45 Pounds (More or Less)FeaturedHot
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 2 months, and wants Ann to be a bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less).
Welcome to the world of informercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, endless run-ins with the cutest guy Ann's ever seen—and some surprises about her not-so-perfect mother.
And there's one more thing—it's all about feeling comfortable in your own skin—no matter how you add it up!
I especially liked that Ann felt that a prepackaged diet would solve all of her problems; this sort of diet hasn't been addressed in any book I've read about teen weight loss, and was a great addition!
Weight issues in YA are generally really poorly handled. In fact, I can only think of a couple of heroines who aren't very skinny. Considering what a big issue weight is in American society, it's rather startling how few books there are that take that perspective and deal with it in an open, feeling, non-shaming way, and the only book I can think of aside from 45 Pounds is The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, which isn't remotely our society. Though I know there are some others I haven't read, 45 Pounds is still a much-needed book that takes a heartbreaking look at insecurities, where they come from, and what to do about them.
K. A. Barson's debut novel has incredibly strong characterization. From page one, Ann's personality shines through. She's rather funny and intelligent, but, more than anything, she's a mound of insecurities and self-hatred. If, like me, you hated pretty much everything about yourself at some point in your life, you will feel for Ann; I ached and part of me was right back in that place. If you never went through that, I suspect it will be really hard to really comprehend how Ann could think that way about herself. From my own experiences, Ann's thought patterns are wholly accurate. They are also frustrating. She makes so many bad choices, but not for the sake of the plot, the sort of well meaning bad choices that are a part of growing up.
Ann really does have a problem with food, and Barson shows this very well. The root of Ann's dietary issues stem from her family. Any stressful situation sends her to the food, a response programmed into her from childhood, one she can't quit, though she wants to. Unhappy with the way she looks, Ann tries fad diet after fad diet, losing a few pounds and then falling off the wagon. These diets aren't sustainable, so she can never stick to them. I've seen this same issue with friends who try to follow this or that diet. They work, but they're so strict that they're not manageable long term.
With regards to weight, Barson's messages are very positive, if slightly preachy. She promotes health above all, and happiness. Ultimately, the most successful diets will be ones of moderation, but of real, day-to-day food. Also, when Ann really comes to dieting, she comes at it from both a personal and a psychological standpoint, rather than just the desire to look better, which tends to be outweighed by the deliciousness of burgers and the ease of not exercising. Barson emphasizes that a person cannot be forced to change their thinking, and that putting too much pressure, one way or another, on someone's diet is liable to make things worse rather than better. What's great too is that, though Ann does want to lose weight and be skinny and pretty, her goal weight is actually always set a couple of pounds above the high end of "healthy weights" for her height, showing that those are just numbers and that varies from person to person.
For readers who have been disappointed by the lack of familiar focus in young adult fiction, 45 Pounds has a very strong focus on that. Ann's parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother, step-father, and twin siblings. Her brother, Tony, fought with both sets of parents and has been a no-show since he left for college. Ann has huge issues with her mother. Though her mother really does care, she ends up being a really unhealthy influence on Ann and the kids. It's a great example of how even loving families and good intentions can come out skewed. The resolution between Ann and her mother was really satisfyingly handled.
On top of that, there's also a wonderful aspect that deals with friendship. First of all, I am happy to inform you that Ann isn't a social outcast because she's a size 17. In fact, most people are really nice to her and like her; she's not popular, but she can sit at just about any lunch table she wants. So many authors make the fat kid an outcast, but that's really not always the case, and not a healthy attitude to model. Anyway, Ann's best friend, Cassie, changed schools, which has led to them growing apart. At her summer job, Ann has befriend Raynee, a much more popular girl. Watching those two form a bond as they realized just how terribly their supposed best friends treated them was touching.
Even more exciting on some levels, Ann actually gets a boy! A cute one, at least to her, though I suspect from a couple of hints that he's likely not model hot or anything like that. He sounds like a sweet, average boy to me. She meets the boy on her first day at work when she messes up his pretzel, and he's so polite and kind about that. He never looks down on Ann for her weight, but he's also not a manicpixiedreamboy, because he's sort of awkward and really takes his time about things. Their romance is kept on the backburner to the rest of the plot, but I found it convincing and really liked the moral that there's someone for everyone. All guys aren't attracted to thin girls, and I say this as someone who has sat in on guy talk on multiple occasions. Though generally I don't think romance needs to be in every book, I'm very glad there was one here.
What Left Me Wanting More:
My one reservation with 45 Pounds is that some plot elements did seem to disappear or not get as fully resolved as I would have liked. For example, there was a big build up of stuff with Ann's brother, but very little actually happens with that. Similarly, Ann's father and his step-family comes up a couple of times, but I felt like there should have been more to it. These are very minor issues and were not huge detractors.
The Final Verdict:
K. A. Barson's debut is full of heart and encourages both healthy diets and relationships. Barson tackles weight issues in a sympathetic way, while also covering themes of friendship and family. 45 Pounds is an excellent novel for young adults, both well-written and well-characterized.
Ann's character growth, realizing she wants to be healthy rather than striving for skinny. Her relationship with her mom and her little sister, and how their body image issues and food talk was effecting her at age 4. Ann's mom is thin but feels fat and talks about how she can't eat another bite. Further family relationships including feeling left out from her father (parents are seperated), her brother going off to college and not staying in touch, to feeling like both families have started over with another spouse and smaller children. It is so realistic and easy to relate to if you have any sort of similar issues.
