A fat teen employs patently unsafe weight-loss techniques on reality television and gets skinny.

Emery’s face-lifted, Botoxing mother named her after a manicure tool, yet somehow Emery doesn’t fit in with her swimsuit-model, boob-enhanced sister or fitness-freak father. What if she weren’t fat? She acquiesces to the filming of a weight-loss reality show in her home, wanting the prize—if Emery loses 50 pounds in 50 days, she’ll win $1,000,000—but author Baker, chief news correspondent of E! Entertainment Television, makes skinniness itself the golden goal, snarkily bashing fatness from the start. The show’s producers require intense exercise and severe calorie restriction; behind their backs, Emery adds laxative tea and Adderall. Attempts to satirize the extremity—the nutritionist who takes Emery down to 790 calories per day authored How to Eat without Actually Eating—have the impact of Post-it notes on a billboard. Baker wants it both ways: Laxatives, speed and “insanely low” calories give Emery both “an eating disorder” and “good habits,” a cognitive disconnect if ever there was one; moreover, the eating disorder vanishes after its single mention, ending the story on a bizarrely upbeat note. Continuity inconsistencies may well drive readers crazy; that 790-calorie diet could well be a 395-calorie diet, for instance, but it’s just not clear. Family secrets and reality TV twists aside, this is a cheap instruction guide for dangerous dieting.

A biggest loser. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7624-5014-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability.


A teen with Down syndrome runs away to find her boyfriend when her parents forbid their relationship.

Sixteen-year-old Rose Tremayne and her boyfriend, Jack, were made for each other. Jack, who was born with a brain injury, helps Rosie with reading and writing; Rosie calms his anger issues. But after a violent outburst, Jack is sent away—and Rosie’s parents think she should forget him. Rosie resolves to find Jack herself, taking the train to London alone and venturing into the city’s labyrinthine subway system. As she copes with transportation setbacks, she encounters assorted strangers—some kind and some with unsavory intentions. Though secondary characters lack depth, Rosie’s narration sympathetically expresses her determination, frustration, and naïveté in equal measure, and others’ patronizing and rude reactions to her disability are sadly realistic. However, much of the plot feels contrived. Despite Darbon’s efforts to show that Rosie is more than her Down syndrome, she doesn’t escape being a symbol of childlike innocence, a problematic trope. While a twist darkly demonstrates how people with intellectual disabilities can be targets of abuse, its execution is somewhat implausible. Portrayed primarily through Jack’s misspelled postcards and florid prose such as “The sun came out in my head and my heart grew wings and took me up to the moon,” the romance never quite feels three-dimensional; the ending, though touching, is rather pat. Most characters default to White.

An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability. (author's note) (Romance. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68263-289-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Overall, a solid debut.


In 1995 Atlanta, a mixed-race girl finds a way to stand out on her own terms.

Wing and her brother, Marcus, attract attention because they're half Chinese, half black. While Marcus is a football hero, Wing suffers bullying from a mean girl and secretly pines for Aaron, Marcus' best friend, a black boy. Everything changes when Marcus, while driving drunk, kills two people and falls into a coma. Wing feels completely alone; neither her mother nor her grandmothers, LaoLao and Granny Dee, seem to know what to do. So Wing starts running in secret, prodded by her imaginary dragon and lioness, which she has not seen since her father died. She feels free when she runs, as though she can outrun all her mixed emotions. When Aaron finds out, he encourages Wing, and they grow closer even as the situation at home worsens. A running sponsorship could save her family—but in trying to chase that sponsorship, will Wing lose the one thing that makes her feel free? The choice of time period feels unjustified—this story could have been equally true in 2016—and the device of the dragon and lioness feels forced. Nevertheless, Wing's sense of isolation is well-captured, and her grief and confusion are raw and moving.

Overall, a solid debut. (Historical fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55502-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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