This week I read Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett. From the cover and summary provided inside the front cover, this sounds like every bullied kid’s dream come true. The beauty queen with straight A’s, an impeccable knack for music and the ambition to someday teach handicapped children. On top of all that, she’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet with a mysterious, artsy boyfriend. Suddenly, Lara Ardeche begins to gain weight. Despite dieting, pills, exercise, doctor’s appointments and even starvation, Lara just keeps on gaining weight. But Bennett’s story is much more than just that.
The story offers a look at the psychological, environmental and social effects weight gain can have on a person, specifically teenage girls. Lara’s mother was also a pageant queen so that is pretty much the only life she had ever known. Transforming from a sixteen-year-old stick to more than 200 pounds takes a psychological toll on Lara. Learning of her dad’s
multiyear affair does not help. Her younger brother, Scott, is standoffish but truly tries to be understanding as Lara struggles. Her mom on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge that anything is wrong with her marriage, tearing her and the family up. It is Lara’s passion for music that saves her, along with the rag-tag group of people she meets at her downtown studio.
If I could change one thing about the book, I know exactly what it would be. Even though Lara is a self-loathing size 24 and has minimal self-esteem, she has no problem judging those around her whom are overweight. As the story goes on, we learn she has a disease that makes her gain weight with no remedies, Axell-Crowne. Even mentally this is her defense as she criticizes people with thoughts of how all they would have to do is eat healthier, how all these people are choosing to be fat and how she is defenseless. I
would have like to see a more understanding side of her emerge over the course of the plot. Instead, she knowingly reverts into a stiff-faced beauty queen with a generic personality.
In the end I would recommend this novel because, although they are not prevalent to the main character, it holds many lessons on self-acceptance, family problems, and understanding you cannot control everything that happens to you.