It seems to me that there are a lot of young adult novels out there right now about dealing with weight issues. In the past year, I’ve read Susan Vaught’s Big Fat Manifesto and Mary Hogan’s Pretty Face. On my “to be read” list, there’s Laure Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls and Madeleine George’s Looks. All of these novels deal with body image, as does my latest read, Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee. I have to say that I really enjoyed this book, especially since the author doesn’t sugarcoat what it’s like to be a fat teenager. It’s not an easy life, and I would know. I’ve been dealing with weight issues my entire life, so it’s refreshing to read about characters with similar experiences.
Rosemary is defined by her weight. She is obsessed with how she looks and what she eats, and that seems to be the way the world defines her as well. She doesn’t understand why it’s okay for everyone in the world to point out how much she’s eating or how much weight she’s gained. (Amen to that!) Why can’t they mind their own business? She knows she’s fat; she doesn’t need to be reminded. Yes, she would like to have more self control, but no one can fight this battle for her, and she wishes they’d stop trying.
After an overweight family friend suffers two heart attacks and Rosemary’s mom is diagnosed with cancer, Rosemary begins to realize that she has to do something to change the course of her life. At first, she does things the wrong way (liquid diets and binges), but she eventually begins to exercise and be smarter about what she eats. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, and Rosemary still thinks about food a lot and continues to be tormented by the mean girls at school, but she has a support system there for her: KayKay, a former popular girl with problems of her own; Kyle, Rosemary’s new boyfriend who loves her just the way she is; her mother who is fighting cancer but is still determined to be there for her daughter; and a bunch of ladies (and two gay men) who work at her mother’s hair salon, Heavenly Hair. Rosemary’s got a long way to go before she’s truly confident in herself and comfortable with her appearance, but she’s getting there one step at a time.
I found Artichoke’s Heart to be very inspirational, and I think it’s a good selection for anyone, young or old, with body image issues. I also think this book could shed some light on what goes on in the mind of an overweight teen (self-loathing, disappointment, loneliness, guilt, etc.). People often don’t realize how hard life is for these teens and that they are really trying to change. Trust me. I’ve been there. (I’m still there.)