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The Anti-Fat Kid

February 6, 2013

I recently read a novel by an author who I really, really trusted. I trusted him to write good books.  I trusted him to be sensitive. He has a reputation for writing with uncommon sensitivity about gender and sexuality. He’s the c0-author of one of my favorite books. So when I picked up his newest book, I trusted him. And then, sadly, toward the end of the book, everything went to shit.

The book is Every Day, the author is David Levithan.

Every Day

It’s a beautifully written book about a genderless character who wakes up every day in the body of a different person, and then one day falls in love. I read the whole thing in two days, even though I had other things to do, because I could not put it down.

And then I reached a chapter called “Day 6025,” maybe 50 pages from the end. It starts like this:

The next morning it’s hard to raise my head from the pillow, hard to raise my arms from my sides, hard to raise my body from the bed. This is because I must weigh at least three hundred pounds.

And it goes down from there. This character, who can access some memories of the people whose bodies are hopped into Quantum Leap-style, has spent the entire book finding empathy for a girl who killed her brother while she was drunk driving, a drug addict, a mean girl, and people of every stripe. And then, the next body he’s in is fat.

So we get stuff like how he was sweating within five minutes of leaving the shower (because, you know, fatties are gross and constantly sweaty, right?). And how he has a 46-inch waist, so he can’t walk down the aisles of a book store because he keeps knocking things off the shelves. And “because of the size of this body, I must concentrate much harder than I usually do. Even the small things — my foot on the gas pedal… require major adjustment.” As if being fat is equal to being inhuman.

And everyone, literally everyone, looks at him with disgust. Maybe the harshest thing is that, despite spending the whole book finding empathy for EVERYONE, the character chooses not even to look beyond the surface of the fat boy, and all he sees on the surface is “the emotional equivalent of a burp.” Yes. A burp.

The kicker? THIS is the catalyst that makes the character realize that the idea of being with the girl he loves is crazy. That’s because she won’t hold his hand, and even sits a seat away from him at the movie theater. He can’t subject her to being forced to live with the idea that he might wake up in a fat body again some day. And that, apparently, is the worst possible thing. Ever.

I think I’ve written a few times this year about how K. L. Going’s Fat Kid Rules the World rocked my world — the book and the movie. Every Day is the anti-Fat Kid. It’s in-your-face fucking with the fat kid. I was hurt by it, personally. Even more so, like I said, because I trusted the author and I felt like he’d pulled the rug out from under me. And because I was so sucked into the book before the sucker punch. I was also angered because David Levithan is a very popular author; an author I’ve looked up to. And I bet tons of fat kids read his book and were slapped in the face by his chapter of fat shaming.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2013 9:57 am

    How depressing. Did you send a link to this post to the author?

  2. February 6, 2013 10:13 am

    I agree with everything. While I still love the book soooo much, when it got to the part where he was in 300lb guy, it just kind of irked me. I was loving the book until that part. And I hated how Rhiannon emphasized how she wasn’t able to love every body that A was in equally. It made me sad that even A couldn’t be kind, at least psychologically, to that fat body he/she was currently in. I really did like the book but as I read online reviews about how they cried because of that impossible love between them, I was crying because I felt like my body was being shamed by one of my favorite YA authors. I expected so much from this book and while it’s still good, it was still such a big letdown for me. Because as it ended, I couldn’t think about anything else other than how David Levithan made it look like being a 300lb fat kid was the worst thing that could happen to someone. <////3 Can't even begin to tell you guys how upset this made me. Thank you for posting this. I thought I was the only one who felt this. But as Andrea Gibson would put it, "Sometimes the most healing thing to do is to remind ourselves over and over that other people feel this too." So thank you.

  3. vesta44 permalink
    February 6, 2013 10:48 am

    The lack of empathy for the fat body he inhabited is astounding, especially after he was able to find empathy for some characters with much worse things about them. And I hate to tell him, but a 46″ waist doesn’t mean you can’t walk down aisles without knocking shit off the shelves (my husband has a 44″ waist and doesn’t have that problem, 2″ more wouldn’t create it either). As for a 300 lb person not being able to raise their head off the pillow, or having difficulty lifting their arms, or not being able to find the gas pedal in the car – give me a fucking break. I weigh 400 lbs and I don’t have any problems with any of those things, and I have fibromyalgia and severe back/leg pain every fucking day of my life. David Levithan doesn’t know WTF he’s talking about when it comes to living with a fat body and, from the sounds of the book, didn’t bother to do any research on it at all (such as actually talking to a real person who weighs 300 lbs). Thanks for the heads-up, he’s an author I’ll be sure to avoid. Because I don’t care how good his other books are, or how good this one was up until he got to the fat body, I refuse to patronize a fat-phobic author. There are too many other authors out there who don’t do that for me to waste my money on one who does.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 7, 2013 4:48 am

      Sure is a sad world where being fat is perceived as THE worst thing a person can possibly be. In this guy’s perspective, apparently worse even than killing your brother.

