Big Fat Manifesto
by Susan Vaught
YA fiction. 308 pp.
Feeling sorry for the Fat Girl?For starters, I'd say this book is far from hilarious. As a point of fact, I really didn't like this book. At all. Oprah's Kids Reading List be damned. I'm not even sure now how this book ended up on my To Read list, seeing as how I can't find any reviews of it in the blogs I generally haunt. Even more, any blogger who does mention it (at least the bloggers I'm finding on Technorati) couples it with The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things and Fat Kids Rules the World—two books that I truly despise, the former because all it has going for it is an awesome title and the latter because I think the book would have been better had the protagonist succeeded in flinging himself in front of the subway at the beginning of the book.
Let's take care of a few myths right now, before you even start to stereotype:
Myth Number One. Speak gently to poor Fat Girl. She can't help her terrible disability.
Myth Number Two. Poor Fat Girl needs to be educated about her problem.
Myth Number Three. Poor Fat Girl laughs to hide her tears.
Myth Number Four. Poor lonely Fat Girl can't get a date.
Myth Number Five. All poor Fat Girl wants to do is lose weight.
Writing a column every week in the school newspaper about what it really means to be fat, Jamie Carcaterra—high school senior, star of her school's production of The Wiz, and features editor of The Wire—offers readers a searing and hilarious account of her full-size fight to change the thinking of a very thin world.
I do remember that one of the primary reasons I picked up this book is because of one of my biases (like I said before, we're all bigots in one regard or another, and I do recognize mine) and I thought that perhaps by entering into the psyche of a fictional character I might be able to learn some sympathy or empathy. That is the value of fiction, after all. But it didn't work. I found very little to redeem Jamie. Sure, her loud-mouthed aggressive manner is a front for her issues that she refuses to consciously acknowledge—thought the novel itself does highlight them—but I just found I couldn't like her. And I never got past her weight (she weighs nearly double what I weigh but doesn't have my height) or her judgment of her boyfriend for getting bariatric surgery. Truth be told, the more interesting and meaningful story would have focused more on Burke and his decision to get the surgery as well as the complications and aftermath of that decision.