Monday, June 9, 2014

How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker
Available Now
Published by Running Press Kids
Reviewed Finished Copy from Publisher
Contemporary YA Fiction
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Goodreads"Thick. Heavy. Big boned. Plump. Full figured. Chunky. Womanly. Large. Curvy. Plus-size. Hefty." To sixteen-year-old Emery Jackson, these are all just euphemisms for the big "F" word—"fat." Living on a Southern California beach with her workout fiend dad, underwear model sister, and former model mother, it is impossible for Emery not to be aware of her weight.

Emery is okay with how things are. That is, until her "momager" signs her up for Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win the million dollars that will solve her family's financial woes. Emery is skeptical of the process, but when the pounds start to come off and the ratings skyrocket, she finds it hard to resist the adoration of her new figure and the world of fame. Emery knows that things have changed. But is it for the better?

First, I want to warn those of you with eating disorders or that are triggered by certain things, this book may not be for you. Emery goes on a very severe diet. She counts calories, halves her super restrictive diet and discusses it in detail. She exercises, a lot. She obsesses about her weight. Yes, she is overweight but once she starts losing she becomes a machine. So even for me, I felt like I should go take a walk after I finished reading. Keep it in mind. I did enjoy the book, especially the ending. No, tied up in ribbons and bows. It was a very realistic ending and I thought it was in keeping with Emery's character. Well done, Mr. Baker.

Characters- Emery- I liked Emery's wit and blase attitude when it came to her weight. She really wasn't bothered by it, or at least she didn't think she was. But she did want to make the weigh ins during the contest. She suddenly starts to become a role model for teen girls everywhere. But is she really a good role model? Losing 50 lbs in 50 days. Is that even possible? I loved Emery. She was smart, both book smart and in real life. She didn't belong with this family. She was better than any of them. As much as they pushed, she was smart enough to get her own deal.

Emery's mom- She comes off as judgmental, superficial, and a bit flighty. But she does actually have a brain and a reason behind what she does. She doesn't think about Emery's feelings as much as I believe a mother should, she seems to care about the fame and the money, always the money.

Angel-  This is the skinny popular sister who shuns Emery because she's fat and is embarrassed by her. She also wants a career in t.v. so she sees the opportunities that the t.v. show represents for her.  Like everyone else, Emery's feelings are never considered. It's all about her.

Dad- Dad travels a lot as a motivational speaker and he's not around much. It seems that he may be the root of Emery's eating problems.  Dad is disappointed in Emery but hides it well. Still, Emery knows his disappointment.

The people from the weight loss reality show- They are all despicable to me. They drive Emery to the point of complete exhaustion. They practically give Emery an eating disorder and cause her to sneak food. She exercises constantly so that she makes her weight goals. She is constantly worried about it. From the nutritionist to the exercise trainer, they all push her way too hard.

Ben- Really, the best character by far. He is funny and self deprecating but not uncomfortable with his size. He loves Emery just the way she is and does not think she needs to change and is not fully in love with the idea of  her participation in the weight loss show. But he does support her by being there for her. And in the end, that's what matters the most.

The world- live t.v. How much worse could it be? Being in high school, overweight, and having your weight loss chronicled on live t.v. for the entire world to see. Really, how much worse could it be??? Give me mean girls any day!

The story- Though it seems simple - Emery going on a radical weight loss plan on live t.v. to lose 50 pound in 50 days, it's much more complex. Emery has a vlog and it's through that that she speaks her mind really. And that's where most of her followers come from, the girls that identify with her on some level whether they are battling weight loss, body image issues, or some other personal trial. They rally behind Emery believing in her. Emery has to deal with the instant celebrity, popularity has never been in her sights and she has to deal with Angel's jealousy. Even Ben is not safe. And the money. And the worry, did she lose enough weight this week? 

What I thought- So I always wonder how female writers can write male voices so well, especially teenage ones because they are so closed off. I have two, I know. They don't tell you anything. But I also wonder how men write female voices so well. I think Ken Baker did a great job at sounding genuine as a girl with a weight problem in a family that doesn't have one, as a superficial, unsupportive sister and a few other assorted girls. And of course, in my limited knowledge of the male teenager, I felt Ben was just as genuine. The story was the selling point for me. Emery is so complete and satisfied with herself just the way she is and doesn't want to do the show. Until, late one night as she's eating a snack, she watches something on t.v. and then discovers a family secret and I don't know if it's one or both but it spurs her to have an interest in at least having an audience with the show producers. Once again, this book makes me detest reality shows as the show invades absolutely every private inch of Emery's life, cutting and splicing her relationships apart until she is floundering in isolation with her nutritionist and trainer. As I mentioned above, the ending is an Emery kind of ending and I thought it was perfect for the story. 

Though I wouldn't call this fluff, it's not so deep that you come away feeling gloomy. Again though, do heed the warning if you have triggers for eating disorders. It left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. Emery's sarcasm and the romance with Ben is enough to keep the book from feeling maudlin. But I wouldn't exactly give it a beach bag recommendation. It is a realistic look at the way big girls move around in the world and how they see themselves versus how they are made to see themselves versus how others see them. It's ultimately about being who you are and not letting someone else tell you who you are. It's a lesson we all want to learn earlier rather than later.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher for review. I was not compensated for my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Ken Baker
@kenbakernow

8 comments:

  1. Hmm... the balance between not fluffy and not gloomy. I like ed books, so I prob should check out.

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  2. I'm not sure of this one, Heather. Half of it sounds like I would be chucking it against the room for how awful Emery's family treats her and be so angry to pick it up. The other half makes me curious as to how Emery confronts her family and I like the idea of no ties and bows in the end. I'll have to think about this one. Great review!

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  3. I thought Ken Baker also did a great job writing Emery.

    Sadly, I found the reality tv aspects very realistic, but I also agree that the things they did were awful.

    I liked this book but I didn't like the ending so much. It felt incomplete.

    Great Review!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

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  4. Heather - I appreciate this review on many levels. I'm drawn to books that deal with weight issues and this seems like one that I must read. I hope that you will let me borrow your copy. I'll see you in a few weeks!

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  5. I'm glad that it really does try to impart a good message. I can see what you mean about it being triggering... I'm wondering though if it would be good to be read while in therapy? Might help people connect on a different level? Hm... just curious. Oh and I wondered the same thing about those weight loss shows. I always wondered if it didn't impart some unhealthy habits. Great review!!

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  6. I haven't heard of this before and I'm not sure the story is one I'm entirely interested in, but I'm glad to hear it strikes a balance between gloomy deep and fluffy as that's always important for me too. Fantastic review!

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  7. Very interesting concept. I am not sure how I feel about it. Talk about pressure. I guess as lang as it has a nice balance and there is a positive message I could handle it!

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  8. I worry that this sort of story wouldn't be for me - if only because of my past experiences with disordered eating. I think that, in theory, it sounds incredibly powerful, but it sounds as though the balance off. Great review, Heather :)

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