Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

author’s website: Allen Zadoff
release date: September 8, 2009
(paperback release: February 22, 2011)
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Contemporary / Body Image
length: 320 pages
publisher: EgmontUSA
overall rating: 5 stars
body image & self perception issue: obesity (male protagonist)

*the inside flap*
What’s worse than being fat your freshman year? Being fat your sophomore year.

Life used to be so simple for Andrew Zansky – hand with the Model UN guys, avoid gym class, and eat and eat and eat. He’s used to not fitting in: into his family, his sports-crazed school, or his size 48 pants.

But not anymore. Andrew just met April, the new girl at school and the instant love of his life! He wants to find a way to win her over, but how? When O. Douglas, the heartthrob quarterback and high-school legend, saves him from getting beaten up by the school bully, Andrew sees his chance to get in with the football squad.

Is it possible to reinvent yourself in the middle of high school? Andrew is willing to try. But he’s going to have to make some changes. Fast.

How far should you go to be the person you really want to be?

Andrew is about to find out.

*my review*
This is an interesting novel that covers many more topics than it would seem by reading the cover. This book talks about weight, self esteem, divorce, insecurity, friendship, and the hierarchy of “cool” that happens in high school. That’s a lot of meat for a novel that’s only 311 pages long, but it works beautifully. Allen Zadoff merges these topics into a truly excellent story about the life of an overweight teenager.

Andrew Zansky isn’t just a little overweight. He is big enough that he actually has to worry about fitting into the new desks at school. He even refers to himself as fat – he says it runs in his family. And while he doesn’t want to be fat, he doesn’t do a ton to change it, which I think has to do with the pressure his mom puts on him. She isn’t comfortable with her weight, and she projects those insecurities toward Andy by encouraging diets. Truthfully, it is because she doesn’t want Andy to struggle with the same problem, but putting pressure on Andy isn’t helping. Also creating issues is Andy’s sister Jessica, who happens to be super skinny. (Enter one of my favorite lines of the book: “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.” p. 2-3)

Andy seems to be living a pretty decent high school life, until he meets April – the girl of his dreams – and decides that he wants to impress her. This leads to perhaps the most embarrassing situation I can imagine happening in high school. And obviously, it isn’t very impressive either. Things seem to go worse and worse for Andy, until the quarter-back (and high school superstar) O. Douglas suddenly becomes Andy’s friend. Andy goes out for the football team and finds that he actually isn’t half bad. What is interesting is that throughout this transformation, Andy loses touch with his old best friend, and begins to change who he is.

Anything else would spoil the ending, but I highly recommend this book to female or male readers of any age. It is an incredibly story with a lot of depth to it if – especially if you really pay attention.

*short and snappy*
: easy and fun to read – the writing pulls you into the story and definitely captures the feel of high school life
plot: not at all what I expected – this is not the cliché high school novel
characters: Andy has a lot of depth, but it is the well developed minor characters (Eyton, Mom, Dad, O, and April) that make the book come alive
memorable line:
judging by the cover: brilliant! The cover ties directly into the story if you look at the details
miscellaneous: You can read an excerpt from “Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have” here (scroll down for the link), and tomorrow, Allen Zadoff will “be here” for an interview!

If you’ve read the book, or don’t mind spoilers, I have a bit more to say:
I absolutely loved the depth of Andy's character and the fact that he realized that he wasn't playing football for the right reasons. It sounds a bit pessimistic, I suppose, but I liked that Andy didn't get the girl and lose 100 pound at the end of the book - it would have been too cliché. This story felt much more realistic because those things didn't happen, and I think that people will really be able to better relate to the character because of that.


Karen said...

This looks really good. I'm finding a lot of books written from the male POV lately and I have to say I'm enjoying them more!

Khadija said...

interesting review :) i'll have to check this one out!

I'm doing a giveaway on my blog btw :) if your interested

Juju at Tales of said...

I've always wondered about this one. Great review!

PS Thanks for stopping by Tales of Whimsy :)

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