“You and me and him” Kris Dinnison

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Houghton Mifflin. 275 p.

YouAndMeAndHimSeventeen year old Maggie and Nash have been friends for almost all their lives. Nash can’t wait to graduate and leave their little town behind, always hoping to meet the boy of his dreams while he waits. Maggie loves the quaintness of their town, and hopes the future love of her life won’t care she’s overweight.

Over the years the two of them have held each other’s secrets, and were always there for each other. Then they met Tom, a new student. Nash was instantly infatuated and called dibs, leaving Maggie to take on the role of matchmaker even though she thought Tom was cute.

When Maggie finds herself developing feelings for him, she buries herself in baking cookies and her job at the record store so as to leave the road clear for Nash. Meanwhile Maggie’s frenemy Kayla also has her eyes set on Tom, setting the stage for a love triangle with a twist.

I liked Maggie’s character, which was not the stereotypical “overweight teen girl is bullied at school so binge eats for happiness and spends her life alone, wishing she was skinny” storyline. Though sometimes she seemed too good to be true, she gave me hope that overweight teens reading the book would gain strength from her maturity and way of thinking. Nash, Tom, and Kayla, on the other hand, have lots of growing up to do and their behavior should never be emulated.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Holding up the universe” Jennifer Niven

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published October 4, 2016. Alfred A. Knopf. 391 p.

holdinguptheuniverseAfter her mother died when she was 11-years-old, Libby Strout felt so sad and burdened with grief that only food could lessen her pain. Her father used cooking to assuage his own grief, and the combination soon caused her to balloon to 653 pounds.

Jack Masselin spent his life building things from scraps, but nothing could help him build up his own life as everyone, including his own brothers and parents, were strangers.

Libby and Jack meet under unusual circumstances, gradually learning to depend upon each other for mutual support. As high school life threatens to tear them down, the two of them face their worst fears in order to move forward.

Through alternate chapters Libby and Jack tell their stories of feeling different for circumstances out of their control, while learning the importance of unity in the face of diversity.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Someone I wanted to be” Aurelia Wills

Rated 1 star * ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Candlewick. 324 p.

someoneiwantedtobeLeah’s mother is a drunk; her sometime-friends either ignore or pretend to like her, while her classmates call her a variety of fat names. What’s an overweight, insecure, semi-friendless, sometimes drunk 15-year-old smoker to do? Leah’s answer is to eat so she doesn’t have to think, contrast her terrible life with everyone else’s wonderful life, and impersonate her pretty so-called friend Kristy so she could chat with someone who was obviously a pedophile but who she could only see as “handsome.”

“Someone I wanted to be” is a rambling view of Leah’s life, problems (mostly self-imposed) and how she almost wound up as a statistic. I wasn’t a fan, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“Girls like me” Lola StVil

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 4, 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 310 p.

girlslikemeUsing a poetic style of writing, along with text messages, St. Vil tells the story of Shay, a lonely, overweight 15-year-old girl. Shay has learned to constantly eat to cope with the pain of bullying and missing her dead father, as it helps her forget she’s fat and alone with her evil stepmother. Her gay best friend Dash, and her dying-of-cancer friend Boots assure her she is beautiful and funny, but even they can’t give her the help and support she finds from eating.

A chance encounter with a boy in a chat room leads to days spent laughing and chatting online. Soon her humor and his wit combine to form love, but is it possible to fall for someone you’ve never met? Shay believes staying online is enough, and resists all attempts for them to meet in person. She is certain that once he meets her he will run away, so is willing to settle for second best. Can she learn to overcome her fear and stand up for herself?

“Girls like me” tells Shay’s, Dash’s and Boot’s stories of loneliness, friendship and heartache, along with the ups and downs that come with being seen as “different” by their peers. It is a story every teen should, hopefully, learn from as they read.

Highly recommended for ages 13 and older.

“Sugar”Deirdre Riordan Hall

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published June 1, 2015. Skyscape.

SugarAs a little girl, Mercy’s mother caught her eating sugar out of a bag and nicknamed her “Sugar.” She and her brothers were encouraged to eat more than normal because their mother didn’t want skinny kids. As a result they grew fat, while their morbidly obese mother was confined to bed with various ailments.

Now 17 years old, Sugar cooks, cleans and cares for her mother and younger brother, while enduring cruel verbal and physical abuse from them about her weight. Constant bullying at school makes eating sweets the only thing that appeases the cruelty she experiences daily, trapping her in a vicious cycle of eating to feel better then hating herself for gaining weight.

Sugar’s life changes when she meets Even with an “e” not an “a.” Even is a senior at her high school who sees the person Sugar wishes she could be, and encourages her to come out of the shell she’s been in her whole life. As Mercy begins to blossom under Even’s kindness, the reality of her cruel world soon forces her to a crossroads.

“Sugar” was beautifully written and, at times, brought me to tears. The struggles someone who is overweight goes through are hauntingly brought to the surface, and are eye openers. It will educate readers to their sufferings, and help us see them in a whole new light.

Highly recommended for 16 and older.