13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Published by Penguin Books on February 23, 2016
224 pages
Kindle format
Advance reading copy provided by publisher
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Stories speak to me differently, at different times; I've often wondered how my experience of a novel or story might change if only I'd read it a month earlier or later. Debut novels are especially exciting; I enjoy discovering new authors and I requested a copy of this one some time ago. As its publication date approached, I felt some resistance to reading it; I think it's because I've been struggling with my perception of my body.

Every other Saturday night, she permits herself two double margaritas and enchiladas verdes at the Blue Iguana, followed by a Brownie Bonanza at Ben & Jerry’s. Though it scares and saddens him a little to see her hunger let loose upon a small complimentary basket of tortilla chips, he too looks forward to these Saturday nights. It’s the only night when her smirk goes slack, the noose of restraint loosened enough for her features to soften, her beauty at last unbuckling its belt. She is never more expansive and easygoing in conversation than when she’s snatching chips from the basket with quick fingers. He’s learned not to look at the fingers. If he does, she’ll stop.

After I (finally) began reading, I devoured this remarkable debut; I had trouble putting it down. I found myself in another of those situations where I have to decide whether to wear makeup to work or continue reading for a few more minutes (the book usually wins). While I ate lunch in my office one day last week, I decided that I would read some of it; the portion I read was almost too relatable and I found myself crying at my desk. 

My father has always felt that being fat was a choice. When I was in college I would sometimes meet him for lunch or coffee, and he would stare at my extra flesh like it was some weird piece of clothing I was wearing just to annoy him. [...] Not really part of me, just something I was doing to rebel, prove him wrong.

The number of passages I've highlighted is laughable; it's like I've highlighted nearly the entire book. While it certainly had an emotional impact on me, due to its subject matter, the novel is beautifully written and the characters are spectacular. It's witty and snarky and sad and frustrating; through Lizzy, the novel's main character, readers are taken on a journey through what it means to search for the coveted prize - thinness - in today's society. 

The reason men are looking, according to Mel, is because she’s been giving off sex vibes all day. I never know what she means by this. My best guess is something between an animal scent and a cosmic force.

Organized in 18 short vignettes, Lizzy's story is told during alternating periods of her life; however, the format suits the need to highlight the varied ways in which Lizzie begins to comprehend that life and love can be full of joy, in spite of their complications. Awad has included something for everyone; I dare you to read this and try not to become invested. 

 

 

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