Judi Leibowitz is miserable because she thinks she is very, very fat, in this contemporary high school book. At thirteen, she’s 5’4 “and 127 pounds, when Seventeen magazine says she should weigh 120 pounds. No wonder her life sucks and she doesn’t have a boyfriend. If she could look like Nancy Pratt, all skinny and tan and blond.Everybody knows boys only as skinny girls.

Judi’s English teacher, Mrs. Roth, gives notebooks to her students and asks them to keep a journal throughout the semester. Ms. Roth is smart and personable, but he’s REALLY BIG. Judi wonders who ever wanted to marry her; He doesn’t even follow Seventeen magazine’s advice for fat girls, like only wearing dark clothes.

Each chapter is an entry in Judi’s diary, as she thinks about the kind of career she would like to have, she tries to get the dreamer Richard Weiss to notice her, and most of all, she struggles to follow a diet. No matter how hard you try, you end up overeating and don’t lose weight.

But then she discovers skinny Nancy Pratt’s secret to staying slim. Judi hears her vomit in the school bathroom and they end up talking. At first, when Nancy explains how to make herself vomit, Judi thinks it’s disgusting. However, a few days later, when Judi’s mother insists that she eat all of dinner, she decides to try Nancy’s trick. You now have a secret weapon.

But the secret weapon turns out to be a two-edged sword.

This book for high school students is an entertaining and candid look at a serious topic. Judi’s voice is authentic and girls will easily relate to her. The journal format (usually not one of my favorites) works very well here and shows readers some of the dangers of bulimia.

When I was reading this book, I felt like it could have been my journal (except for vomiting) and not just at thirteen. We live in a society where the loudest voices (movies, television, magazines) tell girls and women that our only value is our appearance and that we must be ultra-thin. An online article, which cites several studies, claims that the number one wish of girls between the ages of 11 and 17 is to be slimmer and girls as young as five have expressed their fear of gaining weight.

The author, Leslea Newman, has struggled with body image issues and edited a collection of women’s writing on food called “Eating Our Hearts Out.” He was inspired to write “Fat Chance” after reading about a girl who had died and leaving a diary full of her misery about food and weight.

Reading level: 10 years and up. A must read!

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