Review: 45 Pounds

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: 45 Pounds45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson
Published by Viking Juvenile on July 11, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

First Sentence: “I long for the roof to cave in at Keehn’s department store.”

Weight issues in YA are generally really poorly handled. In fact, I can only think of a couple of heroines who aren’t very skinny. Considering what a big issue weight is in American society, it’s rather startling how few books there are that take that perspective and deal with it in an open, feeling, non-shaming way, and the only book I can think of aside from 45 Pounds is The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, which isn’t remotely our society. Though I know there are some others I haven’t read, 45 Pounds is still a much-needed book that takes a heartbreaking look at insecurities, where they come from, and what to do about them.

K. A. Barson’s debut novel has incredibly strong characterization. From page one, Ann’s personality shines through. She’s rather funny and intelligent, but, more than anything, she’s a mound of insecurities and self-hatred. If, like me, you hated pretty much everything about yourself at some point in your life, you will feel for Ann; I ached and part of me was right back in that place. If you never went through that, I suspect it will be really hard to really comprehend how Ann could think that way about herself. From my own experiences, Ann’s thought patterns are wholly accurate. They are also frustrating. She makes so many bad choices, but not for the sake of the plot, the sort of well meaning bad choices that are a part of growing up.

Ann really does have a problem with food, and Barson shows this very well. The root of Ann’s dietary issues stem from her family. Any stressful situation sends her to the food, a response programmed into her from childhood, one she can’t quit, though she wants to. Unhappy with the way she looks, Ann tries fad diet after fad diet, losing a few pounds and then falling off the wagon. These diets aren’t sustainable, so she can never stick to them. I’ve seen this same issue with friends who try to follow this or that diet. They work, but they’re so strict that they’re not manageable long term.

With regards to weight, Barson’s messages are very positive, if slightly preachy. She promotes health above all, and happiness. Ultimately, the most successful diets will be ones of moderation, but of real, day-to-day food. Also, when Ann really comes to dieting, she comes at it from both a personal and a psychological standpoint, rather than just the desire to look better, which tends to be outweighed by the deliciousness of burgers and the ease of not exercising. Barson emphasizes that a person cannot be forced to change their thinking, and that putting too much pressure, one way or another, on someone’s diet is liable to make things worse rather than better. What’s great too is that, though Ann does want to lose weight and be skinny and pretty, her goal weight is actually always set a couple of pounds above the high end of “healthy weights” for her height, showing that those are just numbers and that varies from person to person.

For readers who have been disappointed by the lack of familiar focus in young adult fiction, 45 Pounds has a very strong focus on that. Ann’s parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother, step-father, and twin siblings. Her brother, Tony, fought with both sets of parents and has been a no-show since he left for college. Ann has huge issues with her mother. Though her mother really does care, she ends up being a really unhealthy influence on Ann and the kids. It’s a great example of how even loving families and good intentions can come out skewed. The resolution between Ann and her mother was really satisfyingly handled.

On top of that, there’s also a wonderful aspect that deals with friendship. First of all, I am happy to inform you that Ann isn’t a social outcast because she’s a size 17. In fact, most people are really nice to her and like her; she’s not popular, but she can sit at just about any lunch table she wants. So many authors make the fat kid an outcast, but that’s really not always the case, and not a healthy attitude to model. Anyway, Ann’s best friend, Cassie, changed schools, which has led to them growing apart. At her summer job, Ann has befriend Raynee, a much more popular girl. Watching those two form a bond as they realized just how terribly their supposed best friends treated them was touching.

Even more exciting on some levels, Ann actually gets a boy! A cute one, at least to her, though I suspect from a couple of hints that he’s likely not model hot or anything like that. He sounds like a sweet, average boy to me. She meets the boy on her first day at work when she messes up his pretzel, and he’s so polite and kind about that. He never looks down on Ann for her weight, but he’s also not a manicpixiedreamboy, because he’s sort of awkward and really takes his time about things. Their romance is kept on the backburner to the rest of the plot, but I found it convincing and really liked the moral that there’s someone for everyone. All guys aren’t attracted to thin girls, and I say this as someone who has sat in on guy talk on multiple occasions. Though generally I don’t think romance needs to be in every book, I’m very glad there was one here.

