Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Book: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Author: Carolyn Mackler
Published: 2003

The Shreve family are the perfect examples of--well--perfection. They’re all successful, intelligent, popular, slender, and good-looking. And then there’s fifteen-year-old Virginia. Overweight, underconfident, and directionless, she’s the exception to the Shreve rule, and the unspoken shame of the family. She lives her life under the radar, attempting not so much to get ahead as to get by. She knows the Fat Girl Code of Conduct . . . keep your head down at all times and maybe they’ll let you live.

Then something happens that starts to crack the facade of perfection in the Shreve family, forcing Virginia to re-evaluate herself, her position in the family, and every other member in it. When the yardstick by which you measure your worth begins to crumble, what happens to you?

More than simply the body-image and eating-disorder issues explored in this novel (Virginia flirts briefly with anorexia and bulimia), the way Virginia’s family treats her show clearly how she got where she is. The cues are sometimes subtle, sometimes smack-in-the-face obvious, but always the message is, “We would love you and respect you, if only you were someone different.” Even Virginia’s memories of her rebellious and inspiring older sister have the flavor of pat-on-the-head pity about them. It’s her job, in this novel, to move away from this image and into one unaffected by her appearance-obsessed parents.

For some reason, I was expecting a much lighter-hearted book than I got. Maybe because of the title or artwork, I’m not sure. Anyway, I was blown away by this ferocious story of a girl who’s always considered herself to be naturally at the bottom of the ladder, and discovers that the only one who can keep her there is herself.

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