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 SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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