Troy Billings, at 6'1", 296 pounds, is standing at the edge of a subway platform seriously contemplating suicide when he meets Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless punk guitar genius who also happens to be a drop-out legend at Troy's school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
"I saved your life," Curt tells Troy. "You owe me lunch." Troy can't imagine refusing; after all think of the headline: Fat Kid Argues with Piece of Twine.
But lunch with Curt brings more than he bargained for. Suddenly, Troy finds himself recruited as Curt's drummer for his new band. "We'll be called Rage/Tectonic. Sort of a punk rock, Clash sort of thing," Curt tells him.
There's only one problem. Troy can't play the drums. Oh yes, and Troy's father thinks Curt's a drug addict and Troy's brother thinks Troy's a loser. But with Curt, anything is possible. "You'll see," says Curt. "We're going to be HUGE." Fortunately, mercurial Curt has an energy, enthusiasm and wisdom that is as irresistible as it is contagious. Before long, Troy is swept up by his desire to be everything Curt believes him to be.
This is another darker one. And yet... it isn't.
Every reader has a story about a book that they resonated with on a deep, personal level. Those books that give voice to everything we secretly felt, but could never find the words to talk about. Fat Kid Rules the World was a book like that for me.
I am not a skinny person. I have never been a skinny person. And while there are a lot of horrific things that can happen to a teenager today, being fat and socially awkward creates a special hell of its own. I was lucky in that I spent my most overweight years out of the general school system, and that very few of my peers were overtly cruel. Still, there is something about being overweight, about being part of a culture that considers you an unattractive joke, that burns deep into your soul.
I’m a sweating fat kid standing on the edge of the subway platform staring at the tracks. I’m 17 years old, weigh 296 pounds, and I’m 6 foot 1. I have a crew cut, yes a crew cut, sallow skin, and the kind of mouth that puckers when I breathe. I’m wearing a shirt that reads, “Miami Beach – Spring Break 1997” and huge, bland tan pants - the only kind of pants I own. Eight pairs, all tan.
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m standing just over the yellow line trying to decide whether people would laugh if I jumped. “Would it be funny if the fat kid got splattered by a subway train? Is that funny?” I’m not being facetious; I really want to know. Like it or not, apparently there’s something funny about fat people. Something unpredictable. Like when I put on my jacket and everyone in the hallway stifles laughter. Or when I stand up after sitting in the cafeteria and Jennifer Maraday, Brooke Rodriguez,and Amy Glover all bust a gut. I don’t get angry. I just think, "What was funny about that? Did my butt jiggle? Did I make the bench creak so that it sounded like a fart? Did I leave an indentation?” There’s got to be something, right? Right?
So it’s not a stretch to be standing on the wrong side of the yellow line giving serious thought to whether people would laugh if I threw myself in front of the F train. And that’s the one thing that can’t happen. People can’t laugh. Even I deserve a decent suicide.
~excerpt from Fat Kid Rules the World
This book contains a lot of what some people would term "objectionable material." There's language, drugs, a vividly imagined suicide. But it is ultimately an hugely hopeful book about the facade that people put up. It's about learning to see yourself as valuable, and learning to fight for what you care about. And it's an excellent example of the sort of realistic, contemporary YA that is deeply needed.
(And unlike the first two books, it's also extremely funny.)
Have you ever read a book that seemed written just for you?
(Want to win this book? Go here to enter my Thank-You Contest of Amazingness!)