Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

Been a while, hasn't it? I started back to work May 1, and it's been a whirlwind ever since. The Day Job, Baby, House, Editing, Juggling All Three At The Same Time. And, yes, the capitalization is intentional, because those are the most Important Factors in my life at this very moment. Giving them all their respective attention without going crazy? Still attempting to master that one.

However. I have been able to squeeze in a bit of reading--5 minutes here, maybe even 10 there--and a week or so ago, I discovered a fantastic book written by an exceptionally talented author.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, Carolyn Mackler, 2003, Candlewick Press, 256 pages.

Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex. She lives on the Web, snarfs junk food, and obeys the "Fat Girl Code of Conduct." Then there are the other Shreveses: Mom is an exercise fiend and adolescent psychologist; Dad, when not jet-setting, or golfing in Connecticut, ogles skinny women on TV; and older siblings Byron and Anais are slim, brilliant, and impossible to live up to.

Delete Virginia, and the Shreveses are a picture-perfect family ... until a phone call changes everything.

I downloaded a sample of this book for my Kindle some time back, knew I wanted to read more, then somehow between Baby and Whatever, forgot about it. Until I spotted its cool new shiny silver cover at my local secondhand bookstore.

The opening line pulled me in immediately: Froggy Welsh the Fourth is trying to get up my shirt. Really, who wouldn't want to read on after that? Here's what I loved about this book: Heroine Virginia Shreves is not perfect--she's fifteen, quirky, and overweight. Worse, she lives with a family of Perfects. Perfect face, body, hair ... you name it, one or all of the other Shreves has it. Virginia has often wondered if she was switched at birth by some crazy nut-job nurse interchanging hospital bracelets for laughs. However, her personal growth throughout the story, learning how to fit into and feel comfortable in her own skin, made me want to shake my fist at the world for being so obsessed with weight these days.

Especially since I'm still lugging around after-pregnancy pounds and had to go out and buy new pants this week.

This story just made me feel good. You know the type. You finish that last paragraph, that last sentence, and sigh contentedly. Big smile on your face. Maybe even go for a cup of coffee and a cheese danish, then curl up and start the book all over again. Well written. Well plotted and executed. Realistic. A beautiful character arc with delicious witticisms and a memorable supporting cast. Relatable to almost everyone, because I think, at some point, we were all that little lost person in grade school.

Maybe we still are.

But those experiences help/helped shape us, and that's exactly what Virginia's do for her in The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. You'll find yourself rooting for her at every turn, and with each new character-defining decision she makes, you'll reflect on your own life, the decisions you've made. Have you managed to defy the world and become your own unique person? Or are you still hiding in the shadows?

I hope it's the former.

My Keeper Shelf has a new edition and plenty of space afterward for more of Ms. Mackler's other novels, which I promptly ordered three of after finishing this one.

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


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