Our Selective Collective book for July is “45 Pounds (More or Less) ” by K. A. Barson. Diana reviews it below, but I wanted to share that it was a particularly hot-button read for us, because we grew up with a petite and beautiful mom who criticized both of us for our weight, and we know how hard it can be to feel worthy when even your mom — the person who is supposed to love you best — is desperate for you to shed those pounds. And even though Diana is a lifetime member of Weight Watchers (sadly I am not — yet!), we still feel like people who’ve never had to struggle with their weight have no idea how enormous a burden it can be, especially when you’re young, like the main character Ann. We hope you’ll read all of the Selective Collective features and enter the giveaway for a chance to win the book. — Sandie
Many thanks to Penguin for sending us all copies for review purposes, and of course to K.A. Barson for answering our questions!
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!
K. A. Barson has written yet another novel that deals with a teen’s body issues. There are many contemporary YA books that tackle this ever-present topic, chronicling the lives of protagonists with anorexia, bulimia, obesity, gastric bypass surgery, or just plain adolescent dieting. So I admit it was with some trepidation that I started “45 Pounds.” What I found, instead, was a funny and honest account of a 16 year old not only dealing with being overweight, but dealing with her relationships — with her skinny and perfect-seeming mother, her indifferent father with his new family, her suddenly uncommunicative brother, and a host of friends and frenemies alike.
In addition to being a dreaded double-digit size, Ann Galardi has a hefty serving of other relatable issues on her plate: she needs a job, wants a boyfriend, has problems with her best friend, and doesn’t feel part of a family (both her mother and father are remarried with two other kids or stepchildren). That’s what makes “45 Pounds” interesting; it’s not a shallow makeover tale, where Ann suddenly goes from size 17 to 1. Ann has bigger considerations in her life than her weight, and she’s trying to navigate all of those realistic teen problems without much support.
Barson has created an array of characters that add dimension to the story. Ann’s fractured relationship with almost everyone in her family (with the exception of her sassy grandmother, with whom she’s incredibly close) make this book more appealing to adult readers. Ann’s mother is one of those stereotypically thin women with a seemingly perfect body that still always talks about how “fat” she is at every meal or mall outing. Everyone knows someone like that — the size-2 friend in the string bikini who obsesses about the size of her thighs, even though they don’t touch! — but for Ann it’s even worse, because that person is her mother. Then there’s Ann’s father who is not her in her life. Ever since her parents’ divorce he is rarely around. Ann likes her stepfather, and she loves her twin half-siblings, but she sometimes feels that she doesn’t “fit in” with her mother’s new family or her father’s. Added to her sadness is the fact that her older brother is away at college and is also no longer returning her emails or texts. Then there’s Gram, the one person that Ann can really be herself with; Gram is funny and has some of the book’s best lines.
There’s a slow and sweet little romantic subplot, but it takes a backseat to Ann’s realizations about her family and friendships. The guy is adorable, but the romance is just icing on the low-fat cake. This is really the story of a girl — a big girl with a big heart — who wants to feel connected and confident, and by the end she’s both.
Overall, “45 Pounds (More or Less)” is a fun treatment of a topic that has certainly been covered extensively in YA books. It’s a perfect book to read while traveling or on the beach, or for anyone who has struggled with dieting.
Make sure to check out everyone else in the Selective Collective’s features!