This review can also be found on the NerdHerd Reads.
I loved this book. It was so fun and cute. It's a quick, light read. If you're not sure what to read next, or in a bit of a slump, I would definitely recommend this book.
Ann is, well, fat. And she knows it. Thanks to her mother, who is obsessed with weight. Ann feels hopeless, alone, and insecure, which causes her to never lose the weight, no matter how many diets she goes on. But when her Aunt Jackie announces she's getting married, and wants her to be her bridesmaid, Ann decides it's now or never. And this begins her hilarious journey.
The book begins with a scene where Ann gets stuck in a dress in the changing room, which sets the stage for the rest of the book. Barson does such a good job of actually getting inside Ann's head. Her emotions are so real, and so accurate. She did a perfect job of relating the struggles of a fat girl who thinks she can't lose weight.
This book also spans a myriad of emotions. It's hilarious, sad, funny, and serious. We laugh when Ann gets stuck in the dressing room, we cheer her on when she finally goes for a run, we sympathize when she feels worthless and insecure, and we're sad when she emotional binge eats.
I also loved the different relationships shown throughout the book. Ann lives with her mother, stepfather, and twin half-siblings, who are four. Often, she feels like an outsider. Her father, who is remarried with two stepchildren, has mostly abandoned her. And her brother, the only one who understands, went of to college and abandoned her as well. This book could have easily been about her childhood problems that led to her being fat, blaming her parents and her circumstances. But it didn't. Sure, those are the issues in her life. But the book was about Ann overcoming. I also loved the dynamic of extended family, and how important family is, no matter how messed up they may be.
Ann isn't a perfect character. She may not even be the most likable character. She's whiny, she procrastinates to the point of frustration, she self-loathes, and makes excuses. But she isn't a hateable character either. She is perfectly flawed for her age, and what she is going through. She is hilarious, fun, and sweet.
Ann and her mother have such a rocky relationship. Her mother is skinny, hardly eats, and nags Ann for eating too much or not exercising. This makes Ann feel like her mother is against her, when in reality, it's the only way Ann's mother knows how to act. Ann's mother may be too much in Ann's face when she doesn't want her to be, but she also is there when Ann needs her to be. I think all girls go through a stage like this with their moms at around this age, and so young girls will be able to relate.
Her budding relationship with Jon is, in one word, adorable. It isn't love-at-first-sight. He isn't so amazingly hot. He's Jon. He's awkward, shy, and kind of dorky. She's awkward, shy, and kind of insecure. ("I like cheese", anyone?) But they are definitely so cute together. They had be smiling to myself on more than one occasion.
But one of the things I loved best about this book, is that in the end, Ann realizes it's not about weight, it's about health. And that is such an important message that I think all teen/pre-teen girls need to know. It takes Ann and her mother realizing how they are already harming Libby (who's four!) to start working on overcoming their issues with weight.
This was such a sweet, fun book. Although light, it also deals with serious issues. I would recommend this book to anyone, and since it's pretty small, comparatively, it won't take much to read it :)