cover image Fat Chance: The Novel

Fat Chance: The Novel

Leslea Newman. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.95 (214pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22760-8

Through the journal of an eighth-grader obsessed with eating, Newman (Eating Our Hearts Out; Heather Has Two Mommies) explores the horrific ramifications of the ``thinner is better'' female aesthetic. At 5'4'' and 127 pounds, Judi is convinced that she is fat and therefore unlovable. Hiding herself in dark, baggy clothes, she scorns her overweight English teacher for defying the wisdom of Seventeen magazine and wearing wide belts and horizontal stripes. When Judi discovers that her idolized classmate, would-be model Nancy, stays skinny by making herself vomit after eating, Judi cultivates the practice too, developing a routine of binging and purging. Nancy almost dies of starvation, and Judi, meanwhile, begins to realize that she's no happier at 120 pounds than she was at 127. Eventually she recognizes that she needs help. Going further than the average YA ``problem'' novel, Fat Chance suggests the extent of eating and body-image disorders among seemingly healthy girls; it also demonstrates, rather than insists on, the importance of professional help. Judi's convincing voice and true-to-life experiences add up to a compelling, thought-provoking narrative. With the pre-eminence of the ``waif look'' in today's fashions, this book should be required reading for adolescent girls-older readers could profit by it as well. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)