Friday, July 18, 2014

FAT CHANCE by Leslea Newman

Fat ChanceAlthough published in 1994, FAT CHANCE by Leslea Newman still rings true today, in fact, with the increased prevalence of eating disorders, its message may be even more important today.

As an eighth grader, Judi dreams of having a boyfriend and going on exciting dates, but she is convinced that can only happen if she loses weight.  Her mother insists she is a "growing girl" who needs to eat three nutritious meals a day.  Judi is sure that isn't the path to happiness.  It doesn't help that Judi's classmates are typical kids who tease and taunt about any perceived physical flaws with little regard for the feelings they hurt or the self-esteem they damage.

When Ms. Roth, the new English teacher, requires each student to keep a diary, Judi uses the assignment to pour out her feelings as she records her attempts at weight loss and relationship difficulties.  She learns tricks to avoid eating breakfast, consumes only diet Coke for lunch, and tries to get away with eating as little as possible of her mother's home-cooked dinners.  She is able to shed a few pounds, but is frustrated by the need to binge when she is feeling stressed.

The answer to all her problems seems to appear the day she stumbles across popular girl and future model, Nancy Pratt, vomiting in the restroom.  When Nancy explains that vomiting is her secret to weight control success, Judi is disgusted at first, but as she becomes more desperate to be thin, she gives it a try.  It is easier than she ever imagined.  Now she can eat enough to keep her mother from nagging and lose weight at the same time.

Keeping her secret is difficult, and when Nancy ends up in the hospital as a result of her bulimia, Judi begins to have second thoughts.  Losing weight has some positives, but the strain it has created in the relationships with her best friend and her mother involve more negatives than she may be willing to endure.

In FAT CHANCE author Leslea Newman captures the emotional turmoil created in those suffering from eating disorders.  Through Judi's obsession to lose what to some may seem an insignificant amount of weight, it becomes clear that the mind of a person with bulimia is far from normal and their body image issues produce increasingly irrational arguments most of us would never understand.  Newman's message that eating disorders require outside intervention and commitment on the part of the struggling individual makes this novel instructional as well as entertaining.  Unlike more recent books written about the same subject, FAT CHANCE does not dwell on the horror and debilitation of the eating disorders, however, it still provides an important view worth reading.

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