Author: Chris Crutcher.
Publisher: Greenwillow Books.
Date: March 18, 2003.
Critical Analysis:Chris Crutcher wrote a heart pounding story that involved realistic character experiences that many teens can relate to even today. The story revolves around a teenage boy named Eric Calhoune and his best friend Sarah Byrnes. Sarah is hospitalized in a catatonic state and Eric visits her on a daily bases in hopes that she come back to reality. Both Eric and Sarah are experiencing hardships to everyday life. Eric has a weight issue and Sarah has a facial disfiguration due to an accident that she had when she was little or was it an accident?
While reading this story you will connect to the rich characterization and sports theme throughout the story. The story has a good mixture of humor and serious tensions that will assist in keeping the reader engaged. The literary style of the first person narrative through Eric Calhoune was very easy to follow and helped in the character connection process. There were some characters in this story that I felt dragged the storyline in the beginning but later helped the story come full circle in a fast pace suspense mixed with much emotion. Each character had some sort of issue or secret they were hiding or trying to deal with. According to the Kirkus Review, “Though Crutcher doesn't always play fair in developing his themes--all the conservative Christians here are humorless dupes or hypocrites, and one tries to commit suicide after it comes out that his girlfriend had an abortion--his language, characters, and situations are vivid and often hilarious”( Kirkus Reviews, 1993). Once the plot picks up, you will be hooked until the very end! The characters are believable and the reader will be able to relate or connect to them well.
The back drop of the swim team gave an emotional break in the seriousness of the plot, which was refreshing. The readers will have a great surprise at the end when they find out who is the vigilante savior at the end!
Horn Book (The Horn Book Guide, 1993):
"Eighteen-year-old Eric's success on the swimming team and the weight loss that is the by-product of his strict physical regimen are so threatening to his longstanding friendship with Sarah Byrnes -- who, at the age of three was severely burned on the face and hands when her father pushed her into a wood stove -- that he forces himself into gluttony in order not to jeopardize it. Eric's attempts to help his friend find her way back into the world after she is institutionalized make up the bulk of the narrative. The characters are real and believable. Category: Fiction. 1993, Greenwillow, 216pp.. Ages 14 to 18. Rating: 2: Superior, well above average" Retrieved from the Children's Literature Database (accessed on October 9, 2009).
Susie Wilde (Children's Literature):
"After years of fighting humiliation for being overweight, Eric Calhoune, alias Moby, begins swimming in high school. Moby describes his absent, overweight father, "(he's) not a guy who should have gone light on desserts and between meal snacks...(but) a guy who should have spread Glue on his lips before showing his face outside his bedroom each morning." Weight and wit have bonded him in long-term friendship with Sarah Byrnes, a girl who has faced the shame of horrible facial burn scars she's borne since the age of three. Against a swimming backdrop Crutcher places the issues of shame, narrow-mindedness, and abuse. Once the story takes hold you move along at such a rapid clip that by the end you're holding on for dear life. 1993, Greenwillow, $16.00, $4.50 and $2.49. Ages 13 up" Retrieved from the Children's Literature Database (accessed on October 9, 2009)
I found a nice group of discussion question from the Multnomah County Library. You may access these discussion question by clicking on: http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-stayingfat.html (accessed on October 9, 2009).
Other books that may be of interest:
Firegirl, by Tony Abbott, Publisher: Little Brown, Date: 2006, ISBN: 0316011711.
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, Publisher: Viking, Date: 2009, ISBN: 9780670011100.
Looks, by Madeleine George, Publisher: Viking, Date: 2008, ISBN: 9780670061679.