Friday, October 1, 2010

Life in the Fat Lane (Novel)

Life in the Fat Lane (Novel) Release date: 1998. Author: Cherie Bennett. Publisher: Dell Laurel-Leaf. ISBN: 0440220297.

Plot summary: Junior in high school, Lara Ardeche, has the perfect life. Beautiful, popular and thin, Lara has spent her life competing in and winning beauty pageants. Her beautiful, thin mother and handsome father adore her, as does her cool boyfriend Jett and her best friend, Molly. Lara's life becomes even better when she is elected homecoming queen, despite the fact that she's just a junior. In the months following her homecoming victory, however, Lara's life becomes a living hell as she inexplicably begins to gain weight very rapidly. As she grows bigger and bigger, her popular friends abandon her, and Lara tries everything to get back to her former thin self. Matters are only worsened by her "perfect" parents who constantly pressure her to diet. After rigorous medical testing, Lara finally discovers that a rare metabolic disorder is the cause of her weight gain, a disorder for which there is no cure. As Lara's life continues to fall apart, she discovers that perhaps things were not as perfect as she had imagined, even when she was thin.

Critical evaluation: Life in the Fat Lane provides a unique view of the teenage obsession with appearance as Lara Ardeche experiences both sides of the coin. Beginning the novel as a thin, beautiful and popular homecoming queen, the reader sees the benefits of fitting in with society's ideal image. As Lara gains weight rapidly, eventually ending up a size 24, the emotional torment she experiences illustrates the loneliness of being "different." As the reader transitions with Lara from beauty queen to "freak," Bennett takes the audience on the heartbreaking journey with her character. Secondary to Lara's weight disorder but equally heartbreaking is the breakdown of Lara's parents' marriage. Lara's mother provides a clear image of the future Lara may have had as a thin, beautiful woman, particularly the fact that this future is far from perfect. Overall, Life in the Fat Lane is a realistic look at what happens when the lie of perfection fails, and how to overcome the realization that apperances aren't everything.

Reader's annotation: Lara Ardeche is perfect; thin, beautiful and popular she is a lifelong pageant winner and recently elected homecoming queen. Lara's life changes forever, however, as she rapidly and inexplicably gains weight

About the author: Cherie Bennett is a novelist, actress, playwright, and has a syndicated advice column for teens called "Hey Cherie!" Bennett's father, a writer for such television shows as The Twilight Zone and Your Show of Shows was an inspiration for his daughter to begin writing. Before becoming a novelist, Bennett penned many successful plays including Honky Tonk Angels which was sold to TriStar pictures in 1992. Her first novel, Life in the Fat Lane (1998) brought her even greater notoriety after it won ALA's Best Book for Young Adults award in 1999. Bennett has also written other critically acclaimed books for young adults, including A Heart Divided (2004), Anne Frank and Me (2001), and Searching for David's Heart (1998). Many of Bennett's plays have been adapted to novels, and vice versa. Cherie and her husband Jeff, also an author, live in Salt Lake City, Utah. (from

Genre: Fiction

Curriculum ties:
Eating disorders
Metabolic disorders

Booktalking ideas:
Eating disorders
Popularity and image
Weight gain and loss
Parental pressure

Reading level/Interest Age:
8-12 Grade

Challenge issues:
Father having an affair
Unhealthy eating habits (binge and purge, anorexia, laxatives)

Challenge counterpoints:
Recommended for grades 8-12.
Recommend parent read book before child.
Recommend parent discuss book with child.
Recommend parent or doctor discuss healthy eating habits with child.

Reasons for inclusion:
Positive reviews from Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal.

Winner of ALA's Best Book for Young Adults award 1999.

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