CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 5. . . .October 24, 2008
Though the "About The Author' note describes I'm So Fat as Lorange's "first attempt at a novel," at just 45 pages, this slim work actually falls somewhere between a short story and a novella. Utilizing the format of a diary, one which spans the period from August 8, 2004, to June 11, 2005, Lorange tells the story of Marty Dee, a 13-year-old girl from Winnipeg who has a pair of eating disorders from which she ultimately recovers, with recovery bring understood in the same way that an alcoholic "recovers."
I'm So Fat is self-published, and, as such it suffers from not necessarily having had a firm editorial hand which could have shaped the real potential of the book's contents. Either from research or personal experience, Lorange has acquired much factual information about anorexia nervosa and bulimia; however, in sharing this information through Marty's story, Lorange repeatedly commits the cardinal sin in writing fiction - she tells rather than shows. As a result, the first person advantage of the diary approach is lost. An editor should have pointed out to Lorange that what she wanted to achieve was simply the verisimilitude of a diary and that, for example, the diary entries could reconstruct conversations. For instance, Lorange writes:
Instead of using indirect speech in the April 19 diary entry, Lorange could have taken readers right into the "action" of the hospital group session and recreated the conversations and social interactions that occurred among the anonymous participants.
Good editing would have also caught a factual error. On October 14, Marty who was originally 150 pounds (yes, pounds which Canadian readers need to convert to kilograms), weighs 106 pounds. In her November 3 entry, Marty says, "Since my father left on October 23, I have lost ten pounds" which, by my math, has her weighing in at 96 pounds, but she adds, "The doctor told my dad that my weight is down below my ideal body weight. I should weigh about 118 pounds and I am already 12 pounds below that." No, she is 22 pounds below that ideal body weight.
Editing would have reduced some of the unnecessary repetition. For instance, in the November 8 entry, readers learn that "... my hormones are out of whack. I don't get my period anymore" while on December 1, they are told, "Another thing that happens to you when you become anorexic is that you don't get your period anymore."
Despite my criticism regarding Lorange's "telling." there are times when she should have told readers more, and she didn't. For example, at the book's outset, Marty's parents are making her go to a new school, something she does not want to do, but the parents' motivations for this move are never made explicit. Additionally, Marty has a brother, Dylan, and a sister, Natalie, but where her siblings fit into the birth order is never clarified.
And why did Lorange's editor allow her to attach years to her diary entries when her subject matter really doesn't have a "best before" date. In 2008, the intended audience of 10 to 13-year-olds already see 2004-5 as belonging to history.
While I'm So Fat is definitely not a first-purchase item, any middle school classrooms which utilize literature circles with teen illnesses as a thematic focus could consider including this title as one suitable for less able female readers.
Recommended with reservations.
Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.