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4.4 33
by Sasha Paley
     
 

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Two Roommates.

One Goal.

Big Problem.

April's been saving all year to afford Wellness Canyon (a.k.a. Fat Camp), and she can't wait to start losing weight. Wil's wealthy health- nut parents are forcing her to go to the camp, but Wil is determined to get revenge by gaining weight.

They're suppose to work together to meet their

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Overview

Two Roommates.

One Goal.

Big Problem.

April's been saving all year to afford Wellness Canyon (a.k.a. Fat Camp), and she can't wait to start losing weight. Wil's wealthy health- nut parents are forcing her to go to the camp, but Wil is determined to get revenge by gaining weight.

They're suppose to work together to meet their weight- loss goals. But Wil's leading April on "hikes" to 7-Eleven, April's relentless pep is driving Wil to hit her secret stash of Godiva, and soon they're both crushing on the same guy. With April as committed to the cause as Wil is determined to undermine the system, this summer's going to be about more than just counting calories....

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Patti Sylvester Spencer
Born to diet, this reviewer appreciates the isolated perspectives of Paley's protagonists sounded by svelte torturers who remind them of genetic heritage, conflicting willpower, the societal and self-imposed shame of plus-sized spandex. Skillfully employing alternating limited omniscient points of view, Paley introduces two teens leaving for Wellness Canyon, a pricey "fat camp" designed to cultivate healthy lifestyle and weight loss. Wil, the hostile, spoiled, deceptive daughter of wealthy fitness-club entrepreneurs, is railroaded into attending camp by parents who care more about image than feelings. April, daughter of a disabled, diabetic, single parent, earns funds to attend camp, determined to remake herself from a wannabe into a some-body. As roommates, the two clash on multiple levels, each unaware of the other's frailties. Together they discover that even Wellness Canyon has its cliques and intentional cruelties. The two main characters are well drawn and compelling; the supporting characters (staff, parents, other campers) are sketchier or superficial. Each chapter opens with snippets from a character's food and exercise journal, Wil's providing delightfully cynical smiles. Cover art, a triple-layer s'more overlaid with the universal sign for no, invites readers to experience a different kind of summer camp. Friendship, acceptance, and health themes are clear and usually not addressed with heavy-handedness. A prank with laxatives, similar to one involving recently prosecuted real-life New York teens, results in rather mild admonishment. Overall the book is an intriguing adventure of two unlikely bunkmates bound by size and unrealized needs for companionship.
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9
April saved every cent she made for nearly a year to attend Wellness Canyon, southern California's most elite "fat camp." Wil's parents own a high-brow chain of fitness clubs and cannot hide their shame about their daughter's weight, and so they send her there. April believes fitness camp will change her life, but Wil intends to be the first camper to actually gain weight. Predictably, the teens become roommates. They contend with their opposite views of the point of the program and their mutual crush on Colin, one of the popular crowd, which includes a group of pretty girls who hardly seem to need weight loss at all. The usual assortment of antics ensues, with the roommates betting on who will win the hunky boy's heart, temporarily blinding them both to the true benefits of their temporary home. Overuse of certain words, including "heavy" and "thick" to describe the Wellness Canyon campers, permeates the text, but Paley creates likable characters who are easy to relate to.
—Sarah KrygierCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
A cliched, moralistic tale of lessons learned at fat camp. Two girls spar and then bond as summer roommates. Perky April has "saved all year . . . all of [her] birthday money. Christmas. Everything" to pay for Wellness Canyon because she wants to be thin and popular. (How birthday and Christmas gifts could possibly total "seven grand" for a girl with a single mother on disability is distractingly inexplicable.) Wil, in contrast, has rich parents who own a sleek gym chain; her fatness is their shame, so they force her to go. Both April and Wil lose weight over the summer, while they obnoxiously insult each other, become friends, kiss the same boy, plot revenge on him, fight more and make up. Paley unequivocally touts weight loss and repeatedly uses words like "waddled" about her fat characters. She also displays ignorance of physiology, equating fitness unquestionably with thinness. Appalling and simplistic. (Fiction. 11-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416957959
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
06/03/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 13

