Ashley has a problem. She wavers between a size 18-20. She doesn’t feel bad about herself. She is a smart, brilliant, beautiful young woman and she knows it. Every year her elegant, successful surgeon grandmother gives her a bribe for her birthday. New car if you lose 50 pounds.. etc. Ashely is dreading her birthday. Waiting for that humiliating offer makes her physically ill. This year the offer couldn’t be worse. Her grandmother wants her to have gastric bypass surgery in exchange for the thing Ashley wants most, tuition to Harvard. Ashley is brilliant enough to get in, but she may not have a scholarship. Author, Jen Larson creates a rich cast of characters with Ashley and her friends, Laura and Jolene. Laura is ignored by her rich father and stepmother and Jolene is a transgendered teen whose parents do not support her. Ashley struggles with the choice and how others start to look at her differently because of the weight she may lose. I love Ashley as a character. She is not defined by her body image. She knows she is beautiful. This is a wonderful story about how others see you and being brave enough to ultimately see yourself.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss “Everyone here is busy, achieving, overachieving. I am not a special snowflake. I know that anyone could overtake me at any moment.”
Discuss, “The refrain of my childhood and every year of my life and every bump and scrape and bruise inside and out. Everything will be okay or could be. I knew it wasn’t true.”
Discuss why Ashley’s grandmother would bribe her to lose weight.
Discuss her feelings for Brandon and Hector and how they are different. How did her feelings for Brandon change after he showed interest?
How is the offer about Harvard different than all the others?
Discuss anxiety dreams.
Discuss Jolene’s situation with her parents.
Why do you think everyone lied about Ashley’s mother.
Discuss college essays. What would your topic be?
Why do you think Ashley’s grandmother is so generous with Jolene but not with Ashley?
Talk about when Ashley yells in the cafeteria.
What does Ashley mean when she says she is the sum of her parts.
What would you decide in the end?