As a fat person, and someone concerned with reading books with a more diverse set of characters, weight issues is definitely something I look for in YA fiction. Having said that, 45 Pounds isn’t exactly My Big Fat Manifesto, even if I did come around to liking the way it handles the issue of fatness.
Ann, as cover synopsis said, has a problem. She’s sixteen and a size seventeen, while her mother is a perfect size six. She’s tried various diet and exercise programs, failing all of them, but when her Aunt Jackie announces that she’s getting married in two months, Ann is determined to lose 45 pounds in order to fit into a bridesmaid dress. This is one difference between this book and My Big Fat Manifesto – when we meet Ann, she hates the way she looks and is obsessed with dieting, rather than accepting and loving herself the way she is (although she does journey towards self-acceptance in the end). This book also goes along with the stereotype that fat people over-eat and are too lazy to exercise – Ann might not see herself that way at first, but it’s shown in the way she reacts to things, like eating every time she’s upset or putting off running all the time despite saying she wanted to.
While I didn’t like the use of this stereotype, I did like the way it’s handled, the way it promotes eating healthily (and normally) rather than excessive dieting, and how thin privilege is shown from Ann’s interactions with the other characters. Even when she never eats the food from her workplace and abided by the rules, when her supervisor suspects a staff is stealing food a co-worker blames her, stating that of course Ann would be eating more than her share while working. While stopping her two step-siblings from eating junk food, her mother accuses her of trying to eat their food. In a conversation with her grandmother, they talked about how if a fat person goes to a doctor because of a hurt ankle, the doctor wouldn’t even do anything other than say “you need to exercise and lose weight”.
I also like that this book discusses how our relationship with food affects not only us, but the people around us. Not all fat people are unhealthy or have unhealthy eating habits, but Ann does, and while she is responsible for that she also realises that her habits were influenced by her mother, and both of them are affecting her younger sister in turn. Barson’s writing could get a tad heavy-handed or preachy when talking about our obsession with weight and dieting, but the story is mostly told in Ann’s light, funny narrative, turning it into a pretty awesome read!
~ originally posted on Elsewhere