Review: Skinny by Donna Cooner

Book Title/Author: Skinny by Donna Cooner

Publisher/Year: Scholastic 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: The World God Made (children’s picture book)

Amazon| Goodreads |Donna Cooner’s Website

 

 

 

Ever is a fifteen year old girl who weighs over 300 pounds. She’s the girl who can’t fit in the desk at school or who can hear her thighs rubbing together. She already knows what everybody thinks of her — her dad, his wife, her stepsisters, the kids at school and her childhood crush — because of the voice, Skinny, who lives in Ever’s head telling her just how disgusted people are with her. After an incident at school Ever decides she is going to undergo gastric bypass surgery so that she can get rid of Skinny for good and become healthier, show everyone how talented of a singer she is in the school musical and get her childhood friend and crush, Chase, to look at her the same way again. The one constant who has been with her through it all has been her friend Rat who helps Ever try to change her life after the surgery.

I’m not going to lie — I didn’t know what to expect with this one but I’m so glad I read it. Even if you haven’t struggled with weight to the extent that Ever has, I feel like it’s not hard to relate to this novel. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to connect with Ever at first but I quickly realized I could. My struggle with weight was different (I was too skinny and got made fun of for that  up until high school where I become a little more normal weight) but I still agonized over my body. Every day. I saw all the flaws. I can’t imagine what Ever must have gone through. But mostly what I most related to was that voice of Skinny inside Ever’s head. The one telling you that you weren’t smart enough, not pretty enough, not cool enough, not talented enough. It just made me really connect with Ever because I know how unwavering and unrelenting that voice can be. I was really happy I connected with her because it made me super invested in her journey.

Ever was an interesting character. You easily could feel bad for her because of how she got made fun of and because of things that happened but at the same time there were points were I didn’t at all. There were times when I just wanted to smack her and be like OMG ARE YOU BLIND?? As a reader you could see just how much “Skinny” had made her bitter and disillusioned and even selfish. You’ll feel frustrated with her sometimes but I think we all can relate to her to some degree. There were moments of definite heartbreak for me — the school assembly scene or just even the moments when she realized how much her life was going to change post-surgery. I rooted for her through it all — that she’d lose weight, that she’d get the guy, that she’d make real friends and show everyone her amazing voice. As an aside, I LOVED the characters of Rat and Briella!

Her journey — both physical and mental — after the surgery was one that I was so invested in. While it may seem like a dream come true to lose all that weight, there were a lot of things that she had to give up and it was hard. I appreciated that Skinny just didn’t “go away” — that she had to realize that as much as this process was physical it was also even MORE mental than anything. You really grow to love Ever and how she starts to reveal her true self — the one that we saw a little bit through her old memories and some of her humorous commentary. There are still moments in her journey where you know she’s not quite there mentally because she is caring too much about the physical changes and all that it has brought her. It truly was a battle and I didn’t want to put the book down. Sometimes I think it did ring a bit predictable and follow the type of teen makeover story you see in so many movies but it was super compelling nonetheless.

My one qualm with Skinny by Diana Cooner was that, while it didn’t portray this surgery as this magical and easy solution because she clearly had to work at it, I just struggled that it seemed like it was her first real solution. The book talks about how she had tried to lose weight but, to me at least, it just felt like it was some half-hearted attempts rather than really seeking some HUGE lifestyle revamp with the help of professionals and work at it consistently. Maybe that’s just me but that’s the impression I got from where she was at up until the event that led to her getting the surgery — eating bad food, eating big portions, no exercising, just really being content with herself. I wanted some other options more explored. I just don’t want teens to think that it’s the BETTER option than exercise and diet/lifestyle changes that should be really the first thing you try. Obviously that might not work for all but this is such a SERIOUS and extreme surgery so I was kind of hoping that it would talk more about the root of her issues too (obviously her grief was a large part of it & then it just spiraled into an emotional coping mechanism). Especially with her being so young.

Skinny by Donna Cooner was a really good read dealing with self image and that nagging voice inside of your head that whispers all of the things that makes you self conscious or feel like you aren’t good enough through the story of Ever — an extremely overweight teenager who undergoes gastric bypass surgery. Ever is easy to connect with in her highs and lows and I found myself easily immersed  in her journey. I do have some reservations with how she so quickly went to gastric bypass and how her situation is portrayed (explained above) but ultimately it was a really good read with a main character dealing with something that I haven’t encountered too often.

 

You May Also Like: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb; Food, Girls & Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff, Teenage Waistland by Lisa Pazer

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Did you connect with Ever? Did you find that you wished that they would have explored her other options or address the emotional component to the reason why she became that obese like I did?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 28 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating gelato, listening to music with oversized headphones and teaching her niece how to be as awesome as she is.

Comments

  1. I’ve been honestly afraid of this book for some reason! I think many girls can relate to not being happy with their body and quite frankly I was not sure if I wanted to deal with this in Skinny. But. I see that this is such a fantastic book I apparently would miss by not reading..

  2. I’m so glad to have seen your review! I saw this one pop up on Amazon one day and was curious about it (I never really read Amazon reviews, don’t trust them…) So I’m so glad to have seen this review!

    My younger sister was an obese teen, so I’m doubly intrigued by this book! Thanks again for the awesome review…

    -Jac @ For Love and Books

  3. I’ve definitely heard of this book, and it sounds like it’s a really good contemporary novel that I need to check out. I think many of us have experienced issues with the way we look and that nagging voice in our head that is determined to make us feel awful about ourselves. I know, for me, we had the same HS experience where I got made fun of for being so skinny and shapeless, and I certainly had my moments where I just loathed the way I looked. I like that this novel appears to bring attention to that issue, and attempts to realistically portray what it’s like to deal with that voice in your head.

