Saturday, July 30, 2011

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
Greenwillow Books, 1993
216 pages
YA; Contemporary
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

After adoring Whale Talk, I wanted to read more Chris Crutcher and Jan von Harz from Eating YA Books recommended this book so I checked it out and I'm so glad I did! Although I've only read two books, I'm already starting to recognize some Crutcher trademarks: sports (especially swimming), straightforward male character, and exploration of some tough issues.

This time our hero is Eric Calhoune, popularly known as Moby or Mobe for his size and the fact that he swims.  For years he's been among the fattest kids and on the outskirts of his classmates. But that was okay because he had his best friend Sarah Byrnes, a girl whose father burned her face when she was only a child, permanently scarring it.  As they've aged, he has become marginally more popular and she has been in even more danger from her psychotic father.  Although Sarah Byrnes is one of the toughest people he knows, Eric cannot leave her to deal with her father all on her own.

Although this is a pretty short book, I thought the pacing was leisurely with time to connect with all of the important characters; I only mentioned three but there are other students and adults, each with a defined personality who reveals hidden depths.  Eric is a good guy.  He's a decent swimmer, a decent student, a great friend, and in possession of a very determined personality. I also like that there are good competent adults represented in contrast to the crazy father and Religious Right personalities. No one's perfect, everyone makes mistakes but beliefs are challenged and there is an appropriate happy ending.

Overall: A good contemporary, gripping and entertaining.


  1. I have Whale Talk and definitely look forward to it. I think if I like Whale Talk, I'll read Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes, I'm glad to see there are defined characters, as I hate cookie cutter characters.

  2. This sounds great. You mentioned so many things I in a tough read. Thanks for the introduction.

  3. It's funny how this can still be considered contemporary even though it's almost twenty years old. Even when I read this as a young teen it was some fifteen years old, but it never felt out-of-date for a second. Maybe today some aspects would feel a little unrealistically old (lack of specific and overwhelming technology...) but it's incredible how the story stays strong even after all these years. Just goes to show...

  4. I've heard a lot of good things about this book. Looks like this is an author I'll have to check out sometime.


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