Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have -- Allen Zadoff
15-year-old Andrew Zansky is the second-fattest guy in the sophomore class. Tenth grade begins pretty much the same way as ninth: ten minutes in, he's already been harassed by Ugo the Bully and cheated on his diet. It looks like this year will involve lots of hanging out with his best friend, Eytan, and the other kids in the Model UN. Just like last year.
This year, at least he has April -- the gorgeous girl he met at a function his mother was catering -- to fantasize about. Why not, right? It's not like he's ever going to see her again.
Not that it really matters -- it isn't like Andy has a chance, or that he will ever make a move.
But. O. Douglas, star quarterback, golden boy and dreamboat, has suddenly shown some serious interest in Andy Zansky. And Andy finds himself pulled into a world where getting the girl just might be possible.
I really enjoyed Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have. I loved Andy's voice, which was funny and confessional (And after noting that the author has the same initials, I wondered just how confessional it was!), self-depricating and genuine, fresh-to-the-ear but familiar-to-the-psyche:
There's a lot of fat in our family, but there's some thin, too. Dad is thin and athletic, and my sister Jessica is super skinny. She's also a super bitch, so there's clearly no correlation between being skinny and being nice, at least in her case.
That's my family. Some of us are fat, some are thin.
It may be true that we have a glandular problem, but if so, it's extremely selective.
The storyline kept me wondering -- with so many people suddenly being so nice to Andy, I kept waiting for the situation to change, for the Big Reveal, for the twist. Because, after all, it's hard to imagine a world in which a Big (literally) Nobody gets scooped up by the most popular group in school, no strings attached. Don't get me wrong: it's always refreshing to read about football players and cheerleaders who AREN'T Satan's Spawn. But I reserved judgement for quite a long time -- because I cared about Andy, and I didn't want him to get hurt. Emotionally OR physically.
I'll let you find out for yourself about whether or not there is a twist. Just know that this is a good one. It's about friendship, trust, branching out, finding out who you are and what you enjoy, about learning to see. In some ways, sure, it's a story that's been told before. But the characters are real, right down to the minor ones, and Andy's voice -- and the emotions under his voice -- ring true. Thumbs up.
Crossposted at Guys Lit Wire.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher; Cybils nominee.
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