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Manstealing for Fat Girls
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
As this book's editor, I'm hardly objective. That said, I'm also a reader and my opinion of the review below is that MsFrisby missed the point. Manstealing for Fat Girls has sex, drinking and drugs in it. So do most kids lives these days. Whether they do or don't engage in any of the above, they know kids who do. The book shows how a real, literary heroine navigates these dangers as well as unnamable ones--patriarchy, homophobia and a class system that also negates her worth as a human being. The "lessons" for young readers--and there are many--involve watching a young woman figure out that she's ultimately stronger than all of the above. Also that she will continue to have to fight these battles her whole life. That is the reality MsFrisby and those who visit her library also deal with, and naming these things, through literature, ultimately makes all of us stronger (and saner). I've spoken to countless librarians about this book who are jumping up and down excited about it because its books like these that make kids want to read.

MsFisby, I agree with you that the examples above are disturbing (though some are a bit misquoted). That's why the author put them in the book. That's the function of literature: to show a mirror to the world and then to show us the alteratives.

As for my take on this book, I adore it. Its smart and political, but mostly its really, really funny.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
In a time of sugary sweet coming of age stories like Juno and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, it was a wonder to read something so simultaneously harsh and heart felt as MSFFG.

I am an objective reader, and I couldn't put this book down for one second. literally read it cover to cover in one sitting.

The setting of 80s suburban wasteland, the infusion of grime-core punk music and the undercutting of the John hughes genre makes this a teenage adventure I can actually relate to my own life.

And it is so funny.

A wonderful book I would recommend to any and every one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read it until I passed out and then woke up a few hours later wanting to do nothing but finish it. It spoke so much to body image issues all young women face, and to the difficulties of teenage sexuality. I have it on good authority that this book wasn't written for young adults, but was marketed that way because it's about young adults. I say, forget the label. Its visceral critique of gender relations and class issues are more than adult enough for any non-teenage reader. It has its flaws, but it'll punch you in the gut. I recommend it highly.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Michelle Embree, Manstealing for Fat Girls (Soft Skull, 2005)

It's been a bit of time since I've read this, because I haven't quite been sure what to say about it. I've read both sides of the argument over this book, and I can see the points both sides are making. The one thing I haven't been able to see is the one aspect of the book about which everyone else sees in it: its sense of humor. Both critics and defenders seemed to find the book uproariously funny. I missed the joke.

I'm not even going to try and summarize this incredibly (and needlessly) complex novel beyond the barest bones. The story involves Angie, who's sixteen, fat, and bi-curious. Her mother is dating a jerk, her best friend is both out of the closet and flamboyant, and the only guy she knows who treats her like a human being is so odd that, until we get some third-party confirmation, the reader may be left wondering if he's actually a figment of Angie's imagination. Angie is obsessed to the point of madness with dieting, which never works, but the attention that a classmate slowly starts paying her leads her to the first tentative steps towards believing that she's pretty the way she is. And that's when things start getting weird.

The central premise there is the book's strong point, to me at least--it's a book that does promote the idea that there's more to attractiveness than the physical, which is an especially important lesson in today's society (though like most other books that have that message, it never seems to take into account the idea that some guys really do actually find fat chicks hot; it takes the same tack of "well, I like you no matter what you look like" that everyone else does, which is highly annoying). Its problem is that while that does seem to be the main thrust of the book, it's sometimes hard to tell, because it gets buried under the weight of its own subplots, seemingly extraneous (if well-drawn) characters, and attempts at--veracity?--that just come off silly. (Maybe that's the humor I missed?)

