Author: K.A. Barson
Genre: YA Contemporary, Social Issues
Publication Date: July 11, 2013
Source: Print ARC from the publisher
Synopsis: Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.
Welcome to the world of informercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.
And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!
☆: 4/5 stars – Well-written and unlike most books with overweight main characters
I’m very privileged in that I haven’t suffered from body insecurities for years, have never been overweight, and never let people, media, or anyone else make me think my size is huge (size 8, for the curious). Worries about my hips being too big, my gut being too fat, or diets? Nothing I need to worry about. Because I’m so comfortable in my body, characters in YA who whine about how plain and not pretty they are because their hair is weird, their hips are huge, they have no chests, etc. get on my nerves like little else. Overweight and anorexic characters, though? Totally different ballgame.
For all those reasons, starting 45 Pounds was a little daunting, but Barson showed me my worries were for nothing. Not only does she write Ann and her dilemma realistically, she breaks a mold overweight characters tend to fall into, shows how weight problems can be passed from parent to child at an early age, and cover even more body insecurities with a deft hand. Nothing delights me more than being pleasantly surprised like this novel surprised me!
Often times, overweight characters seem to fall into a characterization trap. They get teased mercilessly by everyone for their weight, they’re isolated from people, they have no friends, they hate themselves all the time, etc. Of course, there are always exceptions and Ann is one of them. She has plenty of friends and isn’t a complete social pariah just because she’s got more weight on her than is healthy. Truth be told, there are people who make fun of her due to her weight and she spends much of the story being insecure about herself, but it’s written realistically enough to work. It makes me sad such treatment of overweight people like Ann is all too real.
Speaking of Ann, she’s so much fun. Even when she’s struggling to fit into a dress and hating herself for it, she manages to be funny, sad, and poignant all at once. That may not even be the best way to describe it, but the point is that when she’s down, she stays lighthearted enough that you kind of want to laugh but also cry because she has it really, really rough sometimes. Like when one of her co-workers nearly gets away with framing her for theft and when the same girl spikes all of Ann’s drinks.
This isn’t just about Ann’s struggle to lose weight and no, the other subject isn’t the romance because it’s so far back on the backburner that it hardly matters. It’s about the extremes on both ends of the weight scale (underweight and overweight) and how easily either problem can stay part of the family through internalization. One of Ann’s shining moments is when she realizes Libby is picking up her and her mother’s eating habits, which isn’t healthy at all for a four-year-old, and does something about it. The eventual resolution is… Oh lord, there go the tears again. Tissues, please?
My only real complaints are how slowly the book moves despite the novel being so short and some poor word choice. “Revealing” =/= “slutty” to me and when they’re equated, it gets on my nerves. 45 Pounds may have gotten five stars from me without that word choice, so it’s a case of coming so close and one word keeping the book so far away. This sucks every time it happens–and it happens more often than it should.
I’ll keep an eye on any books Barson publishes in the future because there’s no doubt they’ll be just as fun and well-written. She knows what she’s doing and despite a few issues, it’s no doubt going to be one of the best contemporary novels I read in 2013.