Virginia Shreves is the black sheep in a perfect family. She’s blonde, not brown-haired. She’s chubby (well… fat, if you must know), in a family that not only is tall and skinny, but that values tall, skinny people over short, not-skinny ones. She’s not even good at French. She’s spent her whole life (all 15 years of it) feeling like she’s an outcast, while worshiping her older siblings, especially her brother Byron.
Then, one phone call sets events into motion, events which make Virginia stand up and reassess her relationship with her family, rethink what she wants out of life, and get some chutzpah. It made me, as a reader, want to stand up and cheer: You go, girl! Show them up!
There were two things that ran through my mind while reading this: First, if I’m ever a mom like her mom, I will shoot myself. Seriously. Sometimes I wonder if I get the best parenting advice by reading about horrid, awful parents. In this case, Virginia’s mom only validates her efforts to lose weight. She punishes her, whether consciously or unconsciously, for being fat, and refuses to acknowledge her other — scholastic and otherwise — efforts. On top of that, her dad praises and admires skinny women, and only offers to take Virginia shopping for new clothes after she shows some effort at achieving a weight goal. They’re rich, they’re self-absorbed, they’re neglectful parents, they are everything I try not to be. I wanted to shake them and say, this is not the way to raise a healthy girl!
Secondly, it’s a great book on how to get out of being a doormat. It was wonderful seeing Virginia wake up and get a spine and discover what she, herself, wants and not what she thinks her parents want. Yes, it takes a drastic event to tumble her family enough so that Virginia can see her family for what they are: manipulative and more than willing to push things under the carpet. But without that drastic event, Virginia might have gone through life letting other people push her around. It helps, I think, that Virginia also has a crew of people around her guiding her in healthy directions: her doctor, Dr. Love; a language arts teacher, Ms. Crowley; and her best friend, Shannon. Unfortunately, Shannon is across the country in Walla Walla, Washington, with her parents, but she does come through when Virginia needs her most.
It’s with their help that Virginia gets a grip on her weight, discovers her desires, and ultimately takes charge of her own life. And that’s enough to make a reader stand up and cheer.
Rated: High for seven uses of strong language and some other mild language. There’s also candid discussion of a date rape that occurred, as well as a situation where a character gets to second base, though neither is graphic.