I’ve had 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad bookmarked via Kirkus review for months and I finally requested it at the library and basically inhaled it within three days.
Quick synopsis: Lizzie is a self-proclaimed fat girl before the age of self proclamation was something to be proud of. Before you could openly call yourself fat and feel unashamed doing so. She’s gothy and witty and desperate to feel acceptance in her skin. It is funny as I write this because I wonder to myself, “What is it that Lizzie truly wants in the first third of the book?” It’s not as much self-acceptance, it’s external love–companionship. She seeks out people via the internet on dating websites that like the same music and books as her, she has affairs where she showers others in love and affection but she is treated as a throwaway object one too many times. The saddest part of it all: she is never ignorant. She knows precisely why she is being treated the way she is through every single episode throughout the book.
So Lizzie grows older and goes by Beth, and Elizabeth, and Liz. She loses a lot of weight but it never feels like she has moved as far as she thinks she has. The saddest part of the book is realizing how much she has sacrificed in this journey to be what she thought she had to become in order to be loved: she lost consuming JOY. She lost going out to dinners or lunches with friends and just eating, she lost feeling relaxed at get-togethers and instead feels increasingly hostile because she knows what the average person thinks of the person she once was in her skin. There’s something so intimate and familiar of feeling so hostile–example, at a barbeque a seven year old is asking, “Didn’t you used to be really fat?” and she is cut off by her mother, and Lizzie (Elizabeth by this point) is grateful, because she knows she couldn’t mentally take being called fat, even in the past tense, as she eats salad and a veggie patty at a barbeque and thinks about being so damned by her sacrifice.
I love talking about books and feeling like the possibilities are endless, especially in short story collections. This book didn’t particularly have a happy ending, which I wanted so desperately for Lizzie. But that’s the reality of feeling fixated on weight and trying to always become a vision of what you think you need to be to be loved or appreciated. But holy fuck, I’ve never seen a more accurate telling of so many pressures a fat girl feels. Example: fucking around with a jackass just because you know you can’t do better. Not forcing them to treat you better because you know you can’t do better. Just that underlined feeling, “I can’t do better.”
Wow, have I felt that, and wow I have never seen it written like that. It’s a feeling I can never particularly dictate to someone, even when I try to describe horrid people I used to know to my boyfriend. That question of “Why?” is so difficult to answer and a skinny person will never really know.
Anywho, pick it up! Working on a Kirkus review this week but then I’m on to Wild by Cheryl Strayed, because I’ve heard so much about how great she is and I’m on a memoir kick.
P.S. TENNESSEE WILLIAMS LIT FEST WAS FANTASTIC AND NEXT POST WILL DESCRIBE HILARIOUS THINGS.