The 1987 book Fat: a Love Story was recommended to me by my friend Asia. It had somehow eluded my voracious consumption of circa 1990 YA novels. “It’s, uh, pre-Afterschool Specials morality,” Asia said. “Like, you wonder how she got away with that ending.”
Intrigued, I read it immediately, and wow, is she not kidding. This Barbara Wersba is some kind of rebel. Also, she’s a great writer, and she sounds nice. The book is strange and funny and totally, completely, dramatically unconventional. That fourth Twilight book might be perverse, but somehow even with all the supernatural insanity it’s less shocking than Fat: a Love Story.
The book has a definite cult, but shockingly, there are some dismissive reviews out there. Here’s the non-spoiler part of one, from 1987’s School Library Journal: Grade 10-12 Sixteen-year-old Rita Formica, a 200-pound compulsive eater, takes a job as a bicycle messenger. Her employer is a 32-year-old eccentric loner, Arnold Bromberg, who operates a flagging cheesecake business. Rita falls in love at first glimpse with aristocratic fitness fanatic Robert Swann, a shallow Adonis who ignores her existence. Desperate to capture Robert’s attention, she accepts her friend Nicole’s offer to act as bait…
Anything else would be a spoiler, but I will say that Rita Formica is super charming, and anyone attacking the end of the book as “unrealistic” is a) wrong, and b) missing the point of YA novels, which is to warp reality in satisfying ways, which this does, and how.