Overweight eighth-grader Bennett receives a wake-up call when his obese father collapses with a stroke.
Bennett doesn’t deceive himself about the condition of his body. He knows he can’t manage exercise and is addicted to junk food. But with his father hospitalized and emerging from a coma, he’s taken in by his aunt and uncle. His uncle is a serious runner, and his aunt controls everything she can manage—and one of the things she’s now decided to control is Bennett’s obesity. Bennett, for himself and perhaps to model a healthier lifestyle for his father—though at first reluctantly—begins to cooperate with her overbearing management: initially a short walk, and then, ever so gradually, pushing himself to run. Readers will be rooting for this likable and determined teen as he bravely goes out for the track team, willing to suffer potential humiliation in order to rescue himself and his dad. He isn’t helped in his efforts by his best friend, P.G., who views Bennett’s new efforts as a betrayal of their friendship. Bennett’s gradual weight loss and improving fitness don’t come easily; his hard work is believably portrayed in his engagingly realistic voice. Fry’s purposive debut is reminiscent of Chris Crutcher’s works, but for a younger audience.
An energizing and ultimately uplifting tale of the power to change. (Fiction. 10-15)