Acne, height, hair, skin, teeth, and weight are all features that conflict teens throughout their young adulthood. Mirrors become an asset and an enemy within the transition from child to teenager. The self-conscious behaviors like checking the mirror every second or trying every diet fad arise due to peers, family and media. Images of small framed women and men with flawless skin, nice clothes and money can be a deadly mixture when it comes to the self-worth of young minds.
In life there are a lot of factors that hold us back from following our dreams. In the case of Ever Davies being 302 pounds is what she feels sets her back from living her life. “Skinny” is a novel about teenage obesity and dealing with the voice in one’s head telling them the negative thoughts they feel others have of them. The text has a plot that is similar to Cinderella but instead of the fairy godmother coming to the rescue, Ever is on her own with her tormenting inner voice. The voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough, small enough, tall enough or pretty enough to be noticed by the cute guy or make friends with the in crowd. The voice creates an imaginary finish line that can never be reached.
Cooner does an effective job at presenting “Skinny” as the internal voice that each reader can relate to. Although this is a young adult novel, adults can relate to issues of being self-conscious. The inner voice Ever refers to as “Skinny” torments her about this every second she gets and points out the thoughts of Ever’s peers and yells them in her ear. Can the negative voice that torments us within be silenced or does it just get stronger with age? Sooner answers this question with elaborate snickering from Skinny at those moments when you don’t think anyone can be kicked down any further. The sight of italics lets the reader know Ever will be verbally abused in some way like, “God, she takes up so much space. Just look at those thighs. I can’t believe her fat is touching me” (Cooner 43). “Skinny” is the internal agony that keeps persisting until Ever is forced to address her directly.
Ever falling out of the chair in front of the whole school assembly is what sets her in the direction of getting gastric bypass surgery. Ever said, “The sound of the crash echoes. The speech stops. The chatter stops. The world stoops. All eyes focus on the fat girl sitting on top of the crushed remains…” (47). The scene was delivered well in a way that leaves the reader wincing and feeling as if they fell out the chair with Ever. Cooner’s simple diction, small words and short sentences strike like knives force the readers to want to protect themselves from the embarrassment.
“It’s s simple solution, really. Girl loves boy. Boy loves girl. Girl gets fat. Boy leaves. Girl cuts her stomach up into a little bitty pouch to get boy back” (47). The sentence structure of the text is really easy to follow and allows the reader to read the whole text very quickly, which is appealing in the YA genre. It only took me about a day and a half to read from cover to cover. Despite Ever being depressed about her weight, Cooner still finds moments to add light humor or wit that makes the reader relate when it comes to embarrassing adolescent moments. Jammed words like “Don’tcrydon’tcrydon’tcry” are read as if Ever is repeating them very fast and smashing them together successfully displays panic and hurried thoughts to the reader.
Ever’s weight is the main complications of the novel and she hopes to resolve her self-consciousness by getting this risky surgery. The text wasn’t overly preachy about being for or against gastric bypass surgery. Weight loss is a complicated subject to approach especially when it comes to young adults because pointing out this surgery could just be viewed as going the easy route to some. Rather than being aggressive in trying to prove the dangers, the text explained through, Ever’s eyes, the process and how it’s not an easy road to living once the surgery is over. With details of delirious moments in the hospital and striking pain trying to walk, the reader is filled in that Ever doesn’t just wake up skinny once the surgery is over. Cooner does a great job at displaying that weight loss is not an easy journey and even after losing weight there is still a long way to go. After the surgery Ever is still faced with her interval voice and actually resisting the temptations that caused her to gain weight like chocolate and eating dinner.
The voyage for Ever’s weight loss continues at the beginning of chapter 10 which displays a chart logging Ever’s starting weight, weight loss, type of exercise done, and inspirational song for the week. The chart in each chapter is a great addition because it allows the reader to follow along with Ever through her journey. Pop culture references also appear a lot in this novel from the Jessica Simpson platforms Whitney wears to the fall ball to the inspirational songs Ever picks each week during her weight loss journey. The references serve to connect the audience together with well-known songs that have shaped music. The mention of Dreamgirls helps bring the audience even closer together because of the musical’s recent film version. The songs represent struggle and strength that are common topics that many can relate to.
The characterization of Ever becomes confusing at some points. Ever is very confident about her singing voice throughout the text. I enjoy the confidence that Ever has about her singing talent but it also annoys me because if she feels so strongly by her singing voice I feel like she can quiet her internal voice that judges her. Weight is the shield that keeps her from shining on stage. The text’s climax occurs when Ever finds the weight and stature of an elephant to be positive which shows that her image of being big is changing. Cooner uses the elephant to turn the text into a positive body image and a powerful force that can’t be overtaken easily. At this moment Ever begins to transform herself.
Another weak moment of the novel is the typical romance story. Although, I did find the romance to be adorable I could have lived without girl finding herself AND the boy of her dreams. Without spoiling the text, I will just say that Ever is the Cinderella of this fairytale and must have a prince in terms of typical young adult novels. “Because you are, and have always been, beautiful” are words that most girls would love to hear. With so many empowering moments in the novel I felt like the romance just weakened them.
“Skinny” does a great job at approaching the issue of weight by showing that it is not an easy road and that options for weight loss are different for everyone. Cooner creates a protagonist that doesn’t have another individual antagonizing her but rather creates a protagonist who is also their own antagonist. I would recommend this book to others because despite the typical romance, the text left me wanting to read it again because of the great strength and encouragement to jump over hurdles affecting one’s life.