Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught

Jamie is a big girl. No, scratch that - she's a big fat girl. But don't expect her to roll over and apologize or fade into the background, that's just not her style. She's created her alter ego Fat Girl and the world better watch out, Fat Girl is on the move to prove she deserves respect and love just like everyone else.

She's got a weekly column in her high school paper where she deals with issues that fat people deal with everyday. From discrimination at stores that refuse to carry larger sizes to people who laugh at fat people on the internet to doctors who inflict psychological pain during what should be a routine checkup. She attacks it all with verve. Her column is so popular it actually garners national media attention. But not all the attention is positive - people are beginning to say that she's promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and that she's just a bitter skinny person hater. Which is, of course, blatantly untrue. She just wants people to accept her and other overweight people as they are. And, you know, maybe win a scholarship to college in the process.

Jamie is incredibly involved in school. She's had a leading role in the school play for the past several years, she's on the school paper, she's got a great boyfriend and a couple of incredible friends. However, even with everything she's got going for her she's got things to deal with. The fact that her boyfriend is going to have weight-loss surgery is chief among them. He's made the decision that he'd rather have a risky life-threatening surgery than be fat anymore. How should that make Jamie feel? Will he still love her when he isn't fat anymore? How much of Jamie is actually Fat Girl and how much is a front that she's created to distance herself from the embarrassment, pain, and difficulty that being morbidly obese can cause?

This book deals with obesity in a new way. And by a new way I mean that the point of the story is not that Jamie wants to lose weight. Virtually unheard of in a world where we assume a person like her must want that desperately and above all other things. Instead, she is loud and proud about herself, unashamed and involved in school, addressing and breaking stereotypes with each column she writes. What Susan Vaught has managed to do is to write a compelling story about an overweight teen that is humanizing and emotionally true. Is Jamie really so blase about her weight? Of course not. Deep down would she like to be a "normal" size? Of course she would. Does the fact that she is fat make her less deserving of love, affection, and respect? No freakin way.

An incredibly well written book that deals with obesity in a new and sensitive way. I wouldn't expect anything less from the author of Trigger - an equally well written novel.

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