Robin Brande is one of my favorite new young adult authors. She writes easy to read novels about teenagers who love science (not science fiction.) Brande’s characters are funny and very human. Her work is provocative and yet tame enough for younger readers. After reviewing Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, I was eager to read Brande’s second novel, Fat Cat, which came out last fall to positive reviews.
Cat’s science project is herself. In an attempt to recreate the early hominid lifestyle, Cat forswears all processed food, makeup, technology (except for homework) and transportation. Eating well and walking everywhere, Cat drops to a healthier weight, her skin clears up and she feels more energetic and self-confident. Guys start noticing her, but not everything works out as she planned. It's a cool project but is it good science?
I loved how the narrative teaches teens about healthy choices without sounding preachy. It was great to see a "fat girl loses weight and gets the guys" story that wasn't just about superficial appearances and dieting. Friendships, first romances and academic rivalry were well portrayed. My only criticism was that Cat’s best friend, a published teen poet who looks like a model, was too good to be true. The other characters were more realistic, especially Cat. The central love story was about a girl learning to appreciate herself. Fat Cat would be a good choice for a precocious tween reader who isn't ready for the edgier elements of most young adult fiction.
Here’s my 12-year-old daughter’s review of Fat Cat:
Fat Cat was a very entertaining read. I absolutely could not put this book down! It was not exactly a suspenseful book, but it was a laugh-out-loud funny. At first, I could not really relate to the protagonist, Cat, with her junk-food addiction and her need to cover herself up in baggy clothes and makeup. I like books better that don’t focus mainly on appearances. I kind of forgot Cat was doing her project for the Science Fair and not just as a diet. However, I soon grew to like the character more with her ironic and funny views of many situations and her creativity. The book, overall, was refreshingly realistic and humorous. I liked it very much.
Reviewers' Disclaimer: we borrowed Fat Cat from YA author Maria Padian, who received the ARC from their publisher, Knopf.
Book Watch: Paul Doiron gave a wonderful reading of his literary suspense novel, The Poacher's Son, at Gulf of Maine Books. I bought 2 signed copies of his debut novel for gifts. Go hear him read if you have the chance; he's a great story teller and totally captures Maine. Book tour details are on his website.