The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
fiction, young adult
Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
Review posted: 5/28/04
Written for a high school audience, the Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things has appeal that reaches beyond its suggested age group. The story of Virginia, a teenager who is struggling with her weight in addition to the challenges of high school, this book hits home n a lot of levels.
Virginia’s struggles with her weight seem to be paralleled with her struggle to accept herself and be accepted by others. Filled with humorous moments that are nicely offset by moments of seriousness. Author Carolyn Mackler is confident enough to play with her characterizations and really infuse Virginia’s teenage life with all the drama that readers will remember from their own high school days.
As much as I enjoyed with book, however, it was not flawless. Mackler falls prey to many of the “fat girl” clichés that have become so prevalent in our society. As Virginia struggles with her body and self-image, she becomes a self-abuser, a crash dieter, a sullen and withdrawn teen. Her family, instead of seeing this, merely encourages her in her sudden weight loss. Only her best friend can understand her because…does this sound familiar yet? It should. The moral of the story is basically that Virginia has to become self-aware in order to defeat her body issues and make hr parents understand her. I think every teen book starring a fat girl (Dinah and the Green Fat Kingdom, The Cat Ate My Gym Suit – just two examples) have had a similar moral. The author has even included the kindly teacher that help’s Virginia find herself and the snotty popular girl who isn’t as happy as she seems. The revelation that Virginia’s family isn’t as perfect as she thinks becomes less of a revelation and more of a duh.
The biggest problem isn’t the clichés though. You can work around them. Virginia’s personality is such that she engages you in the story even though it is familiar. Mackler really only goes astray when she continues to introduce new factors into the mess. There is too much drama, and too many easy resolutions. An eating disorder. A family trauma. Self-mutilation. On and on and on. By the end of the book you feel as overwhelmed as Virginia. Anyone of these struggles would have made an interesting story, but together they are overwhelming. As one piles on the other you have to begin wondering if you even have the emotional energy to invest as another issue arises.
This is a well-written book. The characters are interesting. Some of them are even likable. Virginia is an engaging narrator. I look forward to future efforts from this author, and I did enjoy this book. But I could have enjoyed it much more.