  4. I think my only concern would be if she really feels better being skinny, but I’m glad you said Skinny doesn’t just go away. Body dysmorphic disorder is a disease that doesn’t let people be happy with their bodies. Once they get skinny, something else is wrong. I hope that Ever learns to love herself no matter what size she is. Of course, losing weight for health reasons is important, but she needs to love herself if she puts on 10 pounds as well.

  5. I’ve got this one in my library loot pile. I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

  6. Woo! I’m really glad you liked this book. I understand your concern about the other ways to lose weight not being explored much, but at the same time, I kind of get why they weren’t. I took the implication of what she had tried to do to lose weight as a long process that would have separated us from the story of Ever going through her current battle after the surgery.

    • Totally get what you are saying! I guess maybe I didn’t really mean I wanted the space to go into exploring the other options because I totally agree..it would have not fit in well with the store. I guess I just wish we got the impression from her that she was trying her hardest to be healthier and help herself before that point. I got the impression that she was just really content with her eating habits and her weight and wasn’t really seeking help for it. It mentioned dieting and stuff but I didn’t get a sense that she was really working with anyone to change it. I mean, I know how hard it is for ME to stick to a “diet” or healthy eating plan and not slip up and to keep exercising …so I would imagine that someone who is an emotional eater as she is portrayed to be would definitely need to seek some professional help being at such an unhealthy weight and at serious risks. So I guess maybe the author just portrayed her as someone who had really really done everything to try to become healthier but it just didn’t work and was a struggle..if that makes sense? I think especiallybecause she’s a young person and there are young readers…I think there is still time for them to learn to make better decisions and to change their lifestyle. Obviously it’s not the case for everyone and some people do need the surgeries but I guess I felt that because it’s such a serious decision and surgery that I would have liked to see that.

      I feel like I just rambled a lot! Thanks for your insight and comment!

      • I 100% agree with you. I think there’s a HUGE difference between someone doing all they can and not getting anywhere. I remember the scenes with her sneaking the bags of M&Ms and I think you’re right — those gave the impression that she had lost hope. I just got back from lunch and on my drive I was thinking about my last few months and how dedicated I was and how that’s slipped away. It’s definitely natural for us to go through the ups and downs of dieting, but I suppose maybe we saw Ever go from a really deep low to a very serious surgery pretty quickly. That makes a lot of sense to me. However, just now, I thought — would someone who had that support team (doctor’s, dietitians, family support, etc.) move forward with the surgery? I dunno. I’m going in circles now thinking about all of this, but maybe it would have been beneficial to see more of her attempts to lose weight before the surgery. I know that contradicts what I previously said about it taking away from the story, but … now I’m seeing it as necessary.

        xo, lady! I <3 discussions.

  7. I thought the surgery issue was handeled well – I was afraid it would all seem too easy, but it was obviously very difficult. I do agree however, that I would have liked to see more professional counseling help both before and after the surgery. Great review.

  8. I agree with you on the gastric bypass surgery. I know people who have undergone it and it’s a major life-changing surgery. You have to be careful about certain foods and drinks for the rest of your life. That’s an extreme surgery for a teen to take, especially if the book doesn’t mention any other efforts the protagonist has made towards controlling her weight. Overall it does sound like a pretty interesting book though.

  9. I felt the same way you did about this (although I haven’t reviewed it yet). I really wish Ever had discussed more about eating healthier or trying to exercise. I almost feel like that is sending out the wrong message to teens who might be considering gastric bypass surgery. I also feel like there should have been more counseling pre and post surgery? I’m not sure how that works, but with going through such a big change like that, I would assume you’d need to talk to someone.

    Regardless of that, I think this book is going to be a big hit with my female students. I book talked it the other day and there is already interest in it!

  10. This sounds pretty interesting and I’m looking forward to reading it soon. I tend to really get into the books dealing with body issue, etc.

  11. This is the second review of this book that I’ve read lately (I think it was Magan’s that I read first. Magan, not Estelle. Magan, right? Ugh, I’m sleepy. I think Magan, lol.) Anyway, I think this would be a great issues contemp to read. Heavy, probably, but good.

    I read Butter by Erin Jade Lange not too long ago that dealt with similar-but-not-exactly-the-same issues: morbidly obese teen struggling with body image and he also had bullying to deal with and some other things. It was a really great book, but I think people were a little afraid to give it a try. I’m sure eventually I’ll pick this one up too because I completely trust your opinion and as well as Magan and Estelle, and if y’all like it, I’d eventually like to try to read it.

    Great thoughts, Jamie. As always!

  12. This sounds like a really powerful book. I love books like these that put you in other people’s shoes (so to speak). I would have overlooked this one, but after reading your review, I’m definitely going to check it out. That’s quite sad that Ever had to fix her problem by doing surgery first, when the most healthy way is to do it with hard work. I guess some teens want a quick fix?

    Great review Jamie! I love the way you lay out your reviews too!

  13. I saw this one at the library the other day and immediately added it to my TBR list. As you know from my blog post the other day, I was pretty obese for the longest time, and am still working on getting into the “normal” weight range, so it’s nice to see books that recognize obese teens and their obstacles. Not a lot of books do, so I look forward to reading this and relating to it.

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