Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.
My Rating: 2.5/10
Pre-reading thoughts: After loving All the Bright Places by the same author and I won the chance to pick an arc (from b-fest!), I was excited to get my hands on this one. I did read the synopsis that had originally been given to us and I did find it offensive (being a bigger girl myself), but I didn’t think too much about it because sometimes synopsis’ can give us the wrong idea. I was also interested in Jack’s illness as well, but more so excited to finally see a big girl as a main character.
(Spoiler Free) Post-reading thoughts: This section won’t be very long at all because I can’t write this review without spoiling the entire book, but I will say a few things here for those that don’t want to be spoiled/haven’t read it…
What I liked:
- I only liked two characters in this novel and neither of them are the main characters and they’re barely even secondary characters. Bailey Bishop is literally the sweetest character to ever exist and I LOVE the fact that she was a Christian and I think Niven did a great job in representing the religion in a more positive light than it usually is seen in novels. The next character is Jack’s brother Dusty. He was adorable and strong-willed and honestly the best character in the whole novel. I want to read more about him!
- The last 100 pages almost made it worth it reading. Almost.
What I didn’t like: (The spoiler section will go more in depth about these problems)
- It was so so offensive and over-the-top ridiculous. The situations that happen are so unbelievable, I don’t even know what else to say.
- Libby and Jack are both some of the most annoying characters I have ever read about.
(SPOILERS BEHIND LINE)
I’m not sure how coherent this part of the review will be. I feel very wronged and offended with about 90% of this novel, the other 10% being the two things I listed above in what I liked about it. Let’s see how this goes…
- Plot: Nothing happens until the last 100 pages. This book is almost 400 pages long and NOTHING HAPPENS! All we get the whole time are the constant depressing inner monologues of Jack “I’m an asshole” Masselin and Libby “I’m fat” Strout. I was begging for them to stop and do something, but that doesn’t happen until Jack finally tells his parents about his condition and Libby wears that purple bikini to school. Which gets me to the point I made about it being unrealistic. How did Jack hide this from his parents for so long? HOW?!? You would think that his parents would’ve caught on long before then or his brothers? I didn’t understand this. I did think that, for the most part, everything Libby did was believable even though it was predictable. I mean of course that fat girl will wear a bikini at some point in this novel to try to tell us that we should love and flaunt our bodies regardless of how big or small we are. Like that doesn’t happen in EVERY book about a fat girl. No, not at all.
- Characters: This is where most of my problems are…
1. Libby– Oh my god. Did she have any other defining characteristics other than that she was fat? Seriously? Because if she did, they were all overshadowed by how big she was. The author wanted to make sure that you knew and remembered that she was big, but confident about it. IT’S NEVER ENDING! I would list some examples from the book, but literally you could open to any page and Libby, or Jack, will tell you how big she is.
Libby is the definition of the cliche fat girl. There’s a part in the book where she saves, therefore befriends, the only other fat girl in school and says that she didn’t want to be the “official spokesperson for fat girls”, but of course, that’s what she is because when you’re fat, you can only be one of two things, outspoken to the point where you’re mean to everyone regardless if they are to you or you’re too shy to even speak at all and when you do it’s a low, mousy noise. You can’t be anything else. She doesn’t want to be the “sassy fat girl” but that’s what she is. She doesn’t want to be “the fat girl best friend” but that’s what she is! She’s all the stereotypes in one… so does that make her unique?
Okay, let’s move on from her weight and talk about something else about her (which will be hard considering that’s the only thing we really know about her). Libby isn’t a nice person. I think the author wanted us to think she was because of what she did for Iris and for the inspirational bikini thing. But what about how she treated Bailey Bishop? Who had been nothing but nice to her her entire life? Or how she treated Iris after saving her? She didn’t want to be her friend so did she really help Iris because she felt sorry for the girl? I’m not sure really because the little personality we did get of Libby was so all over the place.
2. Jack– Jack. Jack. Jack. Jack. We are told a hundred times that he is an asshole and that is absolutely the truth. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be funny and make us see that he really isn’t like that and he’s actually a nice guy, but he isn’t. He’s a jerk at the beginning of the novel and at the end. He didn’t develop. Not even through “love”. So what that he told his parents about his condition? So what that he had an illness? Did I care? Not really because I couldn’t look over the fact that everything he did was so wrong. I felt zero sympathy for him. *YOUR ILLNESS DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO BE A JERK!* He uses it as an excuse the entire novel. He was mean to Libby, mean to Caroline, mean to Dusty, mean to his father, mean to EVERYONE. But OH NO He CAN’T be nice!!! They might find out about him!!! I understand that living with an illness can be hard, but that’s not an excuse to treat people like crap.
He instantly loves Libby, but why does he love Libby you ask? Is it her dazzlingly, affection personality? Her sense of humor? Everything? No. No. No. He loves her because he sees her, because she’s the biggest thing in the room. He loves her for her weight up until the very end where he can *magically because of LOVE* remember her face instead and there’s a whole chapter that describes everything he loves about her only after he realizes that she isn’t more than her weight. Of course, who can blame him since the only thing Libby can talk about is her weight.
3. Caroline– I actually feel sorry for her more so than not liking her at all. She was the cliche mean girl with no real purpose to the story besides making Libby’s life worse than it already was. There is an instant in the book where you slightly see a different side to her which I thought was a little interesting.
- Offensive: I kind of touched on this when talking about Libby, but just to be clear, I don’t know other people’s experiences with bullying due to weight. I know that I have met a few people who have looked down upon be because of my own weight and it’s not a good feeling. It’s damaging and can really really hurt people. Luckily though mine never got to the extent that I had to drop out of school . I also don’t want to make it seem like i’m telling you that you can’t feel this way or that way or anything. This is my own personal opinion on how this offended me…
In the early synopsis there was a quote that said “rejoin the human race” after Libby comes back from fat camp. I thought it was just a mix up that surely that Niven wasn’t implying that girls who are as big as Libby was at the time she left for camp weren’t human, that they are something else. But although it, I don’t think, never says that line in the novel, it is heavily implied that Libby does feel this way and the issue with this is never address. She dehumanizes big people. It’s disgusting.
Also, the fact that the one person who could’ve loved Libby was someone who was also ill and that you’re only worthy if a guy likes you is so ridiculous and send the wrong message to young girls/boys who are in the same situation as these characters. It’s so bad and one of the main reasons I couldn’t enjoy this book.