Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: 45 Pounds by K.A. Barson

45 Pounds by K.A. Barson
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: July 11, 2013
Page Count: 264
Genre:  Contemporary Young Adult
Goodreads & Amazon

Name a diet, any diet, and sixteen-year-old Ann will bet that she has probably tried it. She's battled with weight her whole life, and it doesn't help that she has a perfect size-six mother who is in denial of how big Ann actually is. Then, Ann gets the push that maybe she has always needed: her aunt Jackie is getting married, and she wants Ann to be a bridesmaid. Desperate for a new diet that actually works, Ann orders a diet and exercise plan off of an infomercial and get a job at the pretzel shop in the food court to pay for it. Hoping to lose 45 pounds in just months for her aunt's wedding, Ann goes through the motions of yet another diet, meets a cute boy that she can't stop acting embarrassingly around, and learns some things about herself, and her family.

The summer between middle school and high school, Mom wasn't just a realtor but also my personal chef and trainer--or "food and fitness Nazi," as my friend Cassie called her. Her plan to teach me portion control and endorphin euphoria wound up teaching me how to sneak junk food and fake injury. I gained five pounds. After the full physical and thyroid test Mom insisted on came back normal, she gave up. Or maybe I did. 
I wrote in my review of The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, that I also felt like the DUFF in my group of friends, mostly because of my weight. It became something that was always at the back of my mind when I hung out with people thinner than I was. Now it's something I'm pretty okay with, but it was what drew me to 45 Pounds, I felt like I could really relate with Ann, and I did. Ann's struggle with her weight is one that a lot of teen girls face. Where they feel like they are being held back from being cool/popular/prefect because of their size. K.A. Barson did a great job at not only tackling a timely issue of teen weight issues and disordered eating, but heightening the obsession that surrounds it. Ann is always focused on her weight, and how she believes her weight is the reason for confrontations in the book. For instance, at work, their boss notices that a lot of pretzels have been eaten by the staff. When her enemy accuses Ann, their boss is quick to believe her. Ann knows it's not because her co-worker is manipulative, it's because obviously the fat girl would eat all of the pretzels.

Even though I've been doing my S2S exercise DVD every day for the past two weeks, I'm still out of breath. Few things are more embarrassing than being shown up on the dance floor by your four-year-old twin siblings and your sixty-year-old, chain-smoking grandmother. Good thing Gigi's not here, because even she dances better than I do. I scan the room and realize that I am the fattest person it in. The fattest, even though I'm almost the youngest. The fattest. The slowest.
Despite Ann going through a very serious struggle with her weight and body image, she had a quippy voice that made me chuckle several times throughout the novel. There were certain parts where I could tell the author's hand was in the way. This is a phrase often used in the fiction department at my school to indicate where the character or character's voice was overshadowed by the author's own voice. Ann is a sixteen year old girl with aspirations of being popular, yet the references she made were sometimes quite dated. At one point, Ann is going for a job and sings to herself, "burn, baby, burn, calorie inferno!"

Then it hits me. Mom cannot eat a fry. I try to remember the last time I actually saw her have fries or ice cream or anything remotely unhealthy. I can't. I never see her eat junk. She buys it and feeds it to us--but she never eats it herself. What is she afraid of? If it were just about health, she wouldn't buy it for us, right? Is she that afraid of getting fat? Of looking like that woman across the room? Of looking like me?
I really enjoyed a lot of the family dynamic's in 45 Pounds. I liked the voice of Ann's mother, and kind of loathed her for what she puts Ann through regarding her weight and eating, yet there was a great revelation near the end that helped her mom make sense. With what we learn about her mom, we are able to look back at the rest of the book and see better where she is coming from. I also enjoyed her snappy grandmother, and the fact that K.A. Barson included a lesbian wedding!! There were some family dramz that I didn't find very necessary. Ann's stepdad's mom, Regina, comes for a visit, and there is a homophobic exchange between her and Ann's aunt & partner. I thought this conversation seemed tacked on, just to throw in some opposition to gay marriage, because Regina does not appear for the rest of the novel, and the conversation is only mentioned once more very briefly. Ann also has a heartbreaking moment with her real father that didn't ever reach a full conclusion that I thought it, and Ann, needed. I wanted the confrontation! The conflict!

Overall, 45 Pounds was an accurate portrayal of a teen going through issues with her weight and body image. Her sarcastic nature and glib observations were also true to teen voice and there were a lot of interesting family dynamics and characters, however I think Barson stuck her hand in there a little with dated pop-culture references. There were also some unnecessary moments that I think were thrown in for the sake of conflict, or lack thereof.

Have you read 45 Pounds? What did you think? 


  1. I have seen this book at the bookstore, and I wondered how it was. This sounds like a really good book, but I personally hate it when authors start talking through their characters. Oh well. Maybe I will pick it up if I see it at the library. Lovely review.

    1. I was glad I had rented it from the library! I would have been a little disappointed if I had bought it. It's a really cute and good book, but it didn't hit it out of the park for me :(

      thank you for commenting!