Author: KA Barson
Publication Date: July 11, 2013 (Penguin – North America)
Genre: YA Contemporary, Tough Stuff, Social Commentary
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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 infomercial 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!
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a tender, yet lighthearted story about a very sensitive subject.
Review: If you’ve ever had major body image issues, or are struggling to feel comfortable in your own skin, this is definitely a book you need to read. Hell, it’s a book mothers and daughters should read together. I have some serious body dysphoria/image issues myself and grew up with a mother who was anorexic for half of my childhood, so to say that “45 Pounds” was a meaningful book for me would be putting it lightly. Barson hits the nail on the head on these issues in this book so well, and it’s not just about a fat girl wanting to get thin. It’s about a whole culture that focuses on the idea of being thin, even if inside you’re incredibly unhealthy, both in body and mind. It’s about finally feeling okay in your own skin, even if you may not be someone’s ideal of perfection. So if you have any interest of any of these issues, “45 Pounds” is definitely the book for you.
This book’s biggest strength (and it has a LOT of strengths) is this: it shows the weight gaining/shedding/body image/self-harm issue from both extremes. It shows Ann’s fight on one end of the extreme, and her mother’s own fight on the other end of the extreme. It shows the breadth of the entire body image/self-harm tie-in issue in many many shades of gray, and I have to praise Barson for that. So many YA contemporary books only show one side of the issue – not both. It’s difficult to manage to fit in one side of the issue alone, much less both. And Barson does it with wit and grace, which made it all the easier to relate to.
Second awesome point: Ann is one of the most relatable YA contemp MCs I’ve come across in awhile. Her voice is very strong, and a lot of the worldbuilding that goes on in this book is internal (the emotional landscape), instead of external (physical scenery, the local backdrop). So much of this is what’s going on inside of Ann’s head and heart, so the decision to make the worldbuilding more internal than external was a really good one, to say the least. We hear her voice, while she talks about the friends she loses, the friends she gains, her mother’s “unconscious” criticisms, and all of the smack she gets for not being of an ideal weight. We hear Ann loud and clear here, and to have such a strong voice in a MC is hard to get right, but Barson did it really well.
And did I mention there are gay aunts? And a gay wedding? No? Well, there are. And I love that this book is getting released so soon after the SCOTUS decisions on DOMA and Prop 8. For those not in the States, look it up on Wikipedia. It makes this book all the more awesome, and it finally feels like the whole gay marriage/relationship thing is finally getting less risky to publish within the world of YA, which just makes me want to cheer. Seriously.
Admittedly, I did kind of cringe at the hint of “the moral of the story is…” bit at the end of the book, as I’m really not into that in my books, regardless of age marketing or genre. However, since this book is such an important one, I’m not going to ding it for having a “moral of” bit. In the States, our healthcare system is broken, we’re getting more and more obese as a people each year, and yet we’re still getting these weight loss ads/schemes/scams pushed in our faces, along with designers making their sizes smaller and smaller. Someone has to talk about this dissociative part of our culture – and Barson does with the idea of the Snapz! clothing store. That entire part of the book (which ends up being a pretty significant part of things) made me laugh, but it also made me think. It’s a great bit of social commentary, and I’m glad that it was in there.
Final verdict? If you want a fluffy book that still deals with some very serious issues, “45 Pounds” is the book you need to read. Definitely part of my best of 2013 list so far, it’s out July 11, 2013 in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!