Title: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
Author: Mona Awad
Publisher: Penguin Books
Expected Publication: February, 23 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Summary: Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks-even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?
In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.
I know I most typically read and review YA books, but I recently requested to read this one, mostly for the title. I am a huge advocate of body positivity and love when I find books that don’t have the typical narrator. Although this book was very much not what I was expecting. I thought that this book would be all about self love and learning to love yourself the way you are. And while this book did have a good message, it was actually quite dark. Not that I don’t appreciate dark every now and then. It helps when I read the really cheesy, happy ending books. 13 Ways just struck a chord with me. I recognized so much of myself in Lizzie and the choices she made. Which really helped me understand what Lizzie was going through. Growing up Lizzie is constantly reminded, as most young girls are in this society, that being fat is not okay nor attractive. And while she watches her friends go out and date she is left behind. After awhile she turns to the internet. There she meets a slew of creepy men. What breaks my heart is how many young children are turning to the internet. Lizzie feels that no one will love her if they look at her, so it’s better to be an anonymous face on the internet where she can pretend these men are interested than to face being alone.
What I love about this book is the fact that this sort of mentality that Lizzie has follows her all through life. Fat is the worst possible thing for Lizzie and it this book just shows how far one person is willing to go to be desirable. And yet when Lizzie reaches that point she still describes herself as ugly or gross. She never fully accepts or appreciates that she lost weight, all she can think is how she has to keep it off. One night of eating junky food sends her in a downward spiral. And another thing that is great about what Mona does is she show how the things we hate about ourselves or learn to hate about ourselves will follow us for as long as we let it. And while I went in to this book thinking about happy endings and magic woman who realize the only thing they needed was to love themselves, I am really really glad I didn’t get it. Because this book is so much more than that. This book shows the darker side of what happens when a woman is taught to hate her body. It shows that not all woman come to terms with this idea that skinny does not equal perfect or beautiful. This book shows how one woman is so consumed by “the perfect body” that it consumes her every thought. And I think this is a book that women and men should read. It’s not light, it’s dark and at times extremely sad, but it gets across the point that woman have such immense pressure to be this idea of perfect that no one will ever really meet. We get to see a side to what this perfect body idea really does to woman.
And while this book was definitely interesting. The chapters where in different perspectives. One being Lizzie, her husband, one written as if from an outsider looking in. I quite enjoyed the change. There was just something very interesting about the way that Mona chose to write this book. The ending was also very interesting and very well done. There wasn’t a neat bow and everything worked out, like I said this book was a bit dark, but it wasn’t hopeless. Reading this you feel for Lizzie and you can’t help but cheer a bit at the end. The way she gets to where she is is definitely a very interesting ride. This book is not for everyone, but I honestly think that it is something worth reading. It’s also a very quick read. I finished it in about a day and a half. Mona is definitely an author to keep your eye on and I can’t wait to see what she does next.