When I Really Learned to Think as a Librarian: A Multi-dimensional Review of 45 Pounds (More or Less)

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Title/Author: 45 Pounds (More of Less) by K. A. Barson

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Standalone

Published: July 11th, 2013 by Viking Juvenile

Hardcover, 264 pages

How I Got This Book: Checked it out from the library

Why I Picked It Up?: I had to pick a realistic novel to read for my YA class, and I have always wanted to read this one, so I decided now was a good time!

Book Jacket Blurb: “Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!”

Thoughts:

 This is the book where I really learned how to read like a librarian. 

Let me preface this by saying that I read this book under the context of a book talk analysis for my Materials and Services for Young Adults graduate class. I was assigned 6 genres to pick books for these book talks: realistic fiction, speculative fiction, multicultural fiction, books to movie, short story collection, and graphic novel. I chose this book as my realistic fiction choice because I have been meaning to read this book for a while and I decided that this would be a perfect way to cross this book off my list! So, going into reading this book, I was reading this book with a more professional review for librarians mindset.

My Initial Reader Reactions

The very first chapter showcases something that makes me so incredibly sad: a parent that does not pay attention to her child. Ann’s mother really and truly has no idea who her daughter really is–she has this idealistic view of her perfect daughter, and Ann knows she does not fit her mother’s mold. And that is so incredibly heartbreaking to me, and that really set a tone of “OH MY GOSH I HATE HER! WHY WOULD SHE BE THIS WAY TO HER DAUGHTER?” (Now, I do know that this reflects a lot of parent-teen relationships. I know that in reality there are parents out there that pay no attention to their children. This particular story does not rub me as a neglectful parent, but rather as one that has almost literal blinders on regarding her daughter. To me, Ann’s mother is a caring mother who pays zero attention to what is actually going on around her.) I was getting angry because I can’t STAND parents like this, and I did not pick up this book wanting to read an emotionally abusive story. I stopped reading for a minute.

Switching Hats

We have been talking about the qualities of Young Adult literature. I may have just continued to fume about this matter for the majority of the book had I not stopped and switched hats. But I did. I stopped, took off my “pleasure reader” hat and put on my “librarian” hat, and I that there is a reason why I think Ms. Baron decided to write this story like this. One of the most important qualities of young adult literature is that it should “reflect aspects of everyday lives or experiences that teens can identify with and understand” (. This is Ann’s story, told from Ann’s point of view. It is personal and it is reactionary. How many times did I feel like my parents didn’t pay attention or understand what I was doing or who I was as a teenager? A LOT. It is a very real experience for teenagers to feel misunderstood or ignored by their parents. During teen years, many emotions are exaggerated and bigger than they are when you are older (though, honestly, sometimes they are just as big even now). Teenagers read situations completely differently than adults do, they feel things differently than adults to, and not in a purposeful way. Those feelings are real to them. The way they see situations is real to them. And that is why this story is written with an infuriating mother–because that is how Ann sees her at the beginning of the book (and maybe their relationship changes by the end).

So, even though, as a reader, I really just want to smack Ann’s mother in the face, as a librarian I can sit back and understand why this story has an infuriating mother. Who knows, maybe she is that dense. But she could just as easily be a caring mother who is just misinterpreted by her daughter. So this realization and thought-process helped me to be able to keep a level head as I continued to read (although, I must say, Ann’s step-grandmother is even more infuriating, but that is not because she is misunderstood. She is just unlikeable!)

Once I Got Past that First Chapter

After than change of thought, I was able to read this book without so much anger and frustration. And I found myself connecting with Ann. I understood her, and I felt her pain and frustration and confusion and struggle as she navigates her family, her new friendships, and her personal growth throughout this summer.

I really appreciated that Ms. Barson did not rely on the weight-lose plot device to drive the whole novel. This story is more than just a weight loss story. Yes, the premise of this story is that Ann wants to lose weight so she looks good in a bridesmaid dress. But this story becomes so much more than that. It becomes a story of learning and growing and connecting with others. Ann’s family as a unit grows together; Ann’s friendship with Raynee grows to be something real. Raynee grows as a character, too, when she realizes that she is becoming someone that she never wanted to be. I also really appreciated the story arc of Ann’s mom. By the end of this novel, she definitely didn’t piss me off anymore.

The thing about this story that makes it work is the balance between all of the subplots. There are a lot of story lines and plot devices included in this story, and I feel like it borders on too many devices in one story. But unlike this story, 45 Pounds does a great job at balancing these subplots within the context of the story, allowing the story to flow well. Could there have been a little more development of some of these plots? Maybe. But overall I thought that these subplots really allowed the character development to thrive.

Overall, I found this novel to be a solid effort with story and character development. It was an enjoyable read, but that’s it. It’s a story that I liked while I was reading it, but then I picked up my next read and that was it. This book will be memorable to me because it taught me how to think like a librarian and not just a reader, so that’s something.

My Bookshelf Rating:

Book Review: If I StayA Middle Shelf Book.

After I changed reading perspectives, I found this book to be enjoyable enough. Ann is a character who is easy to relate to, and I was drawn into her story and her struggles with self-image and self-confidence. I liked how this book moved away from the “weight-loss” plot device and developed the personal storylines for each character. Overall, I found 45 Pounds (More or Less) to be enjoyable and humorous at times, but at the end of the day I finished this book and moved right on to my next read.

Love and Cheez Its,
Jennifer

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