Review: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Goodreads Synopsis:

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?

In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.

 

Chick and Brain Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

This narrative is not what I had expected at all. When looking into the background of the book on Goodreads, a lot of the readers categorized it as a Feminist book. I am all about girl power and equal rights for women (yea I know that is not all being a Feminist is about) but I do not normally ready books within that genre, but I was intrigued so I gave it a shot. With the expectation of receiving a message of affirmation of self beauty and self-love, but we were given was another demonstration of how the societal perception of an individual can cloud your own personal view of yourself.  The main character Lizzie, is very unlikable. We are not given any view of love for self or even desire to like herself. She is constantly focused on the desire to change and remain changed that she is blinded to the love  of those around her. We are cheated of the “Bridget Jones” type story we all desire and are given a depressing at times self loathing character. Even by the end of the narrative, we are unable to say we are able to understand or even relate to what the character has gone through. Awad wrote a wonderful narrative of different individuals views of being overweight in today’s society, but we were left with no resolution and more questions than before we started reading.

Lizzie is the perfect example of how most girls are swept up into the need to fit into society’s perception of what is beautiful. Awad makes us aware of how both Lizzie and those around her view her weight, but also makes sure we are treated to a view that most authors forget. We are given a glimpse into who Lizzie is as a person. The girl and later woman behind the weight, how she thinks and feels. Although Lizzie has others around her that love her, Lizzie does not love herself. We are given a very depressed and sad girl, to say even at time consumed by her weight and focus to lose it. Unlike the message of self love, Lizzie is so consumed by her desire to lose weight and keep it off that she is unable to maintain healthy and loving relationships. The second half of the narrative, looses the draw that we were given during the first half. We are left with many open-ended questions by the end of the narrative about Lizzie and her life as whole.

Although we are not given a traditional narrative, these small glimpses give us a better view of how Lizzie deals in specific situations. There was no climax or even a resolution, but what Awad has done is make us think. We as a society judge everyone based on what they are on the outside without taking into consideration what that may make them think and feel. While reading I found myself viewing moments as this could be my daughter, or some teenager out there is going through the same thing right now. The important lesson here is not to ignore the critical message Awad has brought to us as the reader, both while reading and in the conduct of our daily lives.

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