“Pretty Face”—A Book Review

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Pretty Face by Mary Hogan was a quick read that offered a lot of insight into not only how we view the world, but how the world views us versus how we view ourselves.

Hayley tragically lives in Santa Monica, where blonde, tanned, and toned people are aplenty. Hayley’s mom is constantly hounding her about her weight and what she is eating at every possible second. Thus, to Hayley, bikinis are basically a form a torture.

Living in a place where narcissism is a way of life, Hayley’s jumps at the opportunity when her mom offers her the chance to go to Umbria (a small town in Italy) to stay with a family friend. No more of her mom breathing down her back every time she takes a bite of something and no more guy crushes telling her what a great friend she is. This is a chance for Hayley to get away and reinvent herself. On the plane, she vows that she will eat less than a thousand calories a day and will lose thirty pounds by the time she returns home.

However, when Hayley arrives in Italy, her game plan falters. Emerging herself in a totally different culture, can she learn that sometimes just slowing down and enjoying life can make you a better you?

“I’m on Italian time. Nothing is rushed; everything happens when it’s supposed to.”

Adjusting to Italian traditions like “riposo”, the time between 1-3pm where everything closes down and everyone goes home to enjoy lunch with their family, take a nap, or even make love, and learning to slow down and actually enjoy the taste of food, opposed to just shoveling it in her mouth, Hayley may just learn to love herself. And even better, she may even find a steamy Italian amore.

Using a witty teenage backdrop, this book really opens you eyes to how materialistic Americans are. All we think about is being thin (not necessarily healthy), and pushing that concept of “perfect” onto our children. Everyone in America is constantly “plugged in” and going a million miles a minute, never accomplishing enough. I was reminded that when all you do is berate yourself for having that scoop of ice cream, or scramble around to get a gazillion things done at once, you end up make yourself a pretty miserable person. If we could learn to slow down a little bit, enjoy the scenery, our food, and the company of others, we could be so much happier not only as individuals, but as a society.

And in regards to overweight people “eating their feelings”, I’ve mentioned this issue in another review for the book Butter by Erin Jade Lange, and maybe I’m just an insensitive asshole, but it really pisses me off. If you are hiding what you are eating and how much you are eating, you obviously feel ashamed about it. If you are feeling embarrassed or guilty about the amount of crap food you consume (without even tasting most of it, I might add…just shoveling it in faster than you can breathe), obviously there is something wrong with the situation. For example, in this scene at the beginning of the book, Hayley orders a giant pizza and coke to be consumed by her, and only her, she tries to play it off as if she is ordering for a whole gob of people, only to later hide from curious/disgusted eyes to consume everything.

“Intellectually, I know the counter guy doesn’t care who I am or how many people will be eating this pizza. Emotionally, though, I can’t bear for him to know the truth. I can’t even stand to know the truth myself.”

If you are upset by your appearance, and you know you are partaking in unhealthy habits, then fix it. It is in your power to make positive choices and take control of your life and body. I’m not saying everyone should be a size 4, quite the opposite. Most people are not naturally thin and are not capable of being that thin. Everyone’s body is different. But being healthy (exercising) and choosing healthy eating habits can go a long way. And no, it’s not fair that some people can eat whatever they want, never exercise, and stay rail thin, but that’s life. Get over it.

Sorry for the brief rant! All in all, I give this insightful little tale 4 out of 5 stars!

*Warning: This book will make you want to drink wine, eat amazing food, and book a trip to Italy!

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“Everything Beautiful”—A Book Review

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Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell was a quick, semi-thoughtful, read…a perfect book for those summertime lazy days.

Riley’s mom passed away a few years ago from cancer. She and her dad moved to a new town, and not too long after he found Jesus started “seriously” seeing a new woman. The new woman decides (and convinces her dad of the same) that while they go on vacation, Riley should attend Sprit Ranch, a Christian camp—to help Riley find God and straighten out her smart mouth ways.

Naturally, Riley arrives at Spirit Ranch completely hostile and ready to mouth off to every Jesus-loving-freak that attends this ridiculous camp. So, of course, everybody is immediately put off by this chubby violet-haired pessimistic girl and starts with the fat jokes, doing everything possible to exclude her from camp games.

Dylan is back at Sprit Ranch, but this summer is different. Now Dylan is in a wheelchair, legs paralyzed. No longer the hunky athlete he once was, everyone treats him differently too, not knowing exactly how to interact with him any longer. Likewise, Dylan now treats life, and everyone in it, like an inconvenience and a waste of time.

Will Riley and Dylan find camaraderie in each other, being the camp outcasts? Or are both too pissed at life to even try to be anything other than bitter and cynical?

