Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex, especially when she compares herself to her slim, brilliant, picture-perfect family. But that’s before a shocking phone call — and a horrifying allegation — about her rugby-star brother changes everything. With irreverent humor and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine who speaks to every teen who struggles with family expectations, and proves that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
I’m going to preface this review by saying that I listened to the audiobook version of this one. I’ve never actually listened to an audiobook before, and I don’t think it’s something that I’m going to do very often, because I felt like it made the experience of ‘reading’ the book less enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, to me, 3/5 stars isn’t bad at all, but I’m just saying that the audiobook experience might have been the difference between a 3 and a 4. I just found it hard to connect with the speaker, maybe because she didn’t sound like a 15-year-old girl at all. I also realize that this book was written 15 years ago, and it might have been written a bit differently had it been written in present time.
I had heard a lot of great things about this book and was excited when I stumbled across the audiobook at a library book sale. My car doesn’t actually have a CD player, so feel free to imagine me driving to and from school lugging around a giant CD player that decided to die halfway through the discs. I actually read her book with Jay Asher, ‘The Future of Us’ years ago, and liked it.
It sort of felt like the book was split into two parts, with part one being before the phone call, and part two being after. I think I liked the second half better. In the beginning, I found Virginia a bit frustrating. I could totally understand her feelings about her weight, but it felt like she was blaming everyone else for the fact that she was overweight. I’m not discounting the bullying she faced by any means, because that’s never okay, but it just felt that she was whining a lot about it for a majority of the book without really putting in any consistent effort to change anything.
The ‘body goal’ that her parents outlined for her just kind of drifted off. There was never really anything specifically set for it, and eventually, they stopped asking about it and it was never brought up again. Her bout of anorexia and then binge eating afterward kind of drifted off as well. Also, at times I felt that her and her best friend, Shannon, acted a bit younger than their age. I can’t refer to any specific times because my mind is a jumble of both books combined right now (and I can’t skim through all 5 discs for examples) but I just got that feeling a few times.
She reads too much in to some of the things her family says about her weight, like when her brother Byron says something about her new sweatshirt being too large. I took that as he meant she should have a smaller size because that one would be too big on her, but that’s not how she took it. Which is understandable, because she was already sort of in that mindset.
The avoid spoilers about what the phone call was, I thought that Virginia handled it pretty well. Her feelings on the issue were the same way I would have felt in her position, and I liked that she never made light of the situation. As I said before, I liked her a lot more in the second part of the book. Again, I think a lot of my qualms with the book stem from the way it was read, which I want to stress definitely did impact my experience of the book–had I read a physical copy, I might have felt differently, so please don’t not read it just because of me!
Connect with the author!
You can follow Carolyn Mackler at @carolynmackler!