School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Gwendolyn "Dough" Reilly and Philip "Wish" Wishman have been best friends since they were kids. But everything changed when Wish professed his love for her right before moving to California. After four years of successfully managing their long-distance relationship, he is moving back to Dough's New Jersey beach town. Wish is eager to resume their romance in person but Dough is horrified at the prospect. Not only has she gained a lot of weight while working in her family's bakery, but she is also the social pariah of her high school. Certain that the newly tanned and buff Wish will want nothing to do with her, Dough prepares herself for the inevitable heartbreak. However, he appears to be completely blind to her weight gain. At the same time, the students who previously shunned her are inexplicably including her in their social events. To add to the mystery, Wish's appearance seems to be too perfect and his skin is always hot to the touch. Without warning, the weather becomes violent and unpredictable. A strange new employee in the bakery, Christian, warns that Wish is part of a cult that worships the stars and is responsible for all the mysterious events. The plot moves along at a steady pace and the suspense builds appropriately. Though the characters are two dimensional and the ending is oversimplified, Dough's witty voice keeps the narration entertaining. Fans of fairy-tale romances will like it.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
Children's Literature - Heather Robertson Mason
Gwendolyn "Dough" Reilly has it pretty rough. Not only is she overweight (not helped by the fact she works in her family's doughnut shop) and the butt of the popular crowd's jokes, but she has a cute, skinny and horribly naive little sister. Her only consolation is her long distance boyfriend, Phillip P. Wishman. But when he moves back to town from California, things start getting really weird. Phillip still wants to date her even though she (in her own opinion) is obviously fat and unpopular, and has developed some strange quirks like becoming angry every time it rains. Adding to this, the weather on the island is becoming increasing stormy and the waters are rising fast. Dough can't believe all of this is related, but when the new assistant at the bakery starts telling her about his experiences in California, Dough knows she needs to take action. This is almost a great story. Dough is believable and easy to like without being cutely lovable. Her experiences at school are realistic; there is no large movement against her, just a lot of people who give her dirty looks when she comes their way. The mystery of the weather starts subtly, but builds quickly. However, everything comes together at the end a little too conveniently. For all the buildup over Dough's weight, she never comes to terms with it and the issue is completely dropped without resolution. It's a good beach read for readers not looking for any deep meaning, but savvy readers may want to look elsewhere. Reviewer: Heather Robertson Mason
It takes dark magic to make attractive people love fat girls.
Gwendolyn ("Dough") is fat —and lest readers think she might have other characteristics, Gwen speaks of nothing else. Her "cheeks look like two fat red balloons" or "two giant pimples on the verge of popping." For four years, Gwen's been carrying on an e-mail relationship with her childhood best friend, Wish, who moved to California at 12. Now Wish—whose Facebook photos all depict a tanned surfer god— is returning home, horrifying Gwen. Yet inexplicably, the boy who's been her BFF since first grade still likes her, despite being rich, popular and attractive! There must be something creepy afoot, and indeed there is. Through defeating the devastating magic that would destroy her home, Gwen learns to love her body (more or less), but not before regaling readers with overwhelming self-loathing: "I cringe as I force away the mental image of him ... Touching the folds of flesh that weren't there all those years ago." Final messages about inner beauty are drowned in waves of fat hate and eating-as-disorder.
Skip this one, and try Charles Butler's The Fetch of Mardy Watt (2004) instead, a far superior fantasy about a self-loathing fat heroine and her male best friend. Readers who are looking for high-school pettiness should go for Nico Medina's Fat Hoochie Prom Queen (2008). (Paranormal romance. 12-16)
Read an Excerpt
For the first time in four years, I've lost my appetite.
I mean, how can I think of eating when I can't even breathe?
"Look at her," my little sister, Evie, sings. "She's lost in love."
Evie has obviously been listening to my mother's eighties tapes too much. Love is the last thing on my mind. The first thing is sheer terror. Second is hopelessness. Third is a desire to run away, far away, into the night, screaming like a banshee.
I stare at the screen of my computer. My hands shake on the keyboard. I can just make out a bit of my reflection: my cheeks look like two fat red balloons, glistening in the sunlight slashing through my bedroom window. Evie and my mom hover above me, peering over my shoulders at another daily email from Wish. Normally I'd never let them within a five-mile radius of one of our top secret lovefests, but the five-alarm wail that escaped from my mouth must have made them think I'd just read that the island of Cellar Bay was sinking into the ocean.
