Book Title/Author: Skinny by Donna Cooner
Publisher/Year: Scholastic 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Other Books From Author: The World God Made (children’s picture book)
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.
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?