Author: Jenny Ruden
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Koehler Books
Released: July 1, 2014
Goodreads Rating: 4.10
Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems.
Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The content was relevant and modern, the characters were relatable and fun, and the story was fast paced and very funny. Are these not all the qualities you want in a book?
Having just finished my dissertation I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle a heavy book that required a lot of thinking, which was why I was extremely happy this was the particular book I had to pick up. It was an extremely fast read that only asked that you sit back and enjoy Bethany’s adventure.
Characters, for me, are always such an integral part to the enjoyment of a novel. If I dislike a character or the narrator of the novel chances are I’m really not going to like story. I really enjoyed reading Bethany’s first person narrative; she sounded like a real teenager with real issues. While the characters were a bit ‘stereotype-y’ (if having the ‘pretty bitch’ be from Hollywood isn’t a stereotype I need to go back to school) you did learn to care for them all and become invested in their stories. Also, it brought a certain comfort to the story because you sort of knew what to expect – which is both a positive and a negative thing, depending on what sort of book you are looking for.
I really enjoyed the social commentary this book is surrounded by. The idea that you can’t be fat and beautiful and happy at the same time. This is something you see and hear in society all the time; the “you would be so pretty if…”, “if you only lost a few pounds that could happen” etc. So many people deal with this struggle every day, and when you read the book and follow Bethany on her journey to finding out that fat and beautiful are not exclusive terms that can’t be used in the same sentence it really brings home this thought as a reader as well.
As I said previously, I did really enjoy this book. The characters were adorable, the social commentary was great, and it was an extremely fun book to get through after a very stressful couple of months. I recommend this book to anyone who is going through similar experiences as Bethany (not physical experience like going to camp, but the experiences she goes through mentally), but also to anyone who is looking for something with a little bit of a different approach to your typical YA contemporary novel.
I rate this book 3.5 stars out of 5. It is a bit predictable, but super fun over all – definitely recommend this read to anyone who enjoys YA contemporaries.
About the Author:
Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmertrain’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row. She has worked with teenagers for over ten years as a teacher of Reading, Writing and GED, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit her website jennyruden.com, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Other Tour Stops:
Monday, August 18th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, August 20th: Pingwing’s Bookshelf
Friday, August 22nd: Bibliotica
Monday, August 25th: Bibliophilia, Please
Wednesday, August 27th: Journey Through the Pages
Thursday, August 28th: Spiced Latte Reads
Friday, August 29th: Sweet Southern Home