Top Ten Fat Books by Karin Perry
I’ve never been skinny. In elementary school I wasn’t fat, but I was sturdy. In junior high, I was still kind of athletic, but by high school I started to plump up. As an adult, I’ve never been able to wear cute, stylish clothes. Yes, I understand this is due to my choices. I don’t choose my food wisely most of the time. I don’t exercise enough. I like real Coke; I like chocolate; I like naps.
So, when a book comes along with a fat or fat(ish) character I pay attention. I want to read a book that includes a fat character where they have a fulfilling life without having to go through the transformation of weight loss. Again, I understand the need to be healthy and I’m not in any way promoting obesity, but just because someone is big doesn’t mean they deserve less. Fat girls/boys need love, too. They need adventure. They need to be included. They need to have fun.
The ten books you’ll find below are in no particular ranked order. I simply listed them alphabetically by title. These books include fat/fat(ish) characters where a major weight loss transformation isn’t a part of the story.
BIG FAT MANIFESTO by Susan Vaught
Jamie is a high school senior dealing with many of the same stresses most American teens: SATs, college, money, love. But, Jamie has one stress that many of her classmates don’t. She is fat. In fact, she writes the Fat Girl column in the school newspaper detailing the struggles of a fat person in society. She holds no punches in her commentary. When her boyfriend (also fat) decides to get gastric bypass surgery, she agrees to support him even though she is aware of the risks of the procedure. With love from an unexpected place, Jamie learns to feel comfortable with herself and not just her Fat Girl persona.
DOING IT by Melvin Burgess
Sex, Sex, Sex….it seems that is all that is on the minds of the three boys in this book. Dino, Ben, and Jonathan are great friends and all trying to find a way to lose their virginity. Jonathan likes Deborah and wouldn’t mind calling her his girlfriend, but he doesn’t know if he can take the ribbing and teasing he’ll get from everyone at school – including his best friends. Deborah is a “plumper” and Jonathan likes her womanly curves and soft body. The times they have secretly made out have been wonderful, but he doesn’t know if he wants people to know they are together. While Deborah isn’t a main character in the book, she plays an important part in the story.
THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Bianca hates going out with her friends. She loves them, but hates to watch them make fools of themselves on the dance floor and rescue them from inappropriate advances from the jerks at the club. Usually she spends her night sitting at the bar drinking Cherry Coke and talking to Joe, the bartender. One night Wesley, the biggest player at school, sits down next to her and says he just wants to talk. He thinks if he is seen talking to Bianca he’ll have a better chance of getting into one of her friends’ pants. He explains that girls always like it when guys talk to the DUFF of the group. It makes the guy seem sensitive and kind. Bianca just happens to be the DUFF in her circle – The Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Bianca always knew she was plain, but when she hears Wesley call her a DUFF what little self-esteem she had crumbled away. Stress and insecurity cause her to jump into a sexual relationship with Wesley, but she is desperate to keep it a secret. The author does a great job developing the characters, so much so that you fall in love with Wesley even though he is an arrogant jerk.
THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS by Carolyn Mackler
Virginia is extremely insecure about her weight. It doesn’t help that everyone in her family is skinny and always reminds her about what she eats and nags her to lose weight. Her mother sends her to doctors and therapists in an attempt to get her to shed some pounds, but it just doesn’t work. Virginia lives by the Fat Girls Code of Conduct, which includes rules like, “Fat girls don’t kiss and tell, they are lucky to get the kiss in the first place.” So, when she meets Froggie and they start meeting weekly for make out sessions, she doesn’t even consider that he might really like her. It takes a major family tragedy for Virginia to take a step back to really look at her family and realize they aren’t as perfect as they seem to be. While dealing with the crisis, she is able to come to terms with her body image and stand up for herself like never before.
ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor is fat. She has wild red hair and strange clothes that do nothing but draw attention. People at school bully her relentlessly. Her stepfather is abusive and the family is deep in poverty. There is nothing in Eleanor’s life that makes her smile; nothing she looks forward to; nothing to make her feel safe. Park is almost Eleanor’s opposite. He is smallish, fits in at school, and has a family that loves him. Park and Eleanor meet for the first time on the school bus. The only seat available to her is next to him. He really doesn’t want her sitting next to him because she is so weird, but she doesn’t have a choice. Over the course of the school year Eleanor and Park’s relationship changes. Rarely do they talk (at first), but they share so much on that short bus ride each day. Park, in a way, saves Eleanor. Gives her what she’s been missing from her family. Gives her something to look forward to. This is one of the most romantic stories I’ve ever read. It left me a gooey mess at the end.
FAT ANGIE by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Angie is tormented at school because of her size – even more so since her failed suicide attempt in the gym. Her mother provides no support for her situation at school or home when dealing with her sister’s capture in Afghanistan. Angie copes by eating even if it means her classmates and mother call her names like Fat Angie and Crazy Mad Cow. Life gets a little brighter for Angie when a new girl comes to school. K.C. Romance sees Angie for who she is and not how she looks. She defends Angie against her tormentors and gives her the support she needs. K.C. likes Angie for who she is and their relationship develops and changes giving her the confidence to start standing up for herself.
FAT KID RULES THE WORLD by K.L. Going
Troy is fat, miserable, and about to jump in front of an oncoming subway train. He can’t take the people staring at him and laughing at him anymore. Even his brother calls him a loser. Thank goodness he meets Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless, high school dropout guitar genius. After hanging out for a little while, Curt asks Troy to be his new drummer – even though he can’t play the drums and together they change the world of punk, forever. Soon, Big T starts to be okay with being the fat kid and feels confident enough to take some risks.
FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN’T HAVE by Allen Zadoff
This laugh-out-loud funny book tells Andy’s story. He’s the second fattest kid in school that hangs out with the Model UN guys. He’s embarrassed by many things related to his weight, but especially the size tag on the outside of his jeans, proclaiming to all who’ll look that he wears a size 48. He’s used to his life. But, then he meets April. The cheerleader. The Girl of His Dreams. When the quarterback of the football team saves him from getting beat up by a bully, Andy sees his chance to get in with the football players and joins the team. Can he win over April with his football skills? In a sport where his size is a plus, Andy finds a way to be the person he wants to be.
GO FIGURE by Jo Edwards
Ryan Burke is overweight. She completely understands that she is too heavy, but like so many other “chubby” people out there, it is very difficult for her to do anything about it. Diets never last, exercise isn’t a pleasant experience, and it is too easy to fall into the trap of food when she gets stressed or depressed. Ryan is on medication for depression, and has a weekly visit with a psychologist/psychiatrist. Ryan isn’t an unpopular girl; in fact, she has been extremely popular ever since her ex-boyfriend hit it big in the music business. Noah is on the cover of the most recent issue of Rolling Stone and awaiting the release of a new album and word has it, he has written a song inspired by her. Everyone wants to know what it was like being Noah’s girlfriend and she is sick of that monopolizing every conversation see has. The one thing she feels good about is her photography and she has been chosen for a special, weekend course with a well-known photographer. Her next-door neighbor and ex-best friend, Josh, was also accepted for this class, which allows her to reconnect with him. Even though it ends with pretty much a fairy-tale ending, it still is a great novel for anyone to read, especially girls that have issues with weight.
GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD by Karen Healey
I’m happy to add this title to the list because it is the only NON Contemporary Fiction in the bunch. Finally, a character in a fantasy novel that is overweight, AND it isn’t even a main part of the story. The things Ellie has to deal with because of her weight give us a great look into who she is. At the beginning of the story, Ellie is like any other typical New Zealand boarding school student, doing homework and hanging out with her friend. But, when a strange person starts hanging around her best friend and she finds out the boy she likes isn’t who he seems to be, her life begins to change. Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality.
Karin Perry is a former middle school librarian and current Assistant Professor of Library Science at Sam Houston State University. She loves that her job consists of reading young adult novels. She keeps track of her reading on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/kperry and currently blogs at http://karinlibrarian.tumblr.com. (Previous reviews can be found at http://www.karinsbooknook.com, but she has moved to Tumblr temporarily due to time constraints.) She lives with her husband of 18 years and her Chihuahua, Max on 29 acres in rural Oklahoma. You can find her on Twitter at @kperry.