Monday, September 2, 2013

45 Pounds

45 Pounds, by author Kelly Barson, is a fabulous example of a young adult novel that entertains as well as teaches. Barson's novel would be of interest to anyone who lives in a crazy family, and, well,  don't most of us?

The story of 17 year-old Ann's struggle to develop a healthier relationship with food, and with her mother, is told entirely through story and character. It is a complex and thought provoking story with a main character you don't want to leave at the end. Never once did the writing feel didactic.

The story centers on a middle class family, white, divorced, both parents remarried. ( As an aside, I mention these demographics because the origins of problems with food and eating vary with ethnicity. For example, anorexia and distorted body image is a problem not in black communities, but in middle class and upper middle class white communities, such as Ann's: White girls seem to be extraordinarily capable of internalizing anger and denying themselves the pleasures of food.)

Ann, the smart and funny main character, lives with her mother who has two young children with her new husband Mike. Ann feels like an outsider. Ann's mom's subtle use of food to control others and the psychological origins of her own anorectic eating is revealed in all its complexity. Her character helps us understand Ann's emotional turmoil and her own obsession with food.

What I enjoyed most about this book is Ann's evolving compassion and understanding of her mother. As Ann takes control of her own life, she teaches her mother a thing or two.  Ann learns how to eat in moderation, lose weight, make new friends, exercise and even dance, which she has always been ashamed to do.

That change is possible is an important and believable lesson in 45 Pounds. For anyone interested, I found some practical and healthy how-to advice from blogger Andrea Chrysanthou on losing 45 pounds.

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