Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have

3.9 11
by Allen Zadoff

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FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE is the story of a boy who doesn't fit—in his pants, in his family, in his school, or in his life.  If Andrew Zansky can only be thin enough, smart enough, or popular enough, he thinks everything in his life will be perfect. His father will come back home. The pretty girl in school will fall in love with him. 

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FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE is the story of a boy who doesn't fit—in his pants, in his family, in his school, or in his life.  If Andrew Zansky can only be thin enough, smart enough, or popular enough, he thinks everything in his life will be perfect. His father will come back home. The pretty girl in school will fall in love with him.  His Mom will be happy again.

While he's working to achieve this fantasy future, Andrew eats.  A lot.  He buries his problems in his Mom's mini-snacks, analyzing his world while stuffing down his feelings. "When I chew loud enough," he says, "I can't hear myself think. It's like a little vacation."  FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE follows Andrew's journey to self-awareness and self-acceptance (by, unexpectedly, joining the high school football team). By the end of the story, Andrew stops living in his head and starts participating in life. Perhaps most importantly, he comes to understand that feeling different doesn't make him weird or special; it makes him just like everyone else.

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Editorial Reviews

Justin Garwood
Like flipping through your old high school yearbook, Allen Zadoff's novel is an awkward, yet refreshing journey back to the times of adolescent angst and forbidden pleasures. As a sophomore, Andrew Zansky simply wants to go through school without being noticed, which can be hard with his 306.4-pound frame. But when Andy meets love at first sight in the form of the new girl, April, his plans change. We soon find out that girls are just one of the many problems this "funny, fat kid" has. And in order to change his world, Andy must turn for help in the unlikeliest of places—the legendary quarterback and the guy who is everything Andy isn't. Whether you were the geeky bookworm, the cheerleader, the drama club leader, or the all-state athlete in your high school, you'll laugh and you'll cry as you pass Andy in the halls. Reviewer: Justin Garwood
Publishers Weekly
Readers who wade through a series of painful scenes early on in Zadoff's debut YA novel are in for a treat. Andy Zansky is the (second) fattest kid in school and pays dearly for it on a daily basis (on the first day of sophomore year, he discovers he may not fit into the new desks). Then, out of nowhere, popular football star O. Douglas takes a liking to Andy, who goes out for football and makes the varsity team. Out goes self-deprecating Andy (for the most part), making room for a more confident, funny and likable Andy. Becoming popular, albeit gradually, doesn't cure all of Andy's woes—both football and popularity come with quite a few complications—nor does it magically empower him to lose the weight. But watching Andy's transformation, his three steps forward and one step back rhythm, is both entertaining and moving (“That's the thing about being fat,” he reflects. “People can't see the real you, so you have to work really hard to show them”). Boy makeover books are rare, and this one is a gem. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Courtney Huse Wika
High school is never easy, especially when you are a size 48 and can barely fit into the desks. Add a family that is on the verge of imploding, a hot new girl who does not know you exist, and a caterer mother who continually fills the home with mini-delights yet worries over your weight, and the result is a clear picture of the life of Andy Zansky. Dissatisfied with his nonexistent love life and lack of popularity and frustrated with his weight, Andy decides on a whim to trade Model UN for football. But although his newfound talent brings new friends and status, he begins to question his actions. Andy struggles with the politics of high school and dares to ask what popularity really means if it comes at such a high price. Zadoff 's novel chronicles the albatross of adolescence with stunning accuracy. In a high school where popularity and looks determine your worth and experience, Andy navigates his world with humor. The book will have readers laughing out loud one moment and sympathizing with him another, as he narrates his story with an honesty and earnestness so real that one might forget he is a fictional character. Addressing issues of divorce, first love, body image, friendship, the desire to belong, and what it means to be true to one's self, this book is an exceptional read with its vivid characters and compelling storytelling. It is a must-read for adolescents and adults alike. Reviewer: Courtney Huse Wika
School Library Journal
Gr 8–10—Andy, an overweight high school sophomore, is bullied by his peers, overprotected by his mother, and ignored by his type-A, absent father. As the school year begins, his friend Eytan has plans for the pair to shine as representatives of Estonia at the model UN meetings, but Andy has his eye on new girl April. When he is recruited as center for the football team, everything changes. For the first time, he experiences parties, girls—including April—and popularity. Initially bogged down by the teen's self-deprecating comments and jokes, the plot begins to develop as Andy describes his new experiences with humor and wit. He is realistic as he shovels food into his mouth to assuage pain and embarrassment, struggles to maintain his friendship with Eytan after abandoning Estonia, and allows himself to be manipulated by teammates. But the author does not lead Andy down the expected path. When forced to make a decision, his choice is unique and the conclusion satisfying. Although these characters lack the intensity of Eric and Sarah in Chris Crutcher's Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes (HarperCollins, 1993), many readers will relate to Andy, his desire to be popular, and his insecurities. The possibly offensive locker room language is typical and lends credibility. More importantly, Andy's character is thoughtful and refreshing.—Sue Lloyd, Franklin High School, Livonia, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Warm, witty prose chronicles a fat teenager finding himself while the text sacrifices other demographic groups. Fifteen-year-old Andy, at 306 pounds, justifiably resents that people "don't see Andrew. They see big." Upset by the divorce of his cold dad and smothering mom, Andy glumly pursues Model UN with geek pal Eytan. Then a school football star rescues Andy from a beating and brings him to football tryouts. Andy's trajectory from social nobody to popular football player is fast and deceptive. The first-person, present-tense narration capably conveys Andy's pattern of thinking only in the present. The funniest moments are the quirkiest, as when Andy and an opposing player find themselves "talking postwar poets" on the field during the game. Unfortunately, Zadoff bizarrely dehumanizes Asian girls. Classmate Nancy Yee is "not really a girl. More of a stick figure with an accent," Andy calls April, his Korean-American crush, "The Girl of My Dreams: Asian Edition," and Eytan categorizes that crush as "yellow fever," with no textual questioning of the term. Is it worth humanizing one oft-slammed group-fat teens-at another group's expense? (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
HL520L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Allen Zadoff was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and went on to live in upstate New york, Manhattan, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.  A former stage director, he is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theater Training.  His memoir for adults is called Hungry: Lessons Learned on the Journy from Fat to Thin.  He currently teaches writing in Los Angeles.  Visit Allen at

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