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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What’s worse than being fat your freshman year?
Being fat your sophomore year.

Life used to be so simple for Andrew Zansky–hang with the Model UN guys, avoid gym class, and eat and eat and eat. He’s used to not fitting in: into his family, his sports-crazed school, or his size 48 pants.

But not anymore. Andrew


What’s worse than being fat your freshman year?
Being fat your sophomore year.

Life used to be so simple for Andrew Zansky–hang with the Model UN guys, avoid gym class, and eat and eat and eat. He’s used to not fitting in: into his family, his sports-crazed school, or his size 48 pants.

But not anymore. Andrew just met April, the new girl at school and the instant love of his life! He wants to find a way to win her over, but how? When O. Douglas, the heartthrob quarterback and high-school legend, saves him from getting beaten up by the school bully, Andrew sees his chance to get in with the football squad.

Is it possible to reinvent yourself in the middle of high school? Andrew is willing to try. But he’s going to have to make some changes. Fast.

Can a funny fat kid be friends with a football superstar? Can he win over the Girl of his Dreams? Can he find a way to get his mom and dad back together?

How far should you go to be the person you really want to be?

Andrew is about to find out.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

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)
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

Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Fiction - Young Adult
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
HL520L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
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 Journey from Fat to Thin. He currently teaches writing in Los Angeles. Visit Allen at

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Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Macaroni-Salad-Lover More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that i am the Andrew-type. I am the one in school who wears size 48 jeans and is always made fun of for it. i also had to admit that when i first saw this book, my intent was just read the synopsis, put it back on the shelf and leave the store. But when i read the review, i realized that this character is me and any other obese high school guy, just trying to "fit in" (no pun intended) and to try to get a girlfreind so he doesn't seem as lame. This book also made me realize that popularity isn't always the most important thing in life, and just go through school as who you are no matter if you are fat, dorky, and funny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hate to say this, but this book is like, the perfect stereotype. At my school, our quarterback is also our first chair tuba player, and a tenor in the choir. Our varsity soccer goalie is a freshman, and the popular girl everyone loves? In the choir, and the dance team. This book has the loser, with the messed up family, complete with anorexic sister, and divorce. He rises to the top, owning the world one second, then he falls. The girl likes his new best friend, his old best friend is getting beat up by his old tormentor, and it's kinda obvious he's gonna get back up to the top, complete with his new, old best friend, and his renewed friendship with mr. QB himself. He's gunna lose his chub, get the girl, win the game, blah blah blah....
Debbie Gahr More than 1 year ago
It took me only 2 days to read because it was sooo good! Read it! You will know what I mean!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Andrew is fifteen and obese. He figures that's just the way life goes. He's got a great best friend named Eytan, and together they are in honors classes. He expects this school year to be full of homework, Model UN meetings, and hanging out with Eytan. Then he meets April. She shows up a wedding that Andrew's mom is catering and he's hooked. His mind is set: She's going to be his girlfriend. April joins the "in" crowd and it only makes sense that Andrew will work his way into it, as well. He becomes the center on the varsity football team. Better yet, April notices him and he's got friends who never used to give him the time of day. Andrew has all eyes on him now. Somehow, though, it's just not as satisfying as he had expected. Will he give it up and go back to being in the background? FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE was a terrific book. Andrew has a great sense of humor throughout, and the ending was a surprise that fit the story perfectly.
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Galleysmith More than 1 year ago
Zadoff has written not only an entertaining and sometimes comical story but one of depth and heart. Taking Andrew from geek to chic in ten seconds flat the reader is brought through a gambit of emotions - self loathing, fear, love, discontent, empathy, distrust and much more. Rolled all together he's created a wonderful story of perseverance and growth. What worked for me? Andrew is as self deprecating as it gets. He knows exactly who he is and where he sits in the caste system of the typical high school. He is certainly the low man on the totem pole and though he wishes otherwise he is the first to admit he'll never be one of the cool kids sitting at the poplar table. What stood out in his characterization was that though he has a wonderful sense of humor I could always feel just the slightest bit of sadness and trepidation in everything he did or said. Even when I was to believe he was truly happy I always knew that perhaps things weren't all they were cracked up to be. Zadoff did a fabulous job of showing the bumps in the road. Andrew was mocked and tortured by bullies before during and after he was embraced by the popular crowd. His own behavior towards the "uncool" was objectionable at times. He was in no way perfect yet he was someone the reader could root for. I wanted him to be successful, wanted him to get the girl and be popular and get all the things he thought he wanted out of his family and friends. Then when he went on that journey to do all of that I just adored the events that transpired and what the results were (won't spoil that here though). That realism is what made this story. It's truly about coming of age and discovering who you really are inside and out. It's about finding what is right for yourself, embracing it and being satisfied with the results. I admit this book was reminiscent of the movie Lucas which I loved as a teen in the 80s. I've always been drawn to the geek overcomes adversity to be a better person scenario so I really enjoyed the end and where Andrew landed. I felt tremendously satisfied with the why and how of it all. I also liked that there were excellent messages about body image, family, friendship and love without getting remotely preachy. At no time did I feel like I was watching an after school special or being taught all about important social issues. This was thoughtfully written with relatable characters in an interesting and entertaining story that works for audiences young and old. One of my favorite books of the year I strongly encourage you to pick it up and read it then encourage everyone you know to pick it up and read it too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This sounds just like The Battle Of Jericho
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hated this