Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Review: Fat Cat by Robin Brande
Rating: 5 out of 5
Cat has the best plan for her science class research and experimentation project. It’s practically guaranteed that she’ll beat Matt McKinney, her intellectual rival and ex-best friend who betrayed her in middle school on account of her weight. Using herself as a test subject, Cat plans to return to the days of the early Homo erectus and live a similar lifestyle: no processed foods, no modern utilities, no transportation except on foot.
Her plan needs a bit of tweaking, but the thing that really needs to change is Cat’s attitude towards herself. She’s doing this for the grade and to beat Matt…or does she also want to not be fat anymore? And as more and more mediocre guys begin to pay attention to her, will Cat realize that the lack of spark may not be because she’s not interested in love…but rather that her heart was stolen already years before?
Brilliance like this unfortunately still rarely exists in YA lit, and it’s a real shame, because YA lit needs more authors like Robin Brande. FAT CAT is funny, wise, super-intelligent, and heart-stoppingly romantic. It’s the kind of book that makes you smile weeks after reading it as you remember why you still enjoy and read YA contemporary realistic fiction.
Readers of all shapes and sizes (body and brain) will be able to connect with Cat. Hers is the voice of a levelheaded, smart, yet insecure teenager. Brande does not dumb down her fictional teenagers, with the surprising yet joyful result that they will end up appealing to everyone. How often do we get to read about smart girls who are good at and into math and science? Not often enough; my inner physicist is jumping with happiness even as I write this and reflect on FAT CAT.
Cat—and thus, us readers—learns an important lesson without sounding aggressively moralistic. The theme of FAT CAT is a powerful one, hinting at the harmful effects of our modern-day materialistic, processed consumerist culture. Cat’s development from bitter girl with a low body image to a happier, healthier, more energetic, and more creative young woman may just about turn smart readers off of junk food. I honestly laid off the Oreos for several weeks after reading this book, so unappealing the thought of sweets were to me. Rarely does a book have so strong a hold on me in the rest of my life!
The first half of the story focuses on Cat’s science project, while the second half discusses more her relationships with other people. The change of scope is a little bizarre and disconcerting, most likely because the science part is so wonderful to read, but I appreciated the character development of this book. The main “cast” of characters is great, particularly Cat’s best friend, as well as Cat’s romance.
FAT CAT is a story you catch yourself thinking about randomly even weeks after reading it. It’s also the book you’ll want to talk about to your friends, your mother, your teacher, that random middle-aged lady sitting next to you at the bus stop….It’s the book that you’ll hold up and say, “See? This is what quality YA literature is like. Now excuse me while I reread it; you may get your own copy elsewhere, if you’d like.”
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - I know what it's supposed to be, but it's still a little confusing, and doesn't attract me very much. Luckily now I know Robin Brande's brilliance and will overlook all off-putting covers and titles!
Random House / Oct. 2009 / Hardcover / $16.99
Source: This was given me in a trade with Sharon. Thanks, Sharon!