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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Skinny: It's About More Than Just The Pounds

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever Davies knows she's fat.  The 15-year-old weighs over 300 pounds, so it's not like she's surprised when someone calls her an elephant or a whale or a freak or whatever.  Not that the words don't wound—of course they do—but she's so used to hearing the labels that she hardly notices anymore.  Besides, if real people aren't calling Ever names, she's got Skinny—the constant, nagging voice in her head—reminding her that she's an out-of-control blob who will never be loved.  Ever's so used to living (if you can call it that) this way, she's almost given up trying to change things.  What's the point?  As Skinny is so quick to note, Ever is too pathetic and helpless to do anything right.  

After a humiliating experience at school, Ever's finally had enough.  Determined to gain some control over her life, she embarks on a risky journey to slim down, get healthy and prove to the world that she's someone worth noticing.  And yet, even as the pounds melt off, Ever can't stop hearing Skinny's snarky criticism.  Is it possible that Skinny's been right all along?  Is Ever destined for failure, no matter how hard she works?  Is she really too worthless to bother with—or can Ever find something inside herself that's worth saving, even celebrating?  Most importantly, what will happen when she reaches her weight loss goal?  Will Ever Davies finally be happy? 

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I wanted to read more books about obesity, especially about teens who struggle with the issue.  An author friend of mine mentioned that she'd heard good things about Skinny, a debut novel by Donna Cooner.  Cooner, who's written picture books, textbooks and children's television shows, is also a former gastric bypass patient—obviously, weight loss is something with which she's intimately familiar.  That insider's view makes Ever's fight for control over her body an authentic and poignant one.  Cooner's personal experience with bariatric surgery also makes for a story peppered with interesting details about the process.  All of that kept me interested.  What annoyed me about Skinny, though, is its lack of a well-defined central conflict.  Ever's goal is to lose weight, yes, but since the pounds are "magically" disappearing via surgery, she achieves what she wants a little too easily for my tastes.  I want to see a hero or heroine really struggle to attain the story goal, and Ever really doesn't that much.  Yes, she still has to banish the voice in her head (which, really, is the point of the story), but still ... the central conflict didn't feel like that big of a conflict, in my *humble* opinion.  In the end, while I appreciated Cooner's realistic look at a teen undergoing weight loss surgery, Skinny just didn't quite satisfy me. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Butter by Erin Jade Lange and 45 Pounds [More or Less] by K.A. Barson)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Skinny from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!


  1. Interesting review! I've known a few people who have undergone bariatric surgery. I think all of them have had to work at it somewhat, even with the help of the surgery. You still have to watch what you eat; you can't go on automatic. That said, it's too bad that the author didn't quite push the internal conflict enough, since it appears to be the real issue.

    1. I agree. And the author of this book is very careful to say that bariatric surgery isn't a miracle solution and to show that Ever's issues went a lot deeper than just her weight. I just think this book needed a stronger central conflict to feel fuller and more satisfying.

  2. Hmmm, I agree that Ever losing wait too easily might be very irritating. I worked my butt off to lose weight and it's not easy. I guess the real conflict was the naggy voice in her head but still.


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