Rummanah Aasi
  I was struck by a Young Adult Symposium that discussed the phenomenon of fat literature. I had to reread it several times to make sure my mind did not translate phat with fat. Surely, I thought it was a typo until I saw this description of the seminar:

As more teens struggle with their weight, YA lit is increasingly featuring vibrant, complicated main characters that happen to be overweight. But as the “Fat Lit” genre matures, it finds itself torn between fostering positive body image and “fat acceptance” among teens while at same time acknowledging the psychological and physical health issues often present with obesity.
Then I got to thinking that yes, indeed, I have just finished reading two books that would perfect fit into this genre: Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee and Fat Cat by Robin Brande. Both of these books have an overweight female protagonist who are trying to build their self esteem as well as get healthy amongst other obstacles they face. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast these titles as I read them back to back. Both of the books were great reads and they differed slightly on how the main characters dealt with their weight. What fascinated me about both books is that yes, weight is an issue, but it was actually a product of how the each of the characters are living their lives. Let's take a look at Artichoke's Heart first.

Description of Artichoke's Heart: Rosemary decides she is sick of being overweight, mocked at school and at Heavenly Hair, her mother's beauty salon. She decides to take control when she finds out that her mother has been diagnosed with cancer. Trying to become healthy and having a boyfriend for the first time, Rosemary soon discovers that people are not perfect.

Review: In first half of the book, Rosemary discusses her insecurities of being overweight. She takes solace in junk food and uses it as her coping mechanism. She is constantly mocked at school for her weight and is given advice from everyone on how she should 'control herself'. After she finds out her mother is sick, Rosemary realizes that how her mother is dealing with her illness is not that different on how she is dealing with her weight and relationships. She soon creates a strict diet and exercise routine, which allows her not only to lose weight, but also to go outside of her social and psychological comfort zone. Her relationship with her boyfriend is sweet and honest. There are parts that were kind of unrealistic such as Rosemary being pursued as friend by a popular girl. Also, I couldn't help but wonder if Rosemary would succeed socially without losing weight. I'd like to think so. Overall, Artichoke's Heart is a fun read. Rosemary is a sassy, smart and funny heroine. The serious issues of weight and cancer are handled with humor and don't drag the book down. The Southern dialect at first slowed my reading speed, but I got over that hump and thought it gave the book personality.

Rating: 4 stars

Now let's see how Fat Cat differs from Artichoke's Heart:

Description of Fat Cat: Ever since being called Fat Cat in middle school, Catherine has been trying to deal with her weight. When she is given science project for her class where she must emulate the ways of how hominims, the earliest ancestors of human beings, lived by eating an all-natural diet and foregoing technology. 

Review: Cat is first and foremost a scientist. When she is given a science project about eating healthy and abstaining from using technology, she thinks this is the perfect time for her to change. What first starts out as a passion to win first place in the science fair now becomes a life-changing event. What I loved about this book is that Cat not only studies the science behind obesity and healthy living, she also explores how becoming healthy has changed how she interacts with other people. As a result of slimming down, she gains confidence, starts to like herself, and begins to attract the attention of the opposite sex, which never happened before. Cat and her friends are smart, witty, and very observant. I would love to hang out with them. It was refreshing to read a book where intelligence is just as sexy or more so than physical appearance.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of caution on both of these books: There is mild language in both books as well as scenes of underage drinking at a high school party. I'd recommend these books to 7th graders and up.

Curriculum Connections:  Health and Science

If you like these books, try: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler and My Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught.
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