Fat Boy Chronicles is a novel with a message. Strike that. It's
a novel with many messages, all aimed at teenagers who deal with "issues."
Main character Jimmy Winterpock is optimistic at the beginning
of the school year. He's moved away from his middle school, where
he was teased unmercifully because of his weight, and looks forward
to a fresh start at a new high school. The book is written in journal
entries to his freshman English teacher, who has asked her students
to journal three and a half pages each week all year long. The
reader gets to know Jimmy, his family, and his friends through
the pages of his journal, and watches him deal with his obesity,
peers, and many issues that seem to face teenagers.
Jimmy writes as a typical teenager. He has a good relationship
with his family, tries hard to get along with others in school
and to do well in his classes, attends youth group, and appears
to be a genuinely nice boy. He is honest in his journal writing,
and makes for a pleasant narrator. The authors make an attempt
to address issues they feel are relevant to teenagers today: obesity,
bullying, cutting, suicide, alcoholism, abuse, and peer pressure. Jimmy
encounters these issues via his friends, primarily, and for the
most part is a good model for treating others kindly, encouraging
them, and helping them through their problems.
The foremost issue in the book is Jimmy's obesity and the bullying
that comes along with it. Scenes from the book are difficult to
read for anyone who's been bullied, as it reminds the reader of
those feelings in a very personal way. It's very easy for the reader
to put himself in Jimmy's place. Midway through the book, Jimmy
decides to work on weight loss, and his changes in behavior and
eating habits are chronicled in his journal.
Fat Boy Chronicles does deal with some serious issues, most
mentioned above. It seems that every teen in Jimmy's life has a
serious issue to deal with. One friend is a cutter, another has
an abusive father who commits suicide and an alcoholic mother.
There is a bit of language (one or two words). Jimmy briefly thinks
of suicide when the bullying is at its worst, but discards that
idea quickly. An unnecessary sub-plot early in the book revolves
around a murder in their small town, and Jimmy's attempts with
a friend to solve the murder. Kids drink at a party, and sex is
briefly mentioned (though nothing graphic).
This is not a "Christian book." Jimmy attends youth group, but
it's primarily portrayed as a fun place to hang out with a good
band on Wednesday nights. Nothing of Biblical substance is mentioned,
and Jimmy does not mention a spiritual life, other than church
and youth group attendance.
If a teen struggles with bullying or obesity, this book might
be one to encourage them in their weight loss. It portrays Jimmy's
weight-loss as a gradual process, with emotional and physical discoveries
along the way. However, the numerous other "issues" encountered
in the book distract from this main issue, and give it the feel
of a public service announcement.
Fat Boy Chronicles is not necessarily a book that a teen would
pick up and read of their own accord. However, if you are
the parent of a teen who deals with bullying or obesity, this book
may be one to read together and discuss. It could make for
a good springboard for talking with your teen about some difficulties
that they face.