jackie announces that she’s getting married and that she wants both of the Galardi ladies to be in the wedding, Ann thinks she may have some new motivation.  Ann vows to lose 45 pounds in the next several months in order to fit into a normal dress.   The first step in her new weight-loss plan is to buy the Secrets 2 Success diet plan that she saw on an infomercial.  It comes with all of her daily meals prepackaged and a workout DVD.  This is going to be a challenge.  Ann loves food.  LOVES it.  How is she going to survive on lasagna that tastes like a sponge and salads with “low fat” dressing that looks like it’s made out of plastic?  More importantly: how is she supposed to pay for all of this?  When Ann finally finds a job at the mall she has a new challenge: how is she supposed to work at the Twisted Pretzel in the food court and not eat those tasty pretzels with the nacho cheese? 

Though Ann may be hungry, life during her new diet isn’t all bad.  There was that really cute guy who stopped by the pretzel place to flirt with her.  And it turns out that Raynee, member of one of school’s most popular cliques, works at the Twisted Pretzel.  And it turns out she’s pretty nice.  And she invites Ann to the hottest party of the summer. 

Life post-party isn’t all that great.  Ann gets totally embarrassed at the party.  Then Raynee’s best friend accuses Ann of being rude to customers and eating tons of pretzels at work.  Then Ann notices her younger half-sister having a tea party with her stuffed animals and telling them that they can’t have any cake because it will make them fat.  Suddenly, Ann’s weight issues take on a whole different dimension.  Between her past habits of gorging herself and her mother’s habit of never eating Ann realizes that the real problem in with all of this food stuff isn’t about her fitting into a bridesmaid dress; it’s about the message that is being sent to a four-year-old.

X-Factor: Barson does a great job with this book.  She tells it like it is and creates a lovable, believable teen protagonist who is seriously doubting herself.   When I first read the synopsis on Netgalley I immediately requested a copy because it made me think of Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee (which, if you haven't read, you need to- post haste).  I was so relieved that though there are some stereotypes and a bit of cheesiness now and then, this wasn't a book about how fat kids need to learn self control and exercise more.  This was about the complexity of self worth and broken families and how eating can turn into a form of self-medicating.  How trying your hardest won't always flip a magic switch and solve all of your issues.  I was lucky enough to be fairly slim as a teenager.  But EVERY woman has those feelings of doubt when it comes to weight and how others see you.  No matter what size you are, you have felt the things that Ann is feeling.  My one and only problem with this book was that, though the story is clearly Ann's, I felt that her mom needed to own up to her issues.  Not just an "I'm sorry.  I didn't realize that I'm always bashing you for eating the food you like and that it makes you feel guilty that I never eat anything and complain about how fat I am."  She needs therapy on a lot of levels and that is really the only way that she can change to make life better for Ann and Libby (and herself).  

45 Pounds (more or less)  is available in stores on July 11th.  If you know any teenage girls, like teenage girls or were a teenage girl, you should probably read it and pass it on. 


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