Title: Life In the Fat Lane
Author: Cherie Bennett
Publication Year: 1999
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Read stealthily on two separate trips to a bricks-and-mortar Chapters
From the cover:
Beauty pageant winner, homecoming queen — Lara has the world at her feet. Until she gets fat.
Despite a strict diet and workout schedule, Lara is soon a nameless, faceless, 200-pound-plus teenage blimp. She’s desperate to get her to-die-for body back — and to find an explanation for her rapid weight gain.
When she’s diagnosed with a mysterious metabolic disorder that has no known cure, Lara fears she’ll spend the rest of her life trapped in a fat suit. Who will stand by her? Her image-conscious family? Her shallow friends? Her handsome boyfriend? Or will she be left alone in the land of the fat girls?
Lara is a beauty pageant winner, and never, ever forgets this fact or sees herself as anything other than a “popular girl” trapped in a “loser’s body”. Even by the end of the book. I’ll just say that from the get-go, because if you’re a person who’s bothered by a feeling of self-entitlement and elitism, then this isn’t the book for you.
If the weight problems of poor Lara weren’t bad enough, her parents are complete idiots about it. They put her on diet after diet – including pills! – while trying to figure out why she’s gaining so much weight, and constantly tell her that if she just tried harder, she would get skinny again. Her father even continues with this train of thought after they learn that Lara has an extremely rare metabolic disorder called Axwell-Crowne which makes it so that she can never lose weight, no matter what she does in terms of eating and/or exercising, until the condition goes into remission.
Plus, neither of her parents are exactly great role models in terms of body image, either, so they’re not very helpful – Lara’s mother is constantly fawning over her father like they’re newlyweds, including basically eating nothing so that she’ll stay skinny for him, and it turns out that her father has been cheating on her mother for three years with a younger, prettier, skinnier thing from the office. He basically starts ignoring Lara as soon as she starts gaining weight. This isn’t the half of their family drama, let me assure you.
The overall story of Life In the Fat Lane isn’t all bad, but there are few redeeming qualities. Lara’s best friend, Molly, is one of them – she sticks by Lara’s side right through the end, even after Lara has ended up moving across the country. And the end of the story isn’t quite as tidy as it might have been, which is more than I had been hoping for. I had thought that it would be one of those novels where everything is perfect and happy in the end, and it wasn’t. Lara actually really pissed me off, because she spent the entire novel whining and feeling oh-so-sorry for herself, while only realizing some of what had been wrong with her personality beforehand, conveniently ignoring other flaws. I’m also kind of happy though – in a weird way – that Lara never completely got over her judgement of “other” fat people, because it made her more realistic.
Other than that, though, it was really more of a typical fluffy-ish issue novel. Not horrible, but not the first book that I’d recommend to a student interested in eating disorders or weight problems, either.
Life In the Fat Lane: I’m sorry, I just wasn’t that into you.