Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lara Ardeche seems to have everythingthe perfect boyfriend, a roomful of beauty pageant trophies, a talent for the piano and terrific looksand as her saga begins, she is crowned homecoming queen of her Nashville high school. Upon this paragon, Bennett (Did You Hear About Amber?) visits a made-up disease, which makes Lara balloon past 200 pounds, no matter how little she eats and how much she exercises. Her popularity turns to ashes and she becomes alienated from herself, "a prisoner in a fat suit"and her troubles have only begun. Bennett drops in transcripts from TV talk shows and news reports to demonstrate just how ingrained is the prejudice against fat people in American culture, and she obviously wants to challenge popular notions of weight, self-image and beauty. Reading this often artificial novel for insight into these issues is a little like eating peanut M&Ms for the protein, but it's a similarly addictive experience. While Bennett contrives both the obstacles facing Lara and the means by which Lara surmounts them, the author is on target with her estimation of how greatly readers will share Lara's horror at her plight; if she does not revolutionize anyone's thinking about weight, she is sure to hit a nerve. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)
VOYA - Beth E. Andersen
Lara Adeche lives a golden life: teenage pageant queen, prom queen. Handsome and loving boyfriend. Kind and generous heart to those less perfect. Money. Good-looking parents. Then the unthinkable happens: in just one year, Lara's weight balloons from 118 to 218 pounds. Her desperate, dangerous attempts to diet fail. She lives the nightmare of being obese in a thin-obsessed world. Her classmates' cruelty breaks her heart and opens her eyes to the hellish twin torments of social invisibility and of being the butt of savage teasing. And just as the pretty veneer of Lara's physical self crumples into something unrecognizable, so does the shallow "for appearances' sake" structure of her parents' marriage. Bennett writes bluntly about the misery that overweight teenagers experience. Lara understands finally that there is more to a person than a number on a scale even as she is paralyzed by the self-loathing and despair caused by her failure to regain control of her body. Bennett uses the literary device of an invented metabolic illness (Axell Crowne Syndrome) to dismantle, rescue, and rebuild Lara's soul. At times almost too painful to read, Life in the Fat Lane accomplishes two important goals: it cautions image-conscious adolescents to build a base of meaningful values, and it reassures overweight teens that the world is full of wonderful people who see right past the flesh and into the beauty of each person's essence. This book offers a full measure of wisdom and hope. VOYA Codes: 4Q 5P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 8 UpLara, 16, is just what most girls want to be: thin, beautiful, and smart. She's dating one of the cutest boys in school, and she's popular. Then she notices that she's gained a few pounds. Unconcerned, she starts to work out harder and watches what she eats. However, her weight keeps going up, and soon Lara weighs over 200 pounds. She spends a week in a hospital on a controlled liquid diet, and the doctors and nutritionists can't understand why she becomes even heavier. Suddenly, she is no longer popular and is faced with ridicule from everyone around her. The story of Lara's weight gain is set against a backdrop of her outwardly perfect, but deeply troubled family life: her father is having a long-term affair, her mother is insecure and obsessed with her (and Lara's) appearance, and her younger brother is angry and rebellious. All of these characters and situations are skillfully drawn, resulting in a compelling story. Bennett captures the voices of teenagers well and offers insight into what it's like to be overweight in a society that is so caught up in appearances. Lara is further challenged when she finds out that the cause of her sudden weight gain is Axell-Crowne Syndrome (readers learn in an author's note that the disease is fictional). This plot device allows for more insight into Lara's character, as she struggles with being overweight through no "fault" of her own. While the fabrication of the disease may surprise or even disappoint some readers, most will find this an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY
From the Publisher
Praise for Life in the Fat Lane:
"...the author lays out the issues with unusual clarity, sharp insight, and cutting irony."
Kirkus Reviews, Pointer
"...the author is on target with her estimation of how greatly readers will share Lara'a horror at her plight. . . she is sure to hit a nerve."
Read an Excerpt
It was three days before Thanksgiving, but I was not filled with the holiday spirit. I had gained eight more pounds in four weeks from the prednisone, and I now weighed 136 pounds.
I was fat.
Me. Fat. All because of a stupid drug for some stupid allergies. I stopped taking it and my lips and eyes swelled up. So I took it again, vowing to eat even less. Prednisone was not going to get the best of me.
It was no use. I got fatter.
Everyone knew I had gained weight, they just didn't know how much. Except my mother, who could peg my weight gain to the pound. She was appalled at how I looked and found it impossible to believe that it was just because of prednisone. So she watched every bite I put into my mouth.
She also called the allergist and demanded an appointment, which was set for the next day, two days before Thanksgiving.
Dad, away on a long business trip, called often and asked how my weight was. He talked about willpower and positive thinking. I told him I'd try harder to lose.
And I did try. Only it wasn't working. I was turning into this fat thing.
It was a nightmare. Most of my clothes no longer fit. Just today after school I had made a desperate, secret trip to the mall, where I'd used the credit card my grandfather had given me on my last birthday to buy exact copies of many of my clothes, in a larger size. I hoped against hope that no one would realize they were a size nine/ten instead of a five/six.
And now, as I lay at home in my bed after an hour on the treadmill, two hours of piano, and two more of homework, my stomach growled with emptiness. Breakfast and lunch had both been diet Cokeand lettuce. For dinner I had eaten a small, skinless chicken breast, three tomato slices, and half a plain baked potato.
Here it was midnight, and I was so hungry.
But no. I wouldn't eat. Would not. Eat.
I padded to my door and opened it. Mom wasn't home yet from the after-theater dessert party she had catered that evening. Scott's room was quiet.
I could picture the inside of our refrigerator: fried chicken left over from Scott's dinner. Half of a coconut cream pie a neighbor had made. And in the freezer, ice cream. Chocolate Haagen-Dazs, with nuts. Behind it, two jumbo-sized frozen Snickers bars.
Before I knew it, my feet were carrying me downstairs, into the kitchen. My hand was in the refrigerator. I brought a fried chicken drumstick to my lips, and--
No. I wouldn't eat it. Would not. Willpower.
I put it back and turned to walk out of the kitchen.
And then someone who was not me went back to the freezer and took out both frozen Snickers bars. That someone ran with them up to her room.
Whoever she was, she didn't even turn on her light to eat. She just sat there in the dark, like some fat, feral creature of the night, cracking the frozen chocolate off with her teeth, loving the sensation of rich, sweet, comforting chocolate in her mouth, mixing with her saliva, sliding down her throat.
The candy wrappers got stuffed behind her bed.
It wasn't me.