An intense look at male body dysmorphia from the author of The Closest I’ve Come (2017).
David Espinoza has always been tormented for his skinny physique, but when the high school bully slaps him in the locker room and catches it on camera, the video becomes a viral meme in his Florida town. The Mexican American teen decides to join a gym and build enough muscle over the summer to lay to rest the incessant teasing. There, he meets bodybuilders who influence him to take steroids in order to speed up the results. With graphic detail, Aceves presents the psychological, physical, and emotional effects of muscle dysmorphia. David’s relationships fall apart—with his family, friends, girlfriend—and the author, who also experienced this disorder in his youth, authentically delineates the ramifications of this illness, which is more prevalent than many believe. After a shocking climax, David finally comes to grips with his addiction, perhaps a little too quickly, but readers won’t mind the not-so-pat resolution. Frank discussions about the sexual lives and drug use of adolescents add authenticity to the story, and the expletive-laden prose makes this more appropriate for older teens. Toxic masculinity, which is cringingly part and parcel of the testosterone-filled world that Aceves portrays, is threaded through the narrative in a contextualized way. David’s friends are mostly Latinx—he has a Puerto Rican girlfriend and a Dominican best friend
Searing and thoughtful. (author’s note, resources) (Realistic fiction. 14-adult)