Date: July 9th

Food: 2 whole-grain English muffins, 1 stack apple pancakes, 2 c. coffee with extra soy creamer, 1 packet sugar stolen from cute dishwasher boy, and a partridge in a pear tree

Exercise: As if I'd give Melanie the satisfaction

Wil sat on her bed and tore a piece from the whole-grain English muffin she'd managed to stash in the pocket of her cargo shorts and popped it into her mouth. Last night, she had realized the folly of refusing to eat in the dining hall. If she was actually going to gain any weight — and thereby ruin her parents' dream of turning her into a Barbie doll — she'd have to load up on as many carbs as possible. In order to make it up, she'd scarfed a large helping of apple pancakes and stuffed two whole-grain English muffins into her pockets before leaving breakfast earlier this morning.

It was almost time for the morning activity now, and Wil was stalling until the last-possible minute. Just then, April breezed into their room carrying a bright blue Wellness Canyon boutique shopping bag in her hand. She excitedly placed it on her bed and began rummaging around inside. April pulled a purple-and-turquoise Wellness Canyon-logo baseball cap out of the bag and cut off the tag.

"Oh my God, you have to be kidding me," Wil said, getting up to go look at the hat. "Did you actually pay money for that?"

"Yes," April replied calmly. "I think it's cute. Ooh...look what else I bought!" She reached down into the bag and pulled out a tiny purple calculator and proudly handed it to Wil.

"What is it?" Wil scoffed, not taking it.

"It's a calorie calculator. And it fits in your wallet!" April was clearly very pleased.

"Lemme see," Wil said, grabbing it now. "'Nothing tastes as good as thin feels'?" she read off the top of the calculator. "You've got to be kidding me."

"Well, I think it'll be useful." April smoothed the top of her head and put the hat on, pulling her ponytail through the back.

"That ponytail makes your face look fat," Wil said matter-of-factly. She took a large bite of her English muffin and chewed loudly while April stared at her. "What? If your roommate doesn't tell you, who will?"

Fifteen minutes later, April was reaching back to help her up the red rocks, her face even more smiley than usual, which was extra weird, since Wil had lobbed a few more insults her way after the ponytail talk. "Thanks," Wil said, grunting and out of breath.

April dusted her hands off and flipped her ponytail. "You're welcome," she said. "You're supposed to use both hands, remember?"

Yeah, yeah. Wil remembered Melanie's hokey survival-and-navigation lecture before the start of the hike and how the rules of navigation would prove useful not just at Wellness Canyon but in life. She lived in Malibu, for chrissakes, not the Australian outback. Why would she ever need to know the best way to bend back brush or how to catapult herself up using small handholds on the sides of rocks? Who thought it was a good idea to have a bunch of fat kids do anything that involved catapulting? Wil wanted to know. Melanie's last piece of advice seemed particularly laughable: "If you get lost, remember to STOP," she'd said, drawing each letter with her finger as if she were talking to a group of deaf-mutes. "Stop, think, observe, and plan." On Melanie's instructions, they'd all faced north and stared at Huge Rock, the giant outcrop of red rocks that loomed over Wellness Canyon. "That's home base," Melanie said. "If you get lost, find your way to Huge Rock and we'll find you."

Wil struggled to the top of the embankment, a few steps behind April. She almost hoped she would fall backward off the cliff and split her head open. Or at least sprain her wrist. Maybe she'd get so hurt that Melanie would have to call up her parents and admit how second-rate this camp was in the first place. And then they would whisk her home, and she could spend the rest of the summer holing up in her room with Netflix every day. Ahhh...

Wil surreptitiously chewed another hunk of muffin and slipped under a tree limb hanging over the trail. She going purposefully slow, but she was kind of curious about Melanie's tease about the "special event" awaiting them in the clearing at the end of the trail. Anyway, she'd be damned if she was going to let her curiosity turn her into a rabid camper.

"Will you please hurry up?" April pleaded, her face scrunched up in agony. "We're going to be last. Again."

"So?" Wil paused to pull up her socks, which kept sliding down her ankles and into her sneakers. "Who cares? You probably just want to catch up with your beloved Colin." She started walking again but even slower this time, just to frustrate April.

