Fat Angie is broken. Her sister, varsity-athlete-turned-war-hero has been MIA in Iraq for over 9 months. Everyone thinks she is dead, but Angie knows they are wrong. Even so, Angie did try to kill herself last year, in front of a gym full of kids and now she is back in school where those kids make it miserable for her every single day. They call her Fat Angie like it is her name. Her couldn't-be-bothered mother only cares about is the fact that Angie is fat and so refuses to buy Angie more clothes until she loses weight. This, of course, makes Angie just eat more. Fat Angie's life pretty much sucks, until the arrival of KC Romance. Pretty, bold, and not afraid to be seen with Fat Angie, the two begin a rocky friendship, one that takes them into territory that Fat Angie isn't sure she is ready for and will force her to confront the damage in her life.
This book has a lot going on. War, death, homosexuality, bullying, obesity, suicide, cutting, divorce, absent parents, adoption. Yet, despite all of these things, which could have been toned down a bit I admit, I found it to be compelling, with a wonderful multi-dimensional protagonist. Fat Angie is bullied because she is fat, she is fat because of her sister's disappearance and her mother's neglect, her sister's disappearance led to her suicide attempt, and divorce was already a part of her family before all this stuff went down. Reminding me in tonality of It's Kind of a Funny Story and even Fat Vampire, I was really rooting for Fat Angie. I wanted her to make friends, to confront her bullies, to tell her mother off, to reconcile with her brother, to settle things with KC.
There are a few things about this story that fell flat for me. The first is Angie's mother, who is one of the worst examples of a cruel verbally-abusive mother that I have seen in a while. As a story that is supposed to be so reality-based it felt odd and out of sync with the story to have such a terrible mother who has very little redemption in the end. I understand that the author wanted to have an antagonistic character (which already exists in the school bully), but the mother was just over-the-top cruel to her daughter and we are given very little in regards to this woman's character before her daughter went missing so it is hard to see her as anything but cruel.
The second thing is in regards to other reviewers complaining about Angie losing weight. Some feel that she should just embrace the fat and develop a healthier body image. Here is the thing, Angie has an eating disorder. She binge eats because she is unhappy. She was not always fat and once she begins to exercise again, playing basketball and running, Angie loses that weight. Yes, Angie should lose weight as she begins to heal, because she has an eating disorder.
Lastly, is the homosexuality or as Angie calls it "gay-girl-gay". This is the third book in a row that I have read that has homosexuality in it. (Love in the Time of Global Warming, Under the Empyrean Sky) It is the newest "issue" and in some stories it works and in some it feels like this added thing, simply to have a gay character in the mix. I am still unsure if this worked, mostly because it is clear that Angie and KC both have so many problems and haven't learned yet how to communicate in a way that create any kind of lasting relationship. I don't need my characters to live happily ever after, but I want to know they are going to be okay and I am sure that Angie is well on her way to recovery, but I don't know about KC. In fact, I think KC has a long way to go and trying to make a relationship work, whether hetero or not, was really not advisable. But then, teens make these kinds of bad choices all the time.
All in all, I was rooting for Fat Angie. I cared about her and wanted her to be okay. As you will see with my next review, if you don't care about the characters, it makes for a pretty boring read.
The reason why I read this book: