Monday, December 15, 2008

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee

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I’m not the biggest fan of “fat girl” books. The ones I’ve read have invariably contained unbearable heroines whose whining made me, the sympathetic reader type, want to kill myself, that it’s no wonder they aren’t parameters of beauty at their school or community. Or, they’re overly sappy with the heroine ending up skinny and it turns out skinniness is, like, a genie in a lamp and whatever you ask for, you shall receive—a boyfriend, popularity, beauty...

Stopping there in case you only get three wishes.

Yeah, not so much my style. I’m not going to bore anyone with my take on weight-loss and body image and all of that, but let me just say I hate when it’s depicted as gratuitous.

So now let me introduce you to your new best friend:

Rosemary Goode is smart and funny and loyal and the best eyebrow waxer in Spring Hill, Tennessee. But only one thing seems to matter to anyone, including Rosemary: her weight. And when your mom runs the most successful (and gossipy) beauty shop in town, it can be hard to keep a low profile. Rosemary resolves to lose the weight, but her journey turns out to be about everything but the scale.
Artichoke’s Heart biggest quality, methinks, is its ability to reach a more extended audience than your regular weight-dropping trope. I mean, it certainly accounts for the challenges of trying to change in order to fit in to a superficial society when you’re not perceived as a gorgeous (so much as gorging) girl. But, it offers so much more than just that. Like Becky mentioned, it’s a novel about family as much as it is about weight. Beyond that, what I thought was also great is how Rosemary befriends a skinny girl (Kay-Kay) who’s a bit lost and confused, and in the mutual help for one another, she comes to realize there’s a lot more to being a healthy person than weight.

That last bit is probably one of my favorite aspect of this novel. Rosemary goes through the highs and lows of weight-loss which coming from experience are not fun at all. Along the way, though, she also fights for a positive self-esteem and body image, neither of which come easily. She gets a boyfriend while she’s still on the heavier side of the scale and has to learn how to allow herself to be loved. I haven’t seen these topics dealt with such candor in most books, which made me very, very excited about this one.

Despite the heavy topics, this book was accessible and sometimes even a seemingly light read. The Southern charm throughout probably helps with that. :P Despite requiring suspension of belief here and there, it is a realistic and universal story.

Yeah, this was good, and yeah, it’s recommended. B+

Further: "Bear Claws" - a guest blog by Suzanne Supplee on the importance of positive body image and self-esteem.

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This was reviewed as a part of Girl Week. Girl Week is a week-long event here on the blog celebrating strong YA heroines and feminism. Find out more about it here.

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18 comments:

carmen alexis said...

Sounds like a good read. I think I'll add it to my list and see for myself. =)

Carol(ina) said...

Hmm... will check it out.I like books about body images. And you did end up writing a great review :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice review. I can't recall a book I've read that focuses on body image in a really big way.

This one sounds good!!

-Lauren

Alea said...

Well you already know i want to read this since i entered your contest, but i thought I would just say that here too. So you wouldn't forget, snickers! The evil weather has done things to my brain...just ignore me...

Amee said...

The few books I've read that focus on weight haven't been the overly whiny types. I guess I've been lucky! This one sounds pretty good too. ;)

Steph said...

Amee- never read You Know Where To Find Me. WHINYYYYYYYYYYYY. Argh.

Alea - do I even WANNA know?

Alea said...

So i had a comment to write here and i hit post comment and i noticed as i was closing out that it didn't go through. so i'll write this instead. sorry just ignore me. This book has a clever cover!

allisonmariecat said...

I'm not a big fan of "fat girl lit" either, but your review makes me want to check it out...thanks!

jocelyn said...

I would be interested to hear your take on body image and all of that.

It pisses me off when the fat main character's path to happiness is weight loss, honestly. Shouldn't people be able to be happy the way they are? I mean, yeah, healthy is good, but you can be happy and healthy without being skinny. I haven't read this book, but I HOPE it is a lot more than main characters loses weight, gets happy. I mean, I trust your reviews, but it's hard to find a book that REALLY gets what I'm trying to say here. But, I'd be really interested to read this one and see.

towerofbooks said...

I want to read this. I've never read a "fat girl" book before. :-P

Sarahbear9789 said...

I really want to read this. It sounds awesome.

Khy said...

I really want this one. I have it on my Christmas List, so let's hope I get it. =D

harmonybookreviews said...

Ooh, I really loved this one.

Jocelyn, I really think you'd enjoy this. It's definitely different than most and I'm with you on the whole skinny = happy thing.

Yan said...

I loved the part where the guy falls in love with her while she was overweight, that was definitely the highlight of the book for me =) I completely agree with the B+ rating.

Shalonda said...

I'm really enjoying books and tv shows with "bigger" characters who love themselves the way they are.

Growing up I was super skinny and got called names like Skeletor and Sticks. At first it really hurt, but I learned to love myself and the way that I looked.

And it has paid off, I am still smaller than I should be, but I look healthy. I've learned to accept the fact that I will never be curvy like Jessica Biel, but I'm happy and that's all that matters.

Sarah Quigley said...

I just read this book a couple of weeks ago, and I'm so glad to see that you gave it the praise it deserves. I loved Rosemary's total transformation, and I felt so connected to so many of the characters in a "hey, I knew someone like that" kind of way. AH is definitely in my top ten list of favorite YA books.

Alessandra said...

I want to read this book so badly.

Wrighty - said...

This is a great review. When I read the description I didn't know if I would be interested but your review made it sound really good. I'll have to read this one now.

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