"No. I just want to know what the special event is. But maybe you're slowing us down to keep me away from Colin because you know that I have more of a chance than you," April replied, pushing her knockoff Chanel sunglasses back into place after they had slid, once more, down her sweaty nose.

"Oh, please," Wil said.

April stormed off ahead, and the space between the girls increased until April disappeared from Wil's sight.

Wil knew too well that if you falsely raised people's expectations, they'd expect more from you, like the time she'd gone all the way to the state spelling bee just because she could sound out words she didn't know. She didn't even want to take the flight to Sacramento — she hadn't known she was afraid to fly until that very moment — much less get up on a stage with a bunch of nerds and spell words that not even her parents knew the meaning of. In fact, her parents hadn't even made the trip, sending Wil with her fifth-grade English teacher as a chaperone, all expenses paid, her parents opting to attend an organic-herb-and-vitamin exposition in Santa Fe instead. Wil had convinced herself over the years that she'd lost in the first round out of spite, but in reality she'd had no idea how to spell yawl.

She heard a rustling in the bushes and wondered if there were rattlesnakes in the brush. Maybe one would bite her, and then she'd certainly have to be sent home. That is, if she didn't die.

Finally, following the fresh footprints in front of her, Wil showed up at the clearing, where the entire camp was waiting. Melanie and Kevin had been checking off the teams as they emerged from the path. Melanie smiled with relief at the sight of Wil. April stood next to them with her hands on her hips, scowling. "Well, someone has to come in last," Melanie said to Wil. "Twenty minutes, forty-three seconds. You should record that in your notebook so you know the time to beat next time."

Wil smirked and rolled her eyes, but Melanie and Kevin had already turned to face the other campers. "Time for our first competition of the summer — a scavenger hunt!" Melanie called out. "It's a Wellness Canyon tradition," she explained. Her red hair was pulled off to the sides in little pink barrettes today, and Wil wished she could tell her that she looked like a crazy six-year-old. "Kevin is passing out the maps. Each person should get one." Kevin began distributing pieces of pink paper. "You'll see that it isn't really a map, but a list of geographical markers. These landmarks can be found down the dozen or so trails that spike off from the clearing."

Wil took a flyer from Kevin and scanned the paper, which was full of amateur scribblings of rocks and trees and a drawing of a river that looked like a long, wet tongue. Wil fought the urge to fold it into an airplane and send it sailing right into Melanie's hair. Were they trying to get people lost up here?

"The first to identify a landmark will find a colored plastic egg with a coupon inside. The coupons can be redeemed with me — and only me — for prizes generously provided by Wellness Canyon," Melanie said, referring to her clipboard. "This year the prizes are a yoga mat and DVD set, a Nike + iPod kit, a set of hand weights, a top-of-the-line pedometer, concert tickets, and a — "

"What concert?" Wil called out, interrupting Melanie.

Melanie searched around on a piece of paper, as if looking for details. "Um...something called 'Death Jam for...'" Melanie trailed off.

Wil laughed at her but perked up. "Death Cab for Cutie?" she asked, amazed at her luck.

Melanie still scrolled the paper before confirming. "Yep. Two of you will get tickets to their concert in L.A. next Saturday and will get to pick two friends to take off the campground for the night. Supervised, of course," she said, giving Wil a firm look. "And as I was saying, the last prize — the grand prize — is a one-year membership to Excalibur gyms!" Melanie looked right at Wil as the group erupted in applause. Wil flushed pink and then looked away. " Okay," Melanie continued. "Here's how this will work. The prize eggs have two coupons for the same prize, one for each partner. You must search with your partner — look out for each other and work together. Anyone caught without his or her roommate will be disqualified and brought back to the clearing by one of the counselors. You'll work in pairs, but your total points will go toward your larger team. Each prize is worth different point values, which will be added up at the end, and each team will be ranked accordingly."

"Of course," Kevin added smiling slyly, "some of the plastic eggs are empty. If you get an empty egg, please collect it and give it to me or Melanie. Please do not re-hide the egg, or we'll be out here all day." A few people giggled, but Wil sighed heavily. She felt like she was at an elementary school birthday party run by a deranged mother.

