*I received this book from the published in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
Author: Mona Awad
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?
Lizzie’s story centres on weight and image, how women are perceived and how they perceive themselves, particularly when it comes to their weight. I feel like I was expecting quite a different story from the one I was expecting. This book is described as “hilarious and cutting” and “sparkles with wit” on the cover, but I couldn’t quite get myself in the frame of mind find much humour in this story. While there are witticisms and quips throughout, the overall story left me quite morose. I was hopeful that this story would open up a conversation on loving oneself despite one’s shape and size, but Lizzie is often a self-depreciating, self-loathing character who struggles immensely with both societal pressure and the pressure that she puts on herself. This book to me, seems like a much more series discussion on self-image and self-love and how many people have difficulty with both of these things.
Lizzie cannot love herself when she is heavier, and she becomes obsessed with food and weight more and more as she begins to lose it. Her obsession creates a wedge in her relationships and friendships, and keeps her from really loving herself. Lizzie lacks confidence in her own beauty as a woman at all sizes and stages in her life. While many love her for exactly who she is throughout her life, Lizzie remains distant from the beautiful image of herself that others see. She finds repulsion in the weight of the women around her and uses anger and disgust to drive her own weight loss.
I think if the cover and description of this book had advertised it as an intimate look at a young woman’s struggle with weight and her difficulty with loving herself, I could have approached this story with a very different frame of mind. I was let down as I expected a hilarious, own-my-body, “I’m beautiful no matter what” kind of story and that’s not what Awad’s book is at all. I cannot say I’d recommend it, but it’s a pretty good read as long as you realize what you’re getting yourself into.