This short, summer read was semi-insightful and thought provoking. While it wasn’t one of those novels that left you thinking about some deep profound message for days afterward, it definitely made me at least go, “hmmm.” It definitely reminds you that regardless of the situation you are entering in, if you go into it with your walls up, people are less likely to befriend you. As scary as it is and as vulnerable as it can make you feel, sometimes you have to lower the barriers just a little bit in order to gain something pretty fantastic in return.

Three out of five stars.  

“Butter”—A Book Review/Rant

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Butter by Erin Jade Lange provided a new way to view online bullying and childhood obesity.

Butter is a big boy…and I mean BIG. I know that’s supposed to make the reader feel empathic and sad and all, but I really just couldn’t find the sympathy. Butter’s weight issues actually kind of pissed me off and got my blood boiling.

The opening scene is of him pigging out on a shit ton of junk food, and then seeing a story on the news about how airlines are going to start charging obese people for two tickets, since they take up more than just one seat. This upsets Butter, and he goes into a pouty fit and puts down the food, running up to his room to do the one thing (other than eating) that brings him joy…play his saxophone.

But in almost the next paragraph he says how he won’t keep his resolve to not eat crap food because it’ll never work and he’ll always be fat, blah blah blah. And how his mother is an enabler (and I’m not saying that she isn’t) and it’s her fault he’s so fat and his dad’s fault for ignoring him.  

“Mom’s mouth twitched in a sad smile, but she didn’t say anything. Somewhere around the time I turned eleven, she’d stopped talking to me about food or exercise or anything to do with my weight. And the bigger I grew, the more she pretended not to see it. I used to think she was embarrassed by me, but I eventually figured out she just felt guilty—like she was a bad mother for letting me get so big.”

Again, I know this kid being ginormous and not having any friends is supposed to make me feel sorry for him, but the book just infuriated me more than anything. He just gorges himself on food and whines about being fat. It literally just made me yell inside my head, “STOP EATING ENOUGH FOOD FOR 10 PEOPLE IN ONE SITTING AND GO EXERCISE! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”

You may think I’m a horrible person for thinking this, but seriously, self pity and laziness will get you nowhere and one of my biggest pet peeves is people making excuses for their own crappy decisions. Grow a pair, own up to your mistakes, and be proactive to change!

 And Butter didn’t even try to make any friends at school. He just hid away in the corners (well as much as a giant kid can hide).

“I was rarely picked on at school. At a whopping 423 pounds, I was just that pathetic—that pitiful. Most people couldn’t bring themselves to be cruel to me.”

And even worse, he uses his own self loathing and eating habits to punish his parents (and I’m not saying his parents are completely blame-free with his condition, but blaming them for your own crappy state is so not the way to go about it…that won’t solve anyone’s problems).

“The food didn’t taste as good without an audience. If I had to be the one to carry the weight, it was only fair that they be forced to watch.”

So after humiliating himself at school one day, Butter comes home all upset and sees that people have made a list of “most-likelys” from his school. He’s listed as “most likely to die from a heart attack” and next to the prediction is a picture of him stuffing his face in the cafeteria.

What happens next? Does he decide to prove those kids wrong and start living a healthier life by exercising and watching what he eats? NO! Of course he doesn’t…he decides he’s going to kill himself online (so everyone can see it) at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. How is he going to do this? By eating himself to death. One last meal for the fat kid.

“I couldn’t control the kids at school. I couldn’t control my parents or my weight or my life…but I could command the conversation online. I could make sure the only things people said about me in cyberspace were the things I invited them to say. And if I could control that, then that would be all that mattered.”

The website Butter created in a moment of anger goes viral around the school, and before he knows it everyone wants to talk to him, the most popular guys in school want him to sit at their table and hang out with them on the weekends. But not because they truly like Butter as a person—it’s because they are morbidly obsessed with his suicide mission. They want to discuss things like menu of everything he’s going eat for his last meal.

The sick thing is, Butter likes the attention—even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. All he ever really wanted was attention, but he goes about it in the most cowardly way. Instead of trying to win everyone over with his insanely good sax-playing skills, or his kind heartedness, or his brains, or with humor, he gets their attention with his suicide plans.

The “protagonist” (I use this term as loosely as I can) is nothing but a whiny coward. If he wouldn’t have had his panties in a bunch in the first place and hung out in the corners, like a dog with his tail between his legs, and have actually put himself out there and TRIED to make friends, he wouldn’t have had to resort to such ridiculous antics to get attention.

Some of you may think I’m a complete bitch (and I’m not denying that fact), but all the spineless bullshit just irked me. I get that high school sucks (everyone is insecure in high school and anyone who says otherwise is lying), but you put on your big girl (or boy) panties and get through it. Don’t just throw a fucking tantrum.

This book was a quick read…I got through it in a few hours, and if people making excuses for their all of their problems doesn’t completely piss you off (like it does me), then you will probably enjoy this book. It does address issues like social media bullying and depression. So even though this novel pissed me off, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.