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Skinny: A Novel Paperback – April 26, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Instead of relating to her charges at a teenage weight-loss camp, 20-something Gray Lachmann studies them through the same empathy-free eyes with which she views herself in Spechler's shallow second novel (after Who by Fire). Feeling culpable in her father's death, Gray leaves New York and takes a job at Camp Carolina for the summer, hoping to lose the pounds she gained bingeing in her guilt and grief, and to also meet Eden, the girl she believes to be her stepsister, discovered via a mysterious bequest while executing her father's will. But Eden, a born loner who Gray assumes resulted from an extramarital fling, rejects Gray's efforts to open up. Gray's summer job does prove life altering, and not just physically: she distrusts the camp owner, begins to draw herself into the knotty social lives of her charges, and flirts with the athletic director. Affectingly narrated by Gray in a tone that often echoes pro-anorexia message boards, Spechler's latest succeeds in lovingly detailing the agony of self-loathing before it swings wildly into YA territory to teach Gray a lesson about life. (Apr.)
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Review

“Add me to what is sure to be a very long list of Diana Spechler fans. Skinny will be my go-to recommendation all year for anyone who wants smart, endearing, beautifully written women’s fiction.” (Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The One That I Want and Time of My Life)

“Spechler’s meditation on the nature of hunger is both touching and surprising, as Skinny boldly explores the connection between our emotional and physical appetites. Her characters and their stories stayed with me long after I put her book down.” (Janelle Brown, bestselling author of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and This Is Where We Live)

“Diana Spechler writes like a dream. In Skinny, she masterfully explores the relationship between food and pain, between love and heartbreak. And what Spechler most magically captures is the elusive feeling of longing. And how, on its other side, we sometimes find what we needed all along.” (Laura Dave, author of The Divorce Party and London Is The Best City in America)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st Thus. edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062020366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062020369
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Diana Spechler is the author of the novels Who by Fire and Skinny. She has written for the New York Times, GQ, The Wall Street Journal online, Esquire, Details.com, Nerve, Glimmer Train Stories, and other publications. Spechler has an MFA from the University of Montana and was a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University. She teaches writing in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have to wonder if I would have had a different/better impression of Diana Spechler's novel, Skinny, had I not just watched the short-lived but excellent television series Huge. Both stories are set at a weight loss camp for adolescents, and both had a central character that could be difficult to like. In Spechler's novel, that person is 27-year-old counselor, Gray Lachmann.

Gray has sort of gone off the deep end. A year prior to the events of the novel she lost her father, and she feels culpable in his death. Ever since, she's been spiraling out of control, most notably with her eating. A lifetime of rigid self-control is out the window, and she's packed on 15 pounds. But that's not the reason she's abandoned her long-time boyfriend and her life in New York to spend the summer watching over a bunch of surly teens. No, it's one teen in particular that's drawn her down to North Carolina--one that may have ties to her deceased father.

Now, I think the above is a terrific premise--especially in the heightened dramatic setting of a weight-loss camp. I believe my biggest problem with the novel was that so many of the characters were unlikeable. I started out very sympathetic to Gray. But she became more and more self-involved and her behavior became inexcusable. By the end, it was very hard to care for her. The other counselors and campers were largely unappealing, even when they broke your heart with dialogue like: "I'll be skinny. I'll be happy." But no one was worse than the self-aggrandizing camp director who constantly sang his own praise:

"I do so much for everyone," Lewis said. "It never ceases to amaze me, how willing people are to just screw you over when you're the nicest guy in the world.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Beverly Diehl on April 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was picked by my Chick Lit Readers group. I'm not alone in saying I found it very disappointing. The cover and blurb made it sound very interesting, but in the end... The plot wasn't one, the main character was an unlikeable, self-absorbed bitch who really didn't seem to grow or learn anything throughout the course of the novel.

Gray signs up to be a fat camp counselor because she wants to get close to a girl she thinks is her half-sister, then pretty much ignores this troubled teen so she can bang the camp phys ed instructor. Despite having a boyfriend at home.

The closest thing to a likeable character is Bennett, the hot and studly phys ed instructor, but even as Gray is in his bed, he is reinforcing her eating disorders by complimenting her on her own weight loss, which she achieves basically by starving herself. Spechler does an excellent job of portraying the sensual feel of binging, and the high of starving oneself, but she doesn't model any good eating and exercise behaviors of anyone in this book. Most of the characters, from the sleazy, unqualified camp founder (really, would any parent drop $11k to send their kid to fat camp for 8 weeks where NOBODY was credentialed in any way?) to the kids themselves, were portrayed in an unflattering light. There's supposed to be a big mystery about the death of Gray's father, but in the end, the pay-off just felt... weak and rushed.

I hate to bag on any author - writing a book is hard, hard work. This is not the worst book I have ever read. But, if you have issues centered around body-image, binging, anorexia, or other eating disorders, this book will neither help you learn new ways of dealing with life, nor help you feel better about yourself.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By SW on November 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Gray is certainly not a likable character throughout the book -- but she and her struggles are hugely REAL. This book is well-written, absorbing, and as a recovered anorexic, I find it very accurate. I could NOT put the book down -- and immediately reread it when I finished. Highly recommended!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Fabio, Bleeding Espresso on August 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Skinny is Diana Spechler's second novel after Who by Fire, and let's end the suspense: there is no sophomore slump here.

Gray Lachmann feels responsible for her father's sudden death and tries to eat away her pain and guilt. In the meantime, via her father's will, Gray discovers she has an illegitimate half-sister, so she does what any reasonable 26-year-old, slightly overweight girl who recently lost her father would do: she tracks down her half-sister through her blog and finds out she's going to fat camp -- so she signs up as a counselor.

Spechler tackles tough themes like body image, relationships with food and family, and various kinds of love from the perspective of someone who went to a weight loss camp to research the book. Yes, Spechler spent the summer of 2006 battling her own eating disorder while away at camp; Spechler further describes this experience at Freerange Nonfiction:

Eating disorders are diseases of both mind and body. Anyone who has ever suffered from one knows how consuming it is, how much energy it takes to maintain it. When you're preoccupied to that degree, you're selfish. That's not a judgment, just the truth as I see it. I wanted to portray Gray as accurately as possible, so she has her head up her ass sometimes. She's self-absorbed because she's dealing with a serious eating disorder. But yes, writing a self-absorbed character made me nervous. The whole book made me nervous. Dealing with such a hot-button issue made me very, very nervous.

Spechler mentions Gray's self-absorption, and indeed, this was a main character I just couldn't really like. Just as with Who by Fire, in fact, I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable -- yet I still couldn't put this book down.
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