Read This: 45 Pounds (More or Less)

Just finished reading a fun new YA book and thought I’d share a recommendation:

45 Pounds (More or Less), by K.A. Barson (Viking Juvenile, July 2013)

Ann Galardi is a 16-year-old girl who has struggled with her weight in one way or another her whole life — sometimes struggling to lose it, sometimes struggling not to show her perfect size 6 mother she cares about it. I picked it up because it sounded like a charming, light read, and because of course as a woman I identified with the body image issue (wish I didn’t, but there it is).

As soon as I was a few pages in, it occurred to me that this is a thorny topic to write about for teens. Girls certainly don’t need anything that feeds into the constant worrying about being thin enough. It’s a delicate balancing act to address the fact that Ann really does need to worry about her weight, because she’s not healthy, yet also show her learning to accept and like herself for who she is.

This is Kelly Barson’s first novel, and I think she did a nice job in striking that balance. She fully addresses all the facets of this issue — health versus looks; being mindful of what you eat without obsessing over it; being liked by others and liking yourself whether or not you can wear the trendiest clothes — without being preachy. And she’s created a funny, terrifically likeable, and believable heroine in Ann.

I especially enjoyed the subplot about Ann’s young step-sister, Libby, and how Ann and her mother’s troubled relationships with food have impacted her. Ann’s attempts to figure out how to fix the damage are both sweet and smart.

I also appreciated the depiction of girls’ friendships, something I really look for in YA novels. Naturally, there are Mean Girls on the scene too, but it wasn’t overdone, just a believable bit of high school pettiness.

There are a lot of “girl overcomes weight/health/social problems” novels out there, but this was one of the better ones I’ve come across. Barson brings a freshness to the theme, and lets Ann mess up (sometimes pretty royally, the kind of horrific-embarrassment-at-parties type of thing that makes the reader vicariously want to disappear), but also deal with things smartly and effectively.

It’s nice to meet a heroine who can show realistic vulnerability and fear, but then get herself over it without too much agonizing and with a lot of humor.

So pick up 45 Pounds this summer — take it to the beach, and remember not to worry about what you look like in your swimsuit too much!

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