LIFE IN THE FAT LANE

A teenager who has it all—perfect body, perfect personality, perfect grades, perfect boyfriend—loses it when she gains a hundred pounds in this unsubtle but ultimately savvy problem novel that reads like an Alicia Silverstone vehicle waiting to happen. A 118-pound beauty pageant veteran at 16, Lara is elected Homecoming Queen while still a junior. Then, for no discernible reason, she starts to gain weight, and her glittery world comes crashing down. Desperately putting her complacent philosophy— ``If you dream it, you can do it''—to the test, she embarks on increasingly stringent programs of diet and exercise, to no avail. Drugs and counseling fail, too; she gains more weight even while on a monitored starvation diet before learning that she might have Axell-Crowne Syndrome, a rare metabolic disorder with no known cure. Meanwhile, as the numbers on the scale climb steadily and Lara's self-image goes into a tailspin, she experiences the social cost of being fat: the comments that range from catty to helpful to devastating; the unwarranted assumptions about her personal habits; the skepticism of peers and doctors; the creeping sense of being invisible. Bennett takes Lara through the whole patch with brutal directness, allowing her one loyal best friend and a boyfriend who means it when he says he still loves her. While the hazard of setting unrealistic standards of beauty is a familiar theme in teen novels, the author lays out the issues with unusual clarity, sharp insight, and cutting irony. The book's aim is not high culture but high school culture, and it scores for pure entertainment value. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32274-7

Page Count: 259

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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BURIED ONIONS

Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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