Book Review: The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

This is NOT a story that will allow you to ignore the emotional, psychological, physical and technological stress facing teenagers today. 

Virginia Shreves is the daughter of a successful adolescent psychologist who pays much more attention to her patients than to her own teenaged daughter.  While Virginia is used to being alone most of the time in her parents’ New York penthouse, there are times when she questions the motives behind her parents’ continual absence. These feelings of inadequacy stem from Virginia’s weight problems, as she sees her entire family as perfectly thin.  Add to the familial trouble the fact that her best friend, Shannon, has moved away for the year and her sometimes make-out partner probably doesn’t want to be seen in public with her, and real mental anguish begins.

In this coming-of-age story, Virginia is unpopular and only mentioned as a fleeting connection to her perfect older brother, now in college, and is traumatized first by an overheard conversation and then by a seemingly impossible occurrence that truly rattles her entire world.  Feelings of absolute inadequacy and humiliation burrow to make bad situations worse and nearly impossible for Virginia to deal with.

Because of these struggles, Virginia begins to hurt herself, attempts to lose weight on a crash diet, and cuts herself off from most of those who care for her.  This is an extremely powerful book that can introduce or underline the idea that no one is infallible, no matter how they seem.  Mackler has provided a truthful, sometimes frightening, and, yet, hopeful novel, in which the characters are able to shed their insecurities in a healthy way.  After all, a little rebellion can go a long way.

Mackler’s easy use of common language tied in with her knowledge of emerging technologies makes this story relevant and accessible for the teens of today. 

The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things is a Printz Honor Book.

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