Sunday, September 26, 2010

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes


While reading Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I realized that I had read this novel before, when I was in the target demographic. At the time, I was in early high school and thankfully not dealing with the issues of the book's characters. Now I am a teacher and know that some of my students have the same problems. In my rereading, I see that my interest gravitates to Ms. Lemry, the controversial teacher, in addition to Eric Calhoune, the intended protagonist.

Staying Fat is a story about friendship through the most difficult times. Eric has been overweight his entire life and gained strength from his friendship with Sarah Byrnes, a tough girl who has burns all over her face and hands. The outcasts band together until Eric joins the swim team and begins to gain weight. In order to prove his friendship, he continues to eat and stay big. When Sarah's family issues and Eric's classmates' problems all come to a head, he wishes that all he'd need to do to make things better would be to eat too much.

Chris Crutcher discusses challenging topics clearly and in a clever way. By having Ms. Lemry present issues for discussion in her class, Crutcher is able to use debate to further his plot and increase the tension. Even though I had read the book before, I still didn't know how it was going to end! Any book that keeps me up late, racing through its pages, is a keeper.

PS. Chris Crutcher has some wonderful answers to censors on his website.

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