The earth, my butt and other big round things (by Carolyn Mackler)

28 11 2010

I love witty titles. And when the story lives up to the title, then this cat is a happy err…bunny. Such is the case with Carolyn Macker’s The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things. As a slightly bulky cat, it’s refreshing to read about a teenage girl, who’s well, let’s just say it…fat and discovers that no one is perfect and that skinny should never be the norm.

Unlike her mother, a psychologist specialized in dealing with adolescent problems,  Virginia Shreves never uses any euphemisms to describe her appearance. Not only that, unlike probably many other overweight teenagers in a world obsessed by scrawny, skeletal models, Virginia is experimenting: with her body (references to self-harm), with her sexuality (the book starts with her blooming relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth), with her character as a good girl (dying her hair, getting a piercing, …). It’s what every other adolescent does, of course, but in a world of thin, the fat girl’s desires are taboo. Virginia, for instance, refers to the Fat Girls Code of Conduct, basically a list of rules set out to make the fatties amongst us invisible to the rest of society.

Besides dealing with her own teen hormones, Virginia has to try to come to terms with the idiosyncrasies of her family. Her brother Byron,  who she’d always put on a pedestal, despite the fact he’s never really paid her much respect, is accused of a horrible act at his Columbia dorm house. Her father never made a secret of his preferences for thin women (try feeling good about yourself when your father gushes over the Kate Mosses and Keira Knightleys of the world). Her mother is the Queen of Denial when it comes to the problems within her own household, favoring curing other broken teens.

This book deals with some serious issues (besides the self-harm, there are references to bulimia, and there’s date rape and the consequences for both victim and perpetrator), but it’s never in your face, and Carolyn Mackler never gives you the impression that she’s judging people. Instead we get Virginia who has to face the problems in her teen universe, and who discovers that not every problem can get a solution and that not everything can or should be perfect. Virginia’s journey into self-discovery will give you a boost of confidence. With Virginia you’ll be ready to face the earth, your butt and other big round things!

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