Skinny by Donna Cooner
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: gastric bypass surgery, body image issues, broadway, weight loss
Recommended by: Anna at Anna Reads
Format read: ARC from ALA (Thanks!)
Summary: Fifteen year old Ever is obese. She chooses to undergo gastric bypass surgery, with the support of her family, to make a positive change in her life and to halt the voice inside her head, Skinny, from telling her she’s not good enough.
Fifteen year old Ever weighs 302 pounds.
She hears the voice of Skinny who tells her she’s not beautiful, she takes up too much space, no one could love her. After the death of her mother, Ever began eating to recall her favorite memories they had together, most of which involved delicious treats. Ever is afraid to lose that part of herself so she sneaks Snickers bars into the bathroom stall at lunch or bags of M&Ms to her bedroom after dinner.
After a conversation with her step-sister, Briella, and an embarrassing moment in front of the entire school, she revisits a website she randomly stalked where gastric bypass patients or soon-to-be patients shared their struggles. With the support of her family, Ever decides to undergo the surgery in hopes of losing the weight, which could mean Skinny’s voice inside her head would finally go away, she might attract the attention of her long-lost best friend (Jackson) again, and she would maybe find the courage to try out for the school musical.
Ever’s voice was authentic and so honest. Skinny whispers lies to Ever that feed her insecurities. I, even at 27, struggle with the little voice inside my head that tells me I’m not beautiful and I don’t look good in my clothes. Skinny’s voice was a real eye-opener for me because I saw how hard it was for Ever to distinguish the lies from the truth. Her insecurities led her to believe things about her peers that weren’t true at all; it made her feel distanced, secluded, and so alone. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times my own self-doubts have gotten in the way of meeting amazing people or doing something because I was afraid of embarrassing myself.
Ever’s support system was pretty fantastic. Her best friend, Rat (yes, a so-very-unfortunate nickname), was a geeky boy who poured over the details of her surgery and did his best to make sure she was healing and progressing properly. He was by her side when she went under and when she got home with a chart to document her evolution. He creatively incorporated a way to tap into Ever’s emotional state by having her select a Broadway song to match her mood each week.
Rat was one of my favorite people, but I also felt a pull toward Briella from the very first pages and hoped she was more than the judgmental girl Ever labeled her to be. Ever’s dad was a tough cop, but I enjoyed his vulnerability and that the loss of his wife wasn’t glossed over or made better by his remarriage. From Gigi (the crazy-haired girl in her drama class) to Jackson (her childhood crush) to Charlotte (the stepmother who didn’t try to replace Ever’s mom) — every character had their place.
I’ve been through the battle of seeing the scale go both up and down. Each time I’m working to lose weight, I have to get over the voice inside my head that says my work has all been for nothing, that there’s been no physical change. Ever’s weight loss is quite significant and despite her achievement, she has a hard time facing herself in the mirror. She’s afraid to hope for the positive change (always afraid of failure). She struggles with the attention she gets from her peers (Does popular girl Whitney really care about her or does she just want to show off her charity case?) and she has a hard time letting go in drama class because for so long, she wanted to be invisible.
Ever’s story is a beautiful demonstration about how weight loss (or body image issues, in general) aren’t just about the external. The exterior is just a facade; it’s the internal barriers and emotions that must be broken down to accept the change and move forward. It’s not just about a number decreasing on the scale but also the belief that we are good enough, that we’re worth it… that we’re beautiful. Whether you’re 15 or 45 years old, I believe Skinny will speak volumes to you.