By: Mona Awad
Publication Date: February 2016
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 2016
Mona Awad’s debut novel, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, is perplexing at best.
Young Lizzie is coming of age in Mississauga (‘Misery Saga’). She is a fat girl and subjects herself to the constant belief that her cards in life have been stacked against her. She isn’t a prom queen, nor the up and coming valedictorian. Rather, she is a robustly plump young lady and therefore must take her place at the back of the line (in her view). Lizzie is in that place in her life when boys are of interest, but what boy wants to date a fat girl? Thank goodness for the internet and online dating. It is her cocoon of a safety net because they cannot see her live and in the flesh.
Online dating is just one of the many choices Lizzie migrates toward in trying to sort out her miserable life. She is uncomfortable in her own skin and compounds such discomfort by connecting with sordid sorts who have a fair amount of self-loathing going on in their respective lives. There is underage sex, ditching school, drug experimentation and a plethora of other unsavory choices Lizzie seems to think are what her path in life is meant to be. And then the clouds part and Lizzie takes charge of her life—parsing out a handful of almonds to satisfy her robust appetite followed by healthier food choices. Sadly, through the myriad of alternative measures to morph into a different being, what will always lurk beneath her surface is the view and vision of the fat girl that never quite disappears.
I say Ms. Awad’s debut novel is perplexing at best because I do not know where she is going throughout this little more than 200-page work of fiction. One chapter ends and the next begins and the tie between the two is non-existent. In essence, there are a series of stand-alone diatribes of a ‘fat girl’ who is trying to find her way; yet the only theme I am able to pick up throughout this read is a person who is on a course of self-destruction even after she thins down. It is difficult to find Ms. Awad’s voice throughout this read and I’m not sure the beginning ever transitions to the middle or ever carries the reader to the proverbial ‘the end’. I think Ms. Awad has admirable credentials concerning her education. However, in my opinion, there are those who write and they do it well because it is their artistic gift (or calling). On the other hand, there are also those who write because they believe their education says they should given their successful and impressive academic achievements. Perhaps the latter should stick to teaching. For the record, I’m not a ‘fat girl.’
Quill says: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a fragmented delivery of vignettes lacking in cohesive continuity and purpose.