Book Review: Teenage Waistland

January 10, 2011

“You all believe that losing one-hundred-plus pounds will solve everything, but it won’t. Something far heavier is weighing on you, and until you deal with that, nothing in your lives will be right.”

waistlandI’ll admit it. I was sucked in by the cover. I wasn’t sure exactly what Teenage Waistland by Lynn Biederman & Lisa Pazer would be about, but I was betting it would have something to do with teenagers and body image. I was mostly right.

The book is about three morbidly obese teens who participate in a clinical trial for Lap-Band surgery. In order to participate in the trial and get the surgery, they have to attend mandatory group sessions for a year. The book follows these three teens as they participate in the group session.

What I Liked

– It’s not about the weight. No, really. It’s NOT about the weight. Over and over the point is made that being morbidly obese (because these kids are not just overweight) is really symptomatic of a deeper issue. It is pretty clear from the beginning what some of those deeper issues are, so I really appreciate that the authors make it explicitly clear that it’s not about the weight, even though each chapter begins with the character’s weight loss status (e.g., +3 lbs or -7 lbs).

– The teens’ stories are also not about the weight. Yes, they want to lose weight. Yes, they have families that may be encouraging them to lose weight (or not as the case may be). However, they do not obsess over their weight, every detail is not paid to how they look. The story focuses on their emotional journeys and what happens as they face their issues.

– The Lap-Band is just a tool for losing weight, but the success of the surgery depends on the lifestyle changes each character makes. It’s just a tool, not the be-all end-all. Again, it’s nice that the authors make this explicitly clear.

– I really like the premise and the first half of the book. There’s some nice character development, everyone is portrayed with several sides to their personalities, and the relationships/friendships that form make complete sense. I love that a lot of the kids are resistant to participating in group, though they come to create a basis for support for each other.  All of that is really nicely handled.

What I Didn’t Like

– Please note that I said I really like the first half of the book. Once the Big Secret is exposed, everything delves into melodrama. Lots of exclamation points, lots of FEELINGS that I don’t even care about, etc. The secret is a pretty devastating one, and I found myself completely unmoved by it.

– Once the book starts dealing with The Secret, the interactions feel forced and cheesy. Things happen too quickly, and it just feels unnatural.

– The resolution/epilogue is rushed and doesn’t feel earned.

– The romance is LAME. Ugh. There are a couple of reasons I find it icky, but mostly I think it was my disconnect from the characters at that point.

– The authors have the subtlety of a sledgehammer, I swear. Instead of trusting that the reader can figure things out, everything is over-explained.

In conclusion: This book is a mixed bag for me. I really dug the first half of the book and wish the second half had lived up to that potential. Unfortunately, I had to force myself to read the end because by the last third I was over it. It could’ve been SO GREAT. Instead it was mostly meh.

Support Your Local Library: 2/30; YA Reading Challenge: 2/20

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  1. gargoylebruce

    Now I’m intrigued! It sounds like the kind of book I would like, but I would probably balk at crappy romance and melodrama too….hmmm. Perhaps I can negotiate with the bookseller to pay for half the book up front and the rest on delivery provided I like the ending ;)


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