At this point, that would be happy news.
MOM got a condo in Cellarton! Guess she couldn't STAND to be on the same island as MY DAD, ha ha! It's right by the bridge to Cellar Bay, though.
"Why didn't you tell us Wish is coming back here?" my mom asks, kneading my shoulder like I'm one of her famous breads.
If I had known, she would have, too. It would have been obvious. I would have sworn off white cream donuts and Tae-Boed myself into a stupor. Squirreled away some of my earnings from the bakery to buy a hot new wardrobe, and invested the rest in that miracle acne cure celebrities are always peddling on infomercials. Now there's no time. I'd need a year to get back to my twelve-year-old self. And a fairy godmother. Instead, my long-distance boyfriend, Philip P. Wishman III, will be on a collision course with planet Gwendolyn, all 234 pounds of her, in, oh, t minus seventy-six hours.
My mom studies the email. "Does it say why he's coming back?"
I shrug, numb. Because he wants to prove to me that just when you think your life is at its absolute suckiest, it can always get worse?
"We'll have him over for dinner," she says, completely oblivious to my meltdown.
"Ma, you want to welcome him, not kill him," Evie points out.
Though my mom knows everything about baking, that's where her knowledge of food ends. My mom's fanciest dinners are really prepared by Mrs. Paul or the Gorton's fisherman. But her culinary skills, or lack thereof, are the least of my concerns. I read the last line again:
I can't wait to see you IN PERSON finally and KISS my BEAUTIFUL GIRLFRIEND. It's been like a DREAM for me for SO LONG!!!
Wish has a knack for unnecessarily capitalizing everything and overusing exclamation points, like a ten-year-old girl, which is something I never realized until we started emailing back and forth each day. At first, I didn't mind it, but now it annoys me. Of course, maybe I wouldn't be annoyed if I wasn't so sure his enthusiasm was going to totally deflate within seconds of seeing me. He doesn't know I'm not worthy of three exclamation points. I'm probably not even worthy of a measly comma. The only recent pictures I've sent him were from the neck up, or so fuzzed out that I looked like the Blob in drag. But none of this is my fault. It's his fault for deciding to let his mother take him across the country to L.A. to live with his wacko grandmother when his parents split up. It's his fault for leaving me so heartbroken and alone that the first thing I did after watching his mother's BMW pull away was sit in the back room of the bakery and eat an entire tray of cannoli. His fault for sending me a daily email for the past four years, making me salivate so much for a kiss from him that all I could do to tell my mouth to behave was fill it with jelly donuts. His fault.
"He can't come back here," I say, digging my fingernails into the skin of my fleshy thighs, which somehow seem even bigger than they did when I woke up this morning. "Our relationship is perfect the way it is."
Evie snorts. "You're so weird, Dough."
I bury my face in my hands. That's another thing. I have no social life. No friends. Nothing normal, non-weird people have. Nothing, except him.
And twenty bucks says soon I won't even have that.
First let me explain something about the kissing, or lack thereof. Wish and I have been best friends ever since first grade, when we fought over Curious George at Cellar Bay Elementary School, this little brick building on Main where we were two of a handful of students. But a love for that cheeky monkey wasn't the only thing we had in common, we realized. Soon we were the complete-each-other's-sentences kind of friends. We were always together, like peanut butter and jelly.
We stayed best friends until right before junior high, when he moved away. That was when his parents split up and his mom took him to live with her mother, Grandma Bertha, this real nutcase of a woman who always used to talk about auras and astrology and that kind of crap. The one time she visited Jersey, she told me that my aura was black and dead and that I was invading her peace, which was just fine with me, because she was obviously insane. I felt bad that a normal guy like Wish had to live with such a creepy old lady.
So anyway, our relationship didn't develop into a boyfriend-girlfriend thing until he'd been in California for a while. After we'd emailed back and forth for two months, he asked me out. In real life, Wish is a total wuss when it comes to his feelings, like most guys, but he turned out to be a lot more confident in email. I could tell he was lonely at his new swanky private school in L.A., because he kept saying how much he missed me and how he would never find another girl like me.
From the Hardcover edition.