It is pretty gritty and Ann's internal dialogue is true to life. I am overweight and can connect with how much she waivers, and how it isn't glossed over. The issues with eating are handled well and fleshed out.
I also felt a kinship with Ann because of how close she is with her grandma. I lived with my grandmother a lot when I was a kid, when my mom was busy, moving or having her own issues. This made us so close, she shared my love of reading and always was a safe place. Ann's grandma was more hip and louder than mine, but that just added some humor and wisdom to the book.
Ann and her friendships were also a little dysfunctional. She was semi manipulated by Cassie who used to be her best friend. Not only that, but when she gets a job she is working with some of the "cool kids" from school. One of them is more different and actually liked Ann for who she was, not worried about body image, etc. Raynee was so sweet and glad that she was in the book and was accepting. But I like that she wasn't a complete outcast, and she made it worse for herself because of self-doubt. A lot of people were nice to her and talked to her, and I think that she could have been more popular if she would, because she has a funny, real personality and easy to like.
There was some romance and although it didn't take the front seat, it was sweet. I like that he didn't care about her size, he cared about her personality. He was also understanding, he pursued her, and a generally good guy.
I liked the ending and the place where Ann left off. She had a better understanding of health and although she didn't meet her goal, she made progress.
Bottom Line: Realistic look at an overweight girl dealing with self image and trying to lose weight.
Ann is hilarious. She is so real, it will be hard not to relate to her. The opening scene begins with her bathing suit shopping while her mom picks up a "motivational" teeny tiny bikini for Ann. This is not Ann's idea of motivation to lose weight. It's a nagging reminder of how far she is from being able to wear anything in that department store.
Who hasn't felt like that at some point, right?
45 Pounds starts off being about Ann deciding to lose weight, but it quickly becomes so much more. There are so many subtle subplots that add a rich depth to the characters and the story. It's really hard to say what was my favorite part overall. Ann starts out on a journey to meet a goal, but in the process she learns some tough lessons about true friendship, her mother, family, and what it means to be 'healthy'.
I just want to gush about how amazing this book is! I can't stop myself. I had no idea what it would be like when I started reading. I figured there would be a snarky narrator, but I got more than that. I found real emotion and a positive message.
Everyone should read this book. We can all relate. As women, we are so hard on ourselves about our weight. Often, we don't realize what our subtle messages and attitudes toward food do to those around us. Parts of this book were a total eye opener for me, because I realized I was guilty of some of these things. Who would have thought that an adult could have learned a lesson about life from a YA novel?
Go get a copy!
Well, one night I was going to check on my dog, Delilah, before I went to sleep. She sleeps in the laundry room at the back of the house. My house just so happens to be down a long driveway in the middle of the woods in the deep south of Louisiana, surrounded by fields and built up on a hill.
So I walk into the room and see Delilah standing up, tail pointed back, staring directly at the door that leads to the garage. Now, she’s a big dog. Easily weighs 40 pounds, but thinks she weighs 10. (No really. She thinks she is a puppy. She’ll be the first one to lie across my lap while I’m reading outside.) And to see her wolf-like frame, completely still, watching the door like a bone is floating just outside the threshold, scared the living daylights out of me.
It’s pitch black outside the small window that fits in the door and I can’t see a damn thing. So, being the realistic person I am, I ask Delilah what’s wrong. (Yup, the first thing I do is ask the dog what is going on.) And she doesn’t even move a muscle. Neither do I as I refuse to step another foot into the room that I’m certain is haunted now.
Then I hear a scream from outside. (Ya'll, if I wasn’t scared then, I am now.) And I run to my dad and tell him that there is a murderer outside the house! (“Always jumping to conclusions, Emily.” is what he was probably thinking.) But even though I am 21, my dad went to investigate. Just like he still does when I tell him there is a spider on the ceiling.
Turns out there is a Budget rent a car sitting in our drive way that is being driven by a very nice lady employed by FedEx. (How none of us heard her drive up is beyond me. Or that none of our 6 dogs barked. Great guard dogs, eh?) And she just so happens to be afraid of frogs. Of course, our open garage is full of those little green tree frogs that croak day and night, calling for the rain. So a frog jumps on her while she is trying to find her way to our door at midnight on a Saturday and she screams bloody murder, prompting me to go find my dad, thus ending this miniature horror flick.
(And it seemed like a total horror movie at the time! FedEx van breaks down so she has to borrow a rental to go to a house in the middle of nowhere. To deliver a book to a 21 year old girl who was completely oblivious to the fact that she had any packages coming to her and was more involved in Candy Crush than listening to vehicles come up and down our driveway.)
So yeah, I was completely surprised when I saw it was addressed to me. And absolutely ecstatic when I found that it was this book, accompanied by a pack of M&M’s.
And now I will read and hope that is just as good as the way that I received it.
SO. I'm done. I finished while curled up in bed, all sickly, and was almost in tears. (Not because of the cold I contracted from night swimming, but the book.)
It got to me. And I'm sure it will get to anyone who has ever had any low self body image (and we all have). Not just about weight, but anything that lowers our self esteem.
As this book states more than once (more elegantly that I can), it is only once you are happy with your own self that you can appreciate how others see you as well.
I related closely to Ann and her situation. I've struggled with my own body image for years, and I also felt self conscious loads of times in my teenage years. It's nice to have a support group though. Raynee was great and Jon was adorable. Ann's mom drove me crazy and I really wanted to wring her neck a time or two.
But other than her, this book is great for any young lady struggling with body image issues.