Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teenage Waistland

Teenage WaistlandTeenage Waistland by Lynn Biederman & Lisa Pazer
New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2010
317 pages
4 out of 5

"You all believe that losing one-hundred-plus pounds will solve everything, but it won't.  Something heavier is weighing on you, and until you deal with that, nothing in your lives will be right.  - Betsy Glass, PhD, at first weekly group counseling session for ten severely obese teens admitted into exclusive weight loss surgery trial

Patient #1: Female, age 16, 5'4", 288 lbs
- Thrust into size-zero suburban hell by remarried liposuctioned mom.  Hates new school and skinny boy-toy stepsister.
- Body size exceeded only by her mouth.

Patient #2: Male, age 15, 6'2", 335 lbs.
- All-star football player, but if he gets "girl surgery," as his dad calls it, he'll probably get benched.
- Has moobies - male boobies.  Forget about losing his V-card - he's never even been kissed.

Patient #3: Female, age 15, 5'6", 278 lbs.
- Mobidly obese and morbid, living alone with severely depressed mother who won't leave her bed.
- Best and only friend is another patient, whose dark secret threatens everything patient #3 believes about life

Told in the voices of patients Marcie Mandelbaum, Bobby Konopka, and Annie "East" Itou, Teenage Waistland is a story of betrayal, intervention, a life-altering operation, and a long-buried truth that proves far more devastating than the layers of fat that protect it.

This was an everything novel. Yes, the main focus is on four teens who have lap-band surgery in order to lose weight, but within the lives of those four teens, just about everything happens.  There's sibling rivalry, a parent living vicariously through his child, the big game, familial distance, and a terrible secret.  Describing it in a list like that makes it seem like it's the description for the next episode of some popular soap opera. The good news is that all of these issues fit the characters and the novel without it feeling like it's trying to do too much.

Multiple voices allow for this to not feel quite so overwhelming.  Marcie, Bobby, and East all take turns telling their portion of the story.  There is a fourth character, Char (short for Charlotte), who does not narrate, but is still an integral part of the story. Plus, the fact that all her information is rolled up with East's is a wonderful method for showing how closely the two have bonded and is a perfect set-up for what's to come.

The characters are interesting and dynamic without coming across as cliche. This is tough when you have the jock, the big mouth, the wild girl, and the shy girl.  Even the ancillary characters (like Marcie's perfect, modelesque step-sister) don't necessarily fit the mold you would expect.

I was sucked in to their stories and struggles. Some scenes made me laugh, some made me sad or angry, but mostly I just wanted to know what happened next.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this title from my local library.

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