Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada ARC
Publish date: February 23, 2016
When I saw the title of this book, I was immediately interested. I love reading books dealing with body image – an issue I don’t think is dealt with very often, and when it is, I find it’s never approached very realistically or with a serious enough tone. The blurb on the back of this book described 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl as funny, but as I was reading it, I didn’t find it very funny – I found it to be concerning and a really effective way of expressing the issue of obsessing over body image.
Mona Awad’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl tells the story of Lizzie (Elizabeth, Beth, Liz – whichever of these she is going by at any point in the novel), a girl who grew up in Mississauga and had to deal with not liking what she saw in the mirror. The book follows her as she grows up and copes with losing weight.
Throughout the novel, we get different character’s perspectives of Lizzie, as well as her own – friends, boys, people who love her, people who use her – giving the reader a well-rounded idea of who Lizzie is and who she thinks she is. I also found the writing style to be almost poetic in both sound and themes.
What I loved so much about the book was that it didn’t glorify losing weight. In the beginning, the reader joins Lizzie in high school and sees how she views all of her skinny friends – it sounds almost erotic as she describes them, fixating on which parts of them she wishes she had. As the book progresses, Beth loses weight, but she is still obsessed with how she looks. She refuses to indulge in any food she might have loved eating before, and judges others entirely on their outward appearance. Even the fact that she insists people call her by different names just goes to show how Lizzie is obsessed with, and I’d use the word addicted, to making sure the way people see her is the way she wants to be seen.
I absolutely loved reading about the struggle Lizzie was faced with, because it was an issue she had with herself – no one in the book ever judged her for being “fat” or laughed at her for eating too much. Those were things she hated about herself, but as she loses the weight and tries to change herself, and that’s when it becomes clear how shallow she really is.
It’s a short read that I devoured within a day, so if you’re at all interested in books about body image, or think this sounds like a compelling read, I suggest you take the time to read it.