Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte

Lipsyte, Robert. (1977). One Fat Summer. HarperCollins Publishers. 232 pp.

· ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults

Misfits/Outcast, Growing up, Self-esteem

Fourteen year old Bobby Marks dreads summer every year. His family lives in New York, but they vacation every summer at their home on Rumson Lake. Bobby hates summer because he is overweight and can’t imagine being able to take his shirt off to swim or walk around. He is an emotional eater and has very low self-esteem.

During his summer vacation, Bobby’s friend, Joanie, goes back to the city and won’t tell him why. His sister is seeing a boy from Rumson Lake and doesn’t want their parent’s to know, and his parents are constantly fighting about Bobby’s mom becoming a teacher. Bobby soon finds that this summer is full of secrets. Eventually, Bobby finds out that Joanie had plastic surgery on her nose, which changes their relationship forever. His sister is caught with Pete and his parents continue to argue about work. Bobby finds a job mowing lawns at Dr. Kahn’s estate, a wealthy man who works Bobby to death five days a week. Bobby finds out that he has taken Willie Rumson’s job and is terrorized by Willie and his friends several times. By the end of the novel, Bobby finally stands up to the town bully and proves that he is becoming a man. He is finally proud of himself on the outside and is able to show what has always been on the inside.

I really and truly loved this novel. I’ve never personally experienced what it is like being overweight, but I know how challenging life can be when you are self-conscious about any part of yourself. I loved Bobby! This is a great novel for obese children and other students experiencing issues with being a misfit. The family dynamic is very real in this novel, even though I didn’t like his parents very much. Although this book was written several years ago, the family issues portrayed in the novel are still very current.

This is a great novel for young readers and I think it sends a great message to those who are struggling with bullies and image issues. Joanie’s character will bring about great discussions around her actions and motives. I wish that Lipsyte would have continued the dialogue with Bobby and Joanie when they were discussing her surgery. They were so close because they both understood what it was like to be different. I felt like she just left Bobby all alone in his secluded world, but maybe that is what he needed to step up and finally defend himself.

I was so proud of Bobby when he realized that Pete didn’t know anything about being a man, just like he didn’t. I also love that the story did not center around dieting or over exercising, especially in the world that we live in now. I think that would have sent the wrong message to students concerned about their weight. Although he was being worked to death, Bobby was being active for the first time in his life. He realized that he was an emotional eater and tried to overcome that. The novel did a great job of showing an external transformation due to an internal transformation. Bobby's summer was definitely more than 'one fat summer'.

I would use this book as a whole class novel, a read a-loud, and a book choice for a literature circle. This book would be wonderful for younger students, probably starting in 7th grade.


Miss Martha said...

Just had to comment on this one. I absolutely love this book, too! I still have my copy from, um, some years ago when I was a teen. I will never forget the scene when he's dehydrated. I think about this book every time I mow the yard. I am so glad you read it and enjoyed it. Great review! I really felt like you identified with the character and the issues. It was also really nice to see that you chose something that wasn't published INCREDIBLY RECENTLY. There's definitely a lot of great adolescent lit published in the years between THE OUTSIDERS and DEADLINE, isn't there. Thanks again! Miss M.

Crowders said...

What a great reviewer you are! Love you!!! Kristin

Katy H said...

Great review! I think this book can be relevant for many kids, especially those who have negative self images. I can definitely relate, and I think that there are thousands of kids out there who can, too. It sounds like a great book! Thanks for the review!