BARSON, K. A. 45 Pounds (More or Less). 256p. Viking. July 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-78482-0.
Gr 8-10–Sixteen-year-old Ann has a big problem. She has just two months to get into a bridesmaid dress for her Aunt Jackie’s wedding. She needs to lose 45 pounds, which would be hard enough without the complications of a new job, a cute boy, a mean group of girls, and blended families that leave her caught in the middle–and left out. Her mother is obsessive about her own weight and as the summer wears on, Ann begins to see just how troubled her families are. Telling the story in Ann’s wry, realistic voice, this debut author effectively captures society’s preoccupation with size and the resulting alienation of an overweight teen. With a chain-smoking grandmother whose language is peppered with “fat-ass,” relatives and friends who are slyly disparaging about her weight, and a mother who constantly prods her about dieting, the message could be heavy-handed. But Barson lightens the tone with almost cinematic humor, ensuring that even the most painful scenes have a slapstick edge. The ticking clock behind the wedding deadline gives the story real momentum, and while the ending is all nuptial jubilation, it is also a realistic summer’s end for Ann.–Martha Baden, Prescott Public Library, AZ