  4. February 6, 2013 3:15 pm

    This sounds like the kind of intriguing premise that might have made me want to read this book…but I’m now glad I didn’t spend Kindle money. I’ve taken a look through the reviews on Amazon, and discovered that when he meets the girl, A is living a day as her current boyfriend. Who is abusive, I don’t know in what way, but those who’ve read it…what’s the author’s attitude to him? Because if this guy is showing more empathy for an abusive partner than for a fat kid, he really has a problem.

    I agree, please contact Levithan. Even if we don’t nudge him into realizing how this feels, we can at least let him know that he’s lost potential future readers.

  5. lifeonfats permalink
    February 6, 2013 4:33 pm

    Not only should you contact the author, give him links to FA blogs like ours where he can see that many big fat bodies can move around just fine.

  6. The Real Cie permalink
    February 7, 2013 4:45 am

    Wow! Did this fartknocker (maybe he’s a good author, I haven’t read his stuff, but in my mind, he’s a fartknocker) even bother talking to any larger people to get their perspective? I weigh around 300 pounds. I exercise for between an hour and an hour and a half a day four or five days a week. The only time I have trouble “lifting my head from the pillow” is if I’m sleep deprived and finally starting to catch up a little–which happens a lot more than I care to admit. Or if I’m in a depressive state, and having this happen at all is one time too many. I tend to rebound from it better than I used to.
    I don’t sweat unless I’m outside when it’s hot or I’m pushing it. I have no trouble in the world pushing the gas pedal on a car. I’ve been on the slimmer end of things in my younger days, and I don’t operate that much differently now than I did then, except that I have sciatica and I’m older.
    Dude needs to find some actual fat people and get their perspective, not go on the societal ASSupmptions about fat people.

  7. Kerasi permalink
    February 7, 2013 8:49 am

    Thanks for the post. I’m in a conundrum about one of my favorite authors, whom I highly recommend, Jennifer Lancaster. She is a hugely sarcastic, mean, awesome author who pens memoirs and, most recently, novels, that keep me in stitches; she is also fat. However, one of her books is about her attempt to lose weight. Although I know it will be hilarious and she has come to embrace her size, I also know it will be full of stereotypes and fat jokes she’s making in self-derogatory ways. The blurb says she finally learns that she “needs to lose weight for her health and pie is not the answer,” and I’m feeling all, “ugh,” about it. I don’t know whether I should read it, because I know I’ll be able to commiserate with some of the feelings she had about weight loss, or if I shouldn’t, because I don’t think I’ll like the conclusions she comes up with. I’ve got this thing where, if I like an author, I want to read everything by them. But I don’t know. I don’t know. Help me out family. What would you do?

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 9, 2013 1:52 am

      Personally, I’d find reading that triggering to my ED, so I’d have to pass it up just like I’d pass up liver pie with a raw zucchini topping. I’ve really had to struggle with stopping the self-deprecating body snarking when it comes to my own body and this would push me right back in that direction.

  8. February 8, 2013 4:34 pm

    As always, thank you, Shannon, for pointing out the fat bigotry permeating our world. Thank heavens for Pealrsong Press, and you, and others who stand up against this disgusting practice. xo

  9. Kerasi permalink
    February 11, 2013 7:28 am

    Thanks The Real Cie! I’m still so torn! I think, before I decide, that I’m going to contact the author via her blog and ask her a few questions about the book. I do know that, in books I’ve read that were published after that one, she makes no derogatory comments about her body and refers to herself as “in fine shape,” which leads me to believe she has reached a level of acceptance that I admire. Anyhoo, thanks again!

  10. March 6, 2013 1:27 pm

    “The kicker? THIS is the catalyst that makes the character realize that the idea of being with the girl he loves is crazy. That’s because she won’t hold his hand, and even sits a seat away from him at the movie theater. He can’t subject her to being forced to live with the idea that he might wake up in a fat body again some day. And that, apparently, is the worst possible thing. Ever.”

    Not the first time an author didn’t get the point of their own dang book, alas…

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