Friday Fiction – Life in the Fat Lane

Best Man Training
Party On!

Life in the Fat Lane coverLife in the Fat Lane
Bennett
1998

Submitter: I never want to see this !@#$ book again – please burn it when you’re done. Things that make this book unbearable:

  • Fat phobia/shaming
  • Comparing getting fat to AIDS
  • Domestic violence
  • Suicide attempts
  • Parents split up because kid gets fat

Holly: This is the story of a teen beauty pageant queen who is diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder and gains 100 pounds. Of course, it takes a while for the diagnosis, with various negative and inconclusive tests that lead everyone to assume she’s just “letting herself go.” The story is pretty raw with self-hatred, eating disorders, and all the things Submitter listed above.

This book was actually included in the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults in 1999. The story eventually comes around to lessons like friendship, loyalty, honesty, and self-acceptance, so there’s a bit of hope in the end. The main character finds out that her parents had problems before she ever started gaining weight – she was just too self-centered to see it. She ends up at a new school where no one knew her before she gained weight, so the friends she makes there are people who actually bother to get to know her.

I’d still weed it. Issues like suicide, domestic violence, eating disorders, and self-image should be treated in teen fiction in a more modern way. Not necessarily watered down on the issues, but definitely amped up on the abundance of options, hope, support, and modern medicine available now. Being a teen in 1998 was different than it is now, and this would be a more meaningful story if it were set twenty years later.

Life in the Fat Lane back cover

Life in the Fat Lane teaser

Life in the fat lane excerpt

6 comments

  1. To day she’d have to worry about malicious gossips from her new school finding the malicious gossips from her old school on F*ceb**K or the like. Fortunately the school would be better at nailing bullies probably.

  2. I know that 1998 was a little over 20 years ago now (that was the year I first got the Internet)
    but I don’t think that societal attitudes towards the obese have changed THAT much since then!
    It’s not like this book was written in 1948 or ’58, or even as late as ’68 or ’78!

  3. More than anything, I dislike that the writer used the overworn “I was the prettiest shallow self-obsessed princess in high school, then I got ugly and lost all my friends” plot. If she wanted to write a book about learning to value more than just your appearance, she could have done a lot better than this.

  4. I know a lot of people hate “negative messages but she learns they were all wrong by the end of the book” stories because they have to sit through all the negative messages first.

  5. I’d weed for age, but as someone who loved this book in middle school, I have to disagree with the submitter’s assessment of its content.

    Yeah, there are fat-shaming characters, but they’re not presented as good people. It’s not the job of literature to be all about happy things. The “fat/AIDS” comparison is in relation to the main character thinking she’s “better” than other fat people because she got fat from a disorder instead of food, kind of like someone who got AIDS from a blood transfusion thinking they’re better than someone who got AIDS from sex. It’s not meant to be, “Being fat is as bad as AIDS.” Yeah, there’s domestic violence and suicide attempts. That’s not grounds for weeding.

    The parents do not split up because the kid gets fat. The kid blames herself when the parents split up (not uncommon in kids whose parents are divorcing) and then discovers that the parents are splitting up because of the dad’s long secret affair. Did the submitter finish this book?

    “This book has negative things” is a terrible reason to weed. Late-90s datedness, though? Go for it.

  6. Dumplin’
    The Upside of Unrequited
    The Summer of Jordi Perez
    Mammoth
    Undead Girl Gang
    To Be Honest

    We have better options. Get them. Get rid of this.

    By the way, this author isn’t even fat. Who is she to speak on the experience of being fat?

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