Posted by Venus on Thursday, March 20, 2014
Labels: Young Adult Review
Release Date: November 18, 2004
Troy Billings is a 296 pound seventeen-year-old who is completely miserable. About to commit suicide, Troy is pulled from the brink by Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless, drug addict, dropout guitar genius. In that moment, whether Troy likes it or not, he and Curt have become friends and whether he can play drums or not, Troy is the new drummer in Curt's band. Struggling with connecting with his dad, his brother who thinks he is a complete loser, and mostly his massive bulk, Curt opens Troy up to a world of punk rock and friendship that will change his life forever.
I was originally introduced to this book years ago during a graduate lecture at Hamline University. I bought the book and then it sat on my bookshelf, unread for the past five years. This is something I do often, as I put priority for book club books and library books over the books I have bought and own. I have looked at it a few times, but didn't think anything of it until I saw a new independent movie on Netflix called Fat Kid Rules the World. Apparently, Matthew Lillard read the audio book and having fallen in love with the story, he began to toy with the idea of making it in a movie. Eventually, he started a Kickstarter project where he got the financial backing to make the film. Although, like all book to film adaptations, they can never be exactly the same, the movie felt so authentic and heartfelt that I knew I needed to read the book.
The book is fantastic. I know some people who could really resonate with this story whether it is because they feel like an outsider or because of Troy's weight issues. Being 6'2 and almost 300 pounds is not going to be easy, but Troy feels like everyone is always laughing at him, always looking at him, always staring. What if you meet someone who doesn't care about any of that though? Curt doesn't care that Troy is fat and he doesn't care that he can't play drums. Curt sees something in Troy that no one has seen before--potential. Troy's dad is amazing; Ex-military for sure, but also good-hearted, and truly wanting what is best for both his sons.
The book and movie have a few noticeable differences. For example the story has shifted from new York City to somewhere in California, therefore the suicide attempt is by bus rather than subway. One of the biggest differences to me though was toward the end. Curt (called Marcus in the film) eventually winds up in the hospital with pneumonia. In the movie he is portrayed as this pill popping drug addict who is hoarding his pills for when he can't get them later, however in the book there is this much deeper level to it. Curt has nowhere to go, no family that cares about him. Perhaps he is hoarding the pills for later, but the truth is, he isn't taking his medication because he doesn't want to get better. He wants to remain at the hospital for as long as possible because at least there he gets food and shelter. This revelation is a game changer for Troy.
I really loved this book. Troy is still fat and he hasn't forgotten about it. He is always aware of it, like an open wound that won't heal, but he has also discovered this world of rock music and drums and it is enough for the reader to know that Troy will not be trying to jump in front of anymore trains or buses again.