Monday, May 16, 2011

Life in the Fat Lane Book Review

Release date: 1998. Author: Cherie Bennett. Publisher: Dell Laurel-Leaf. ISBN: 0440220297.
Annotation: Lara Ardeche is perfect; thin, beautiful and popular she is a lifelong pageant winner and recently elected homecoming queen. Lara's life changes forever, however, as she rapidly and inexplicably gains weight

Personal thoughts: I enjoyed this novel quite a bit because it took a different perspective on a common topic: dealing with obesity in high school. Instead of having spent her life overweight, Lara Ardeche transitions from beautiful and perfect to living "in the fat lane." I thought this was interesting, and I'm sure will resonate with readers who have experienced weight fluctuations.

Plot summary: Junior in high school, Lara Ardeche, has the perfect life. Beautiful, popular and thin, Lara has spent her life competing in and winning beauty pageants. Her beautiful, thin mother and handsome father adore her, as does her cool boyfriend Jett and her best friend, Molly. Lara's life becomes even better when she is elected homecoming queen, despite the fact that she's just a junior. In the months following her homecoming victory, however, Lara's life becomes a living hell as she inexplicably begins to gain weight very rapidly. As she grows bigger and bigger, her popular friends abandon her, and Lara tries everything to get back to her former thin self. Matters are only worsened by her "perfect" parents who constantly pressure her to diet. After rigorous medical testing, Lara finally discovers that a rare metabolic disorder is the cause of her weight gain, a disorder for which there is no cure. As Lara's life continues to fall apart, she discovers that perhaps things were not as perfect as she had imagined, even when she was thin.

Review: Life in the Fat Lane provides a unique view of the teenage obsession with appearance as Lara Ardeche experiences both sides of the coin. Beginning the novel as a thin, beautiful and popular homecoming queen, the reader sees the benefits of fitting in with society's ideal image. As Lara gains weight rapidly, eventually ending up a size 24, the emotional torment she experiences illustrates the loneliness of being "different." As the reader transitions with Lara from beauty queen to "freak," Bennett takes the audience on the heartbreaking journey with her character. Secondary to Lara's weight disorder but equally heartbreaking is the breakdown of Lara's parents' marriage. Lara's mother provides a clear image of the future Lara may have had as a thin, beautiful woman, particularly the fact that this future is far from perfect. Overall, Life in the Fat Lane is a realistic look at what happens when the lie of perfection fails, and how to overcome the realization that apperances aren't everything.

Genre: Fiction

Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: N/A

Themes: Eating disorders, popularity and image, divorce, weigh gain and loss, parental pressure.

Awards/reviews: Positive reviews from Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal. Winner of ALA's Best Book for Young Adults award 1999.

Series information: N/A

Discussion Questions:

- Do you think how much a person weighs is important? Do you think other people think it's important? Why or why not?

- How do you think Lara's life changes once she becomes "fat"?

- Would you ever make fun of someone for being "fat"?

- Do you think Lara's life was easier when she was thin?

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