My one reservation with 45 Pounds is that some plot elements did seem to disappear or not get as fully resolved as I would have liked. For example, there was a big build up of stuff with Ann’s brother, but very little actually happens with that. Similarly, Ann’s father and his step-family comes up a couple of times, but I felt like there should have been more to it. These are very minor issues and were not huge detractors.

K. A. Barson’s debut is full of heart and encourages both healthy diets and relationships. Barson tackles weight issues in a sympathetic way, while also covering themes of friendship and family. 45 Pounds is an excellent novel for young adults, both well-written and well-characterized.

Favorite Quote:

“I change the channel to another movie. An old one, but new to me. And, ironically, a thin, gorgeous blonde—Meg Ryan, maybe—rides her bike on a country road. She smiles like she has no cares in the world. Like no one ever judges her. Like her life is perfect. Wind through her hair and sunshine on her face. The only thing missing are the rainbows and butterflies and cartoon birds singing on her shoulder.
Maybe I should grab my bike and try to catch up with Mom, Mike, and the kids. They can’t be going very fast. I would love to feel like that, even if it’s just for a second—free and peaceful and normal.
Suddenly, there’s a truck. It can’t be headed toward Meg Ryan. Could it? Yes. Oh my God. No! Meg Ryan just got hit by that truck.
Figures. See what happens when you exercise?”

11 responses to “Review: 45 Pounds”

  1. Okay I was a little hesitant on this one because like you said weight issues are rarely handled well in YA books. After reading your review,I will be putting this one on my TBR before the night ends.

  2. Angie F says:

    I’m glad to hear that this one is good and handles the weight loss issue in a realistic manner. And yay for cute romance! 😀

  3. Renae M. says:

    You should definitely take a look at Fat Cat by Robin Brande. I read it last week or so, and it deals with weight issues in a different, cute way (but still respectful!).

    This wasn’t exactly on my radar before. From the cover, I think I thought she was carrying around her worldly possessions around and was therefore a refugee? IDK, I am no good at reading blurbs. But this actually sounds like something I would like. Like you pointed out, the lack of discussion about weight and healthy eating/dieting in YA is a bit baffling and disappointing, and I think it’s good there are books out there. Plus, the quote you shared is cute.

  4. fakesteph says:

    This actually sounds fantastic. I agree that weight issues are usually poorly handled and I’m okay with preachy as long as it’s preaching health. Weight is an indicator of health, not its own whole thing. Have you read The World, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things? It’s been a while, but I remember it being fantastic.

  5. Aly says:

    I’m glad you like this. It’s on my tbr and I can’t wait to read. I’m glad the focus isn’t on relationship and about something more substantial.

  6. I’m really looking forward to reading this novel, although I must admit there is a small part of me that worries about it proving triggering. I’ve suffered from disordered eating for as long as I can remember, and I worry that being in Ann’s headspace for an extended period of time might bring some of those old destructive habits to the fore.

    I really appreciate that K. A. Barson seemed to make every effort to make her story realistic and relatable, as like you, I find there are not enough stories like this one marketed toward the YA audience. I was also extremely pleased to read that Ann has both a present family and social life. In a genre where absent or entirely oblivious and neglectful parents are the norm, 45 Pounds (More Or Less) sounds like a breath of fresh air.

    This was an absolutely wonderful review, as always, Christina!

  7. Lovely review and I am glad this was done realistically.

  8. thebookwurrm says:

    This sounds like something I’d enjoy. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  9. I definitely agree with you! I love how positive this was, and I enjoyed it very much! and I also loved the aspect of friendship! Great review!
    – Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  10. Kayla Beck says:

    The quote sold it to me. I’m reading it.

  11. Danielle says:

    aww this sounds really interesting. I like that her issues are handled in a balanced way, as someone who’s dealt with weight issues I’m glad that it’s done in a sensitive way. Will definitely be checking this one out, great review Christina!

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