"13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl" by Mona Awad

For all of her life, Lizzie has never liked the way her body looks. Her friend Mel says that she’s the pretty one, but all Lizzie really sees is a fat girl. And as she gets older, she’s convinced thats how everyone else sees her as well. So she loses weight. She counts every calorie, deprives herself of the foods she loves, logs every mile she travels through exercise, and eventually she becomes the thin person she's wanted to be.  But she quickly realizes that being thin isn’t the solution to all of her problems because being thin doesn’t mean she sees herself as anything other than a fat girl.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, by Mona Awad, is a novel told in thirteen short stories. It is a moving and heartbreaking story of a young girl who is spurned by the body-obsessed culture that surrounds her and who struggles through her whole life to conform.

This is such a unique and interesting book. I didn’t know what to expect going into it and I found myself moved by the character of Lizzie right from the very start. I found myself having a very emotional connection to her, not because I have been in her shoes but because I haven’t been and this book broke my heart to hear the internal struggles she faces. From time to time I did wonder if this portrayal was realistic or if this was the authors idea of what it must like be for someone who is overweight. Reading the thoughts of others who have read this book though has shown me that for many people, this book gets it pretty right.

I really like the use of a bunch of short stories about one character rather than this just being a chronological novel. It’s unique and it allows for the reader to get right into the heart of the story. While most of the stories are told from Lizzie’s point of view, a few are told by other people in her life and this shows how Lizzie's struggles don't just affect her but those around her.

I did find that, for me, the strongest stories were the ones that were told after Lizzie had lost weight. While most people imagine that losing weight will be the solution to all of the problems, we see how Lizzie’s life continues to revolve around her weight. This is where the book truly broke my heart. Which it also did each time Lizzie decided she wanted people to call her by a different variation of her name. To watch her go from a young girl to a woman who seeks validation from others and thinks that strict control over her body will bring her happiness, but who never finds what she is looking for, is difficult.

This book truly soars as a commentary on the culture we live in today. We’re so self-conscious, so body-obsessed that we’ve made it okay to shame other people for how they look. And it shows just how detrimental this can be when you realize that even after the weight is physically gone, it remains mentally and emotionally. What have we become that this is an acceptable thing to do to people?

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.


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