I received this book for free from Netgalley, Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Published by Penguin Books on February 23, 2016
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary Women, Literary
Source: Netgalley, Penguin First to Read
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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?
Everything in me wanted to like 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. I had it on my most anticipated debuts of 2016 list. Everything I read about it sounded magical. I was super excited to get it and dropped everything to read it. And then, upon ending it, I was saddened as the hype was there, but the story was not. Set in thirteen chapters, the story tracked the life of Lizzy, a girl who only sees herself through the filter of being a “fat girl”. Her filter is everything to her; it inhabits every part of her being and she cannot see past it. And that is the inherent downfall of the book. There is no emotional growth, no hook. It is just a sad girl getting sadder while trying to change her outside, and never working on her inside.
The writing by Mona Awad was interesting, but lacked emotion. Each of the thirteen chapters jumped into a specific time period in Lizzy’s life. It read more as a short story collection than a cohesive tale. The jumping ensured you saw the significant moments in the main characters life, but you never learned who Lizzy truly was. It was as if you were looking through a window at her, a haze over her life. The pacing, as mentioned, was not cohesive. At times the story would jump only one year and then it would jump five. There was no true world created, only observations. Lizzy as the main character was draining. Never happy as herself, she constantly changed her name (Liz, Elizabeth, Beth, etc.) to help create a new person. She alienated those who cared about her, as she could never see her own self worth.
I could see where Mona Awad was trying to go with 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. At the heart of it, there is potential in the story and I can see people loving it. I however, need that emotional tie to a world or character to really get the book. I would read Awad’s next book, as there was something in the writing. However, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl just didn’t click with me.
Favorite lines – Later on I’m going to be really fucking beautiful. I’m going to grow into that nose and develop an eating disorder. I’ll be hungry and angry all my life but I’ll also have a hell of a time.
Biggest cliché – “If I was skinny I would be happy.”
Have you read 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, or added it to your TBR?