Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just the Way You Are

Expected Publication:  July 11th, 2013
45 Pounds (More or Less)
By: K.A. Barson
Viking Juvenile
ISBN-13:  9780670784820

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!

     Ann feels good about herself as a person, but is ashamed of her weight most of the time.  Clothes shopping with her size 6 Mom who is obsessed with food and being thin does nothing good for her self-esteem either.  Ann is super excited when her Aunt Jackie wants her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, but feels like now she has to lose the weight.  Can she lose 45 pounds in 2 1/2 months?  Learning some important things about herself through a journey of infomercial diets, cute guys, a job at the mall's pretzel shop and disappointing family members, will Ann realize her dream?   This book seemingly is fairly superficial, with the generic fat girl looking to lose some pounds so she can fit in better with her family/be accepted by people and wear 'thin' clothes.  Underneath the surface this book contains so much more than that!  Ann is so achingly real that it makes your heart hurt.  A lot of people (myself included) can identify with the struggle of dieting and losing weight.  On top of that Ann's brother has cut himself off from the rest of the family (including her for some reason), her Dad has a new family and so does her Mom - neither of which seems to have a place for Ann.  Also, her Mom is really critical and obsessed with food, weight and the like.  With the constant pressure to be more like her it's a wonder Ann isn't even more screwed up. 
     And I read another person's review that said the author should have made Ann get more pleasure from food, not portraying it as just mindless binge-eating.  Barson is really realistic in this aspect to me anyways, because when you're an emotional eater you might enjoy the food, but just as often you can be crying in despair as you consume it.  As a former and sometimes still upset eater, it makes you feel even worse when you eat to fill an empty place or to comfort yourself from another unpleasant emotion.  Food doesn't fill the spaces, it just gives a temporary fix and makes you feel worse in the end for your weight problems.  So to me it wasn't mindless binge-eating, there was a very real context to it.  Ann's decision to do it to be healthy, to please herself and in spite of her Mom, not because of her, was a tough one and she does slip occasionally. 
   But  seeing her come to realizations about who she is, what she wants and that her life is only hers is very beautiful.  Also the terrifying realization of how her and her Mom's very opposite approaches are negatively affecting her younger sister (not even school-age yet) and her perception of food acts as a wakeup call.  It also brings to light things Ann never knew about her Mom's past.  I loved the side characters, Aunt Jackie and her wife nee fiancé are two of my favorites.  I feel like the romance with Ann and Jon was really cute, but pretty much background noise.  It was fairly underdeveloped enough for me to not be able to use it as a major grading factor for this book.  The whole debacle with Ann's job at the pretzel store in the mall was painfully realistic and it made me cringe with the way her boss treated her when it came down to the wire.  The mean girls in the book were about the same as every other YA mean girl, and I did like that Ann became friends with one of them towards the end of the book.  This book also shows the perils of using those infomercial diets and how they can be worse for you than overeating/bad eating.  I only wish that the conflict with Ann's brother Tony and his disconnect had actually had some more attention/resolution.  This book was thought-provoking, heartbreaking and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a book that will stay with them long after it ends.
VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication is July 11th, 2013.*

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