"One very important detail," Melanie piped up. "Is everyone listening?" The campers quieted. "Do not cross any water," she said. "All eggs are on this side of any stream or river you run across. And remember: if you get lost, STOP," she said, drawing each letter with her finger. "Stop, think, observe, and plan." Melanie blew her whistle. "Go!" she shouted. The campers immediately scattered except for Colin, Gregg, Marci, and Jessica, who huddled in a group not far from April and Wil.

"Dude, I'm all over this one," Colin said loudly, bumping fists with Gregg.

"You wish," Marci said. "You couldn't find an egg if you'd laid it."

"Good one," Jessica said, high-fiving Marci, her blond ponytail bobbing perfectly.

Wil and April headed off in a direction opposite Colin's team — even though a huge group of campers had gathered around them and were following them down one of the trails. Melanie, Kevin, and the rest of the counselors fanned out across the clearing, some ducking down trails in advance of the scavenger hunters. Wil guessed they had to patrol the crowd so that a certain someone wouldn't be able to sneak off to the 7-Eleven again.

"Let's try over there." April pretended to look at her map and then pointed at the trail where Jessica and Marci had dipped out of sight. Apparently, Wil and April would be playing the part of paparazzi today.

"How sweet would it be to go to the Death Cab for Cutie concert?" Wil stepped carefully around a sharp rock that looked like it was begging someone to trip over it. She couldn't believe that she might actually get to hear some awesome music after all. It wasn't quite the Decemberists, but it was still good.

April nodded, giving Wil a sidelong glance over the top of her sunglasses. "Or the gym membership. I've always wanted to belong to one."

"You don't already?" Wil asked, surprised. She thought that it was nearly a requirement of being fat and rich.

"Oh, well, I mean I always wanted to belong to Excalibur," April said, speeding up a little. Wil rolled her eyes, but followed her enthusiastic roommate.

Wil and April bounded down the trail in hot pursuit of treasure or possibly just April's new obsessions: Jessica and Marci. The trail forked immediately, and Wil could see oversized bodies in T-shirts down both paths. "Let's take this one," Wil said, motioning toward the less-populated trail, squinting at her map. She paused and stomped her foot down on a root sticking up across the trail so that April didn't trip.

"Thanks," April said, her eyes wide.

"This way." Wil waved her arm, starting to get into it. She could picture the plastic egg — she imagined it was orange and yellow, jammed together to hold the tiny coupons revealing that they'd won the tickets. She wasn't thrilled that April would have to go with her, but maybe Colin could come too. Her pulse quickened.

Then she looked around and noticed that April had disappeared. Wil hiked back up the trail a few dozen yards, squinting through the brush. She finally spotted April's pale pink shirt down another trail. She was hovering about ten feet behind Jessica and Marci, who were poking a nearby bush with a stick.

"What are you doing?" Wil called out, irritated. She was like the paparazzi.

Embarrassed, April took a few steps toward Wil before tilting her head back toward Jessica. "I think this is the right way," she said, her voice hesitant.

"No! Let's keep going this way," Wil countered, waving her map around as if she could actually read it. "You're not going to find anything where everyone else is."

"Yes!" Jessica cried out in her tiny cheerleader voice, her high ponytail swaying. She snatched a green plastic egg out of the bushes and held it high above her head, as if there was a crowd watching her. She jumped up and down, sending up clouds of dust around her sneakers.

"What is it?" April asked excitedly. She rushed toward her.

Jessica cracked open the egg and two yellow slips fell out. Marci plucked them off the dusty ground and handed one to Jessica, letting her announce what the prize was. "Nike + iPod kit!" she squealed, her blond hair bouncing.

"That is so cool," April said, leaning in close to the girls and trying to get a peek at the little slip of paper.

"C'mon," Wil said, placing her hand on April's chubby forearm and yanking her away from the celebration. "If we want our own prize, we've got to keep our eyes open." She walked April back to their trail and continued ahead past a set of campers scrounging some underbrush off to the side. "We're looking for anything yellow, green, blue, purple, or pink — you know, cheesy Easter colors. Like your wardrobe." Wil smiled at April.