In any case, as I said at the beginning of this, I can see both sides of the debate. Yes, high school kids actually do these things. (Well, most of them.) And this is nothing new; high school kids did these things when I was in high school, and that's long enough ago that what we did is probably considered very old hat by today's standards. So to contend that high school students should be sheltered from it is purest stupidity. But on the other side of the coin, I do think the book tries too hard and reaches too far into the absurd in its quest to either identify with its target audience or make them laugh (your call). But it's readable enough that the all-out absurdity in the final third of the novel acquires a certain weird charm. Or it may annoy you to death. Depends. Like everything else about this book. ***
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on February 9, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I enjoy sitting next to, walking with, and listening to Angie through her day-to-day life. I treasure this story as one of my secret guilty pleasures ;)
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Manstealing For Fat Girls works very hard to be a gritty young-adult book. The author, Michelle Embree, stretches to make the book appealing through a deviant and even dysfunctional flair, and can't seem to help but cram the grit in to surplus and inessential levels. I'm hard pressed to find a page that doesn't contain cursing, drug talk, or teenage sex. It apparently works on the premise that this unsoftened, graphic portrayal can better transfer an unyielding commentary on the lifestyle of the characters, but when you pack the grit on to such gratuitous levels, it ends up reading like the book's trying to sell itself with schlock and shock.

At best, this overzealous literary technique makes the lessons in the book oblique. At worst, it makes the book's character portrayal seem hollow and artificial. Myself, I'd like to comment on the biggest issues I had with the themes and characters. Angie, the main character, is sixteen and lives with her mother. Her father left her mother when he found out she was pregnant, and Angie has had to deal with a long string of her mother's boyfriends. The current one, Rudy, has just moved in after announcing that he and Rita, Angie's mom, are going to be getting married. Angie is a definite outsider at her school, and largely moves in the outsider circle of friends. She is the only one in her circle that does not smoke marijuana, although she is offered several times. While this behavior is a decent example of someone sidestepping peer pressure, and the peer pressure is presented far more realistically than seen in many a book containing drug use, she usually turns down these offers solely because she's concerned with her weight and how getting the munchies would affect her weight loss efforts. Angie shows evidence of eating disorders throughout the book: anorexia and bulimia. She avoids eating to the point of getting light-headed and is obsessed with calories. She also forces herself to vomit after an episode of binging following a particularly traumatic event at school. This is a little distressing because it never get addressed in the novel. She is complimented on the weight she has lost. In some ways, it feels like an anorexic's how-to novel at times.

Angie's best friend is Shelby, a lesbian in her class. She gets teased because of Shelby's sexuality, which does not help her already poor self image. Angie really only spends time with Shelby at the beginning of the book. She seems to pick up a number of outsider friends and by the time the story is over, Angie has gathered a much wider circle of friends very quickly. And she needs some of them after she is beaten and sexually abused at school by a jock and his girlfriend in one of the bathrooms before school. Carrie runs in the popular crowd with Mindy, the girl who helps beat Angie. But Carrie has struck up a barely plausible lunchtime friendship with Angie before the bathroom incident and helps her get her revenge on Mindy and her boyfriend. The reaction of friends and family after her beating is a bit frightful, including comments such as "A shiner like that? Some guy callin'? Sounds like a boyfriend to me," from Rudy. Shelby's sister, Robyn, replies to Angie after being told the bruise is a long story, "Always is when someone knocks you around." Such a blasé attitude towards relationship violence is painful and these reactions are paired with a strong sense of either a lack of concern or cluelessness on the part of adults who should notice. Her mom fails to notice that Angie is skipping school nearly every day before the bathroom incident and it escalates into full-scale drop-out mode afterwards. Rudy is written very clearly and realistically, a perfect portrait of a dysfunctional character who is not all bad and who does not completely reform through the course of the book. Rita, Angie's mother, just does not seem to be written with the same intensity, and she tends to fade into the woodwork. Whether this is an intentional ploy of the author to show her wishy-washy character in the face of emotional abuse from Rudy or not, Rita could be written much more memorably. The same could be said for a great number of Angie's other friends. Some have memorable characteristics, such as Pike, a dropout who enjoys sketching people, but seems to have no family. Inez also has some memorable characteristics, such as yelling into payphones outrageous conversations in order to unnerve passers-by. But by and large, the side characters are largely forgettable. The characters are not written in a stereotypical good or bad dichotomy; almost all of them have negative characteristics as well as some redeeming quality, including the main character. The only truly one-dimensionally written characters are Mindy and her boyfriend, Troy. Overall, while there are definitely aspects that shine, the book is a disappointment.
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