Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fat Girl? Says Who?

I wander the hallways of the middle school I work at and I remember how out of place I felt when I was twelve. I was shy because I didn't want to draw attention to myself. I was overweight and so self-conscious. On top of that, I hated being told I was fat. I hated going to the doctor, I hated gym class, I hated everything about middle school. It brought out my weight issues because all the other girls looked the same. They were skinny and perfect. I was fat, so what boy would want to look my way? I couldn't get a date, heck I couldn't even get a compliment. Middle school was the worst time of my life because I just didn't fit in, literally. Going to the richer middle school had its disadvantages because no one was very accepting of differences. Being overweight meant you were a target for bullying and jokes. After reading Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne, I realized if these books were around when I was in middle school perhaps I wouldn't have been so self-loathing.
This books begins with Celeste, who is overweight. She comes home from school, eats her chocolate cookies, and is completely content with this routine. She is always made fun of by the popular crowd, but she has a best friend, Sandy, who always stands up for her. Her parents don't press the weight issue, but Celeste knows everyone views her as the "fat" girl. When her Aunt signs her up for a  plus size model competition, Celeste is horrified. There is no way she is going to try to draw more attention to herself and her weight issues. Then she comes up with an idea: she can't win the Husky Peach competition if she's not fat. So Celeste's weight loss journey begins. She encounters lost friendship, struggles with eating, and she begins to develop the confidence she never knew she had. This story was very sweet and inspiring because shy fat girl turns out to have some confidence in herself. Enough so that in the end, she discovers who her real friends are, and she is not afraid to tell people exactly what she's thinking.
Another book I just finished literally five minutes ago, Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee, dwells on similar issues. Rosie is overweight. Her mother and aunt buy her gifts like weight loss books, treadmills, and work out clothes in order for Rosie to get the hint and drop the pounds. The more she is pushed, the more frustrated she gets. It appears nothing is going to make her food obsession cease, until she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She tries a few of her own weight loss experiments, then slowly begins to see a change in herself. Plus, she has her eye on Kyle, who is a jock and is gorgeous. After seeing a therapist for her weight, her issues become more evident. It appears weight gain and food aren't the only thing Rosie is dealing with. This book is about discovering yourself and realizing that although you may not be a skinny, inside is what matters most. I fell in love with this book! I have been in Rosie's shoes, and I have come out on the other end. I enjoyed her journey, and it is an inspirational story that many overweight girls can relate to.
I liked Artichoke better that Chocolate Cookies because Rosie is a teenage girl who needs to discover herself. Celeste is a young girl who starts losing weight because she didn't want to be in a beauty pageant. Also, Rosie's story was more believable. It was easier to see her ups and downs, and it was easier to understand her frustration and hurt because if you were an overweight girl you could easily relate.
Both of these books were easy to read. Ironically enough, they were my gym reads; just something simple to read that was interesting and kept my mind off the treadmill. These books were published a few years ago, but it means there is hope for the future that authors may begin writing their novels with overweight, curvy, heroines in mind. In addition, it's always nice to read a book about someone who was in, or is in, your position with weight loss. As an adult, I realized in middle school/high school, all I needed was someone to tell me they understood my problem. I needed to hear an inspirational story because maybe I would have pushed myself too. Believe it or not, ever since I started reading those books I have a new outlook on my being overweight. I have begun to see the beautiful things about me rather than the pieces of fat that make me cringe. I have even, gasp, worn shorts twice this year. :) For those of you who know me, you KNOW pigs have officially flown. It sometimes just takes a little inspiration, or a cutely worded novel, to dig you out of a hole.
Another thing I like is these books are giving girls a clear picture that perhaps the size zeros of the world aren't always that well off. T.V  always paints a wonderful picture of fat people becoming thin like magic because that is what is expected and 'right'. The media thinks 'perfect' is a small, delicate girl, with long hair and bright brown eyes. I was so glad that these books were more down to earth and gave a real life picture of what it's like to be struggling with weight loss. Neither of these girls became bean pole thin, but they both felt good about themselves. And it shows young women today that size zero isn't always what is desired, and sometimes it isn't always the healthy route to shoot for. It's really about loving the person you are, and I think that point is frequently missed among the youth today.
Plus by Veronica Chambers is on my list to read soon. It sounds like a Cinderella story of weight loss and yes more self-discovery.We shall see. Check my shelfari update on that one. :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dealing with School, Life, the Usual

Books are always meant to be enjoyed and shared, but there are those that help young adults, and in some cases even adults, learn about the lessons in life. I have a select few that I have come across throughout my high school, college, and teaching career that I felt needed to be passed on.
Laurie Halse Anderson has always proven to be an author that excels at capturing the voice of young adults. I read Speak when I was a sophomore for a independent reading project. It was one of those books that truly caught my attention, especially because I went through a reading drought about that age. I was trying to figure out the secret at the end, but at the same time I was enjoying how pure and emotional Melinda felt. She was so honest and trustworthy, yet she was alone. I myself went through a period where I felt I had no friends, and I felt constantly isolated. At that time, knowing I wasn't the only one gave me such hope and comfort. The group discussions we had revolved around how bad we felt for her, but at the same time it was easy for all of us to relate to her in some way.  Plus, as the old saying goes, you never really know who your true friends are until something bad happens. The book is a great one, especially for young teenagers who are looking for a quick read.
Twisted is a book from a male perspective. Interesting enough right? He's a high school senior, so what do you think is really on his mind? Tyler is a screw-up. He was invisible, but decided he needed to stand out and make sure people remembered him. After he was arrested for graffiti, Tyler was sentenced to a summer full of unpaid manual labor with the school custodians. He returns to school for his senior year ready to be done with everything. Only, Tyler looks different and has definitely caught the eye of his dream girl, Bethany. The problem is: Bethany's twin brother, Chip, has been tormenting Tyler for years. Tyler is invited to a party, and things start to get hot and heavy with Bethany. Instead of giving into his desire, Tyler walks away because Bethany has had a few too many. The next day at school, pictures of Bethany are posted all over the internet. The cops get involved and immediately peg Tyler for the crime because of his record. This is a story of self discovery, being a teenager, and constantly being the "bad" child. Although Tyler's voice was at times very raunchy, readers were able to get a feel for how he was feeling. Plus, if you looked at the surrounding cast, Tyler had a lot of issues he needed to figure out. My 8th grade boys loved it. That could also be because the underlying talks of sex were very clear. Either way, boys will get sucked in because it is finally a 'boy' book.
These are two excellent reads that any young adult could get into. Plus they are quick reads, so it is possible for students to do an independent book project on them in a short time. Great books. I definitely recommend them to adults as well. Who doesn't want to know what a 16 year old is thinking?