Thursday, September 19, 2013

Problem Upon Problem

Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo is the story of an overweight high school girl tormented by bullies. Yes, we've heard that before. What's interesting here is that Angie is also dealing with the probable loss of her sister in Iraq, which has pretty much wrecked her family. What is even more interesting is that an attractive, very cool, new girl in school seeks Angie out.

Angie is living in a world of suffering, and that world is disturbed by the arrival of someone. I liked that opening. How is Angie going to respond to that disturbance?

After that, more and more problems pile on. Angie's mother is hard, hard, hard.  Her brother is acting out in hateful ways toward her. Her head tormentor at school seems almost pathological in her behavior. The new girl's interest brings more challenge (no spoilers), and she has problems to boot. As much as I liked what I saw as Angie's basic story, it seemed to be overwhelmed by so many problems for its character to deal with.

As I was reading this book, I was reminded of Alice Bliss, an adult book that deals with a teenage girl's life while her father is serving in Iraq. With both books I kept thinking that we have a volunteer army now. No one has to leave a family to go to Iraq. And while it is without a doubt a noble act to serve your country with military service of this type, what about the families that are left? In both Alice Bliss and Fat Angie we are not talking about career service people. These families know that their loved ones did not have to go. They know that their loved ones chose this action that causes such anxiety and risks such incredible pain for them. What does that do to the people at home paying a price for their father/sister's noble act? To me, that seems like a big enough situation to carry an entire story.

On the other hand, in books like this one that are filled with problems, readers get to sort of choose the one they want to follow. I do understand the attraction of the overcoming adversity storyline. In fact, Fat Angie earned starred reviews from both Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal.

Fat Angie has a great trailer, memorable enough to lead me to pick up the book when I saw it at my local library. Last summer author Charlton-Trujillo did an At-Risk Tour, driving across the country meeting with at-risk youth at community organizations as well as bookstores, bringing an author into venues where young people might not have an opportunity to meet them.


Unknown said...

Thanks for taking the time to read FAT ANGIE. I'm sorry that the story didn't strike you in a more complete way but absolutely appreciate your thoughts. All the best and rock the word from the tour that continues!

Gail Gauthier said...

You are still on tour? Oh, my gosh. I am impressed and feeling worn out hearing about this.

Also "the story didn't strike you in a more complete way..." That is a great description of a certain type of reading experience, when you respect something you've read, get into certain aspects, but can't quite engage with the whole story.