The Anti-Fat Kid
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.
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.