Just finished reading, and loving, the advance reading copy of Fat Cat, the second novel by Arizona’s Robin Brande. (due from Random House in Oct ’09)
Catherine (Cat) is a smart, wise-cracking, funny high school junior who is trapped in a fat suit. She wishes there was a way to unzip the suit and start living her real life; but instead she’s trapped in a body that keeps her from being the person she longs to be. Start of junior year and she’s in for a tough year: lots of AP classes, no real social life to speak of (except her awesome best friend Amanda), and an on-going hate/hate relationship with once best friend, Matt. To top it off, she’s in Mr. Fizer’s Special Topics in Research Science class where the pressure has made students flee from the room and puke in the hall. And her project, well, it’s not what she expected – but in the end, that’s just what she needs to start her own evolution.
Cat decides to embark on a return to the simple life – minimally processed foods, no modern technology (just in the case of survival), and a complete rethink of her assumptions about life. It’s killer hard at first, but as a true scientist, she’s committed to the experiment no matter how hard it is on her human subject (herself). Over the course of the project (207 days), she undergoes both an amazing physical, but more importantly, an amazing psychological, transformation.
It was great to watch Cat’s character grow over the course of this book. Her physical state was an outward mirror of her damaged emotional state. As she rids the poisons she’d be consuming in the form of junk food and Diet Coke, she also is able to slowly rid herself of the pain and anger she’d been carrying around her whole life. I like that it’s OK for Cat to be smart, to enjoy her AP classes, and that she tackles the project head on despite multiple opportunities to give up and cheat. But the thing I enjoyed more was that as she simplifies her life, she’s able to grow and see more clearly the nature of the problem she’s been using as an excuse and a crutch all these years. She is smart and powerful and worthy of love & friendship – all she had to do was realize it and claim it for her own.
Cat’s voice is authentic and unique and Brande’s depiction rings true to the roller coaster of high school life. Brande also does a great job of introducing, without becoming preachy or pushy, the concepts of healthful, local eating (including vegetarianism), and the rewards that come from exercise. Building and maintaining a healthy body image is an ongoing battle for most teenage girls (and guys too) and it’s refreshing to see a funny and honest portrayal with such a likeable character.
- Posted by Cori