"There!" April pointed at the bottom of a scrubby-looking tree, ignoring Wil. Wil followed her finger to a yellow egg, looking like it was waiting for them.

"Sweet!" Wil quickly clambered down to the egg and picked it up, feeling her excitement swell. Come on, Death Cab for Cutie! She popped open the plastic egg. "Empty," she said, examining each half just to be sure.

"We'll find another one," April predicted, and for a few moments Wil really thought they might. The two of them feverishly scoured the rest of the trail, looking for anything that vaguely resembled the scribbled marks on the sheet of paper. Their trail finally converged with another one and spat them out right in front of Jessica and Marci, who had another egg in her hand.

"What was that one?" April asked excitedly, already heading over to them as if she had just been looking for the opportunity to ditch Wil. Wil glowered at her back.

"Empty." Marci wrinkled her nose and tossed the egg to April, who dropped it, then chased after it as it rapidly rolled toward a small ravine. Wil rolled her eyes at the fact that her roommate seemed ready to leap off a small cliff to snatch up anything that Marci or Jessica had touched.

Wil rolled her eyes. "C'mon," she called out to April. When her roommate didn't follow her, Wil looked back and saw that April had already managed to situate herself at Jessica's side, between her and the mass of other campers who had gathered to hear the magical story of how Jessica and Marci had found the iPod egg. "April!" Wil shouted, causing everyone to stop and look up like someone else had discovered another egg. April stared at Wil for a moment before shrugging and waving goodbye to Jessica, who didn't turn her blond head a single inch.

April jogged back to Wil, her long auburn ponytail swinging in a neat pendulum — she must have redone it for the millionth time today. "Sorry. We were talking about which trails had already been searched."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Wil fumed. She unfolded the list of landmarks and studied it again, her eyes burning. Even with her real Chanel sunglasses — a present from her mother, who said they'd make Wil look "elegant" — the glare of the sun hurt her eyes.

"That" — April pointed at an icon that looked kind of like a stalk of corn — "might be one of the markers," she suggested tentatively, pointing at a small clearing up ahead.

Wil looked to where April was pointing in the clearing and saw a slight bluish splotch in the otherwise green grass. "Oh my God! I see it!" Wil yelled, running forward. April followed close on her heels and the girls ran closer and closer to the plastic egg. But just as Wil got close to it, Colin and Gregg bolted out of the clearing and Colin ran straight at her, flirtatiously bumping her arm.

"Hey, watch it!" Wil said, but she laughed to let Colin know she was joking. She gave April a look that she hoped would encourage her to wait on the plastic egg. She didn't want to let Colin and Gregg know where it was if they didn't already.

"Find anything good?" Colin asked Wil, smiling. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with the bottom of his cotton T-shirt. Wil couldn't help but take a peek at the hint of muscles visible on his stomach.

"I don't know, we're still looking," Wil said, looking at him and smirking. She couldn't believe she was being so flirtatious! "Why don't y — ," she began.

"What's that?" Gregg suddenly screamed, lunging into the field. Then he jumped up and down with the small blue plastic egg in his hand. "Woo-hoo! We're going to Death Cab!"

"Ugh!" Wil crumpled up the map and threw it onto the trail. April blinked at the piece of trash before stooping down to pick it up and stuff it into her pocket. Colin winked at Wil and shrugged. For a second she thought he was going to ask her to join him. But then, to Wil's surprise, he winked and smiled at April too before running off down the path.

Wil turned to her roommate and glared. "If you weren't so busy drooling over Colin, we could have gotten the tickets!"

"Me!?" April screeched back, her hands on her hips. "You were the one who was talking to him." April glared at Wil before turning on her heels and walking away.

Wil kicked the ground in disgust and trudged back toward the center of camp. She couldn't believe she had been this close to going to see Death Cab for Cutie and it had just slipped through her fingers. But more annoyingly, she couldn't shake the fact that Colin had winked and smiled at April, too. It couldn't mean anything, could it?

Copyright © 2007 by 360 Youth, LLC d/b/a Alloy Entertainment

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