Carolyn Mackler – The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

★★½

“The Fat Girl Code of Conduct:
1. Any sexual activity is a secret. No public displays of affection.
2. Don’t discuss your weight with him.
3. Go further than skinny girls. If you can’t sell him on your body, you’d better overcompensate with sexual perks.

4. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever push the relationship thing. ” 

Title: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Author: Carolyn Mackler
Language: English
Publication details: USA: Candlewick Press, 2012. (First published 2003)
Pages: 244

The gist of it:

  • Overweight girl with self-esteem issues.
  • Perfect over-achieving family with dysfunctional tendencies.
  • Family drama occurs. Girl is first depressed, then becomes confident and kick-ass.
  • Everything goes uphill from there.

 My ponderings:

I picked up this book because I always have a tender curiosity towards books featuring overweight protagonists. Being a rather chubby child all the way up to my early tweens, it felt like a relief the first time I read about a female main character who wasn’t slim or skinny. Since then, books featuring overweight female protagonists would always catch my eye. It was nice to hear the protagonist voice out similar grouches towards the world concerning body issues and harbor the same insecurities.
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The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things is an entertaining read. I enjoyed reading about Virginia and her insecurities which were quite common to every teenage girl (overweight or not), her ‘perfect’ family members, the drama that occurs midway and her resurgence as a confident, ambitious girl.

Virginia was relatable, funny and acted like a real normal teen, which was a huge plus for me. She wasn’t overly dramatic or emotional about her weight issues, it was just something that bugged her and that she felt pressured about. The way Virginia felt about her weight just seemed very relatable to me; she wasn’t too obsessed, but she couldn’t ignore the insecurity niggling at the back of her mind.

About three quarters through the book, Virginia begins to stand up for herself and things start turning for the better. The all new Virginia works out, gains family approval, makes a bunch of awesome new friends, starts a club, gets the guy etc, etc.

Picture
Wow. That’s…nice.
As sweet as all this is, it’s just too perfect of an ending for me.

Call me a party-pooper, but unless the protagonist has gone through hell and high water (and I’m talking about taking the Ring to Mordor kind of shit), happily-ever-afters just bore me. It doesn’t actively annoy me, but I can’t help but roll my eyes at an ending where everything turns out just dandy. Even more so when such as in this book, the story is set in real life. Because really, how often does EVERYTHING turn up well in real life?

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You tell ’em, Harry.
Then again, it is a fictional story, and I suppose the author had to find some way to end her book. Even so, Virginia’s life suddenly becoming all hunky-dory just seemed really unrealistic. The book is written from Virginia’s point-of-view, so the change in her personality when she went from insecure to confident was really abrupt. It wasn’t a gradual growing confidence thing. She pretty much just decided that from now on, she shall be respectable and BAM!! Instant transformation. Now I’m all for positive thinking and gaining confidence, but it’s something that grows not…explodes out of nowhere.

At first, she was insecure about her looks. After the ‘transformation’ both mental and physical (piercings, hair dye), she finds herself “unique and interesting”. When her mom comments about the way she looks, she doesn’t have a moment of doubt or insecurity, she instantly knows that her mom is wrong because she can look however she wants to look. While I do respect her confidence, how did she suddenly gain so much of it? Where was the transition period? The 4 day trip to Walla Walla? There’s no cocoon here, just a caterpillar and a butterfly.

At first, she revered her brother. After she confronted him about his ‘crime’ and got her heady shot of confidence, she basically stopped treating him with any respect at all. I get it, she’s strong and confident and don’t need no idol anymore, but it can’t be that easy to wipe out all previous camaraderie with her brother.

I have a brother who I’m really close to, and if a situation came up where I would really despise him, I’d still be conflicted due to our previous sibling bond. Virginia just pretty much just ups and leaves and couldn’t give her brother the time of her day anymore. Perhaps I’d believe it coming from a character who had less love for her brother previously and was also more unforgiving in nature. It just seemed very out of character from the Virginia we were presented with initially. I get that her brother’s crime is really serious, but for a book written from Virginia’s POV, it’s just odd that she couldn’t be bothered to spare a thought for him.

To make a long story short, I get that Virginia has changed, in a way that was the essence of the story. Her change just seemed too abrupt and 180°. So as fun a read I found this book, the overly perfect ending just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe I’m a cynic. Heck, most probably. Maybe I’m holding too high expectations for a YA book, but I’ve certainly read other YA books with much more realistic endings. More importantly, those YA books showed the teenage protagonist going through moments of conflict and hesitation while on their journey of gaining confidence. Virginia turned confident so suddenly, it was almost as if she decided to shut the readers out from her REAL thoughts from that point on.

Having got that out my system…overall I actually liked this book. It was fun, and kept my attention for the ride. Would read it again, but probably skim through the ending.

Recommends it to: People who’d like a lighthearted read about teenage self-esteem, family issues and working the both out.
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