Monday, April 30, 2007

Review: Huge by Sasha Paley

HUGE deals with a topic that is apparently in the media more and more these days (though I myself haven't seen it much): fat camp. Wellness Canyon is a high-end fat camp where two very different girls, April and Wil, are paired as roommates. April has saved all year for this, despite a lack of support from her mom. She wants to lose some weight and gain the popularity she's always wanted. Wil wants to be anywhere but Wellness Canyon. Her wealthy parents have sent her as she's a public relations nightmare: they own the high-profile chain of Excalibur Gyms. Wil's revenge on them is to enter Wellness Canyon with a huge stash of sweets and be the first kid in camp history to actually gain weight while there.

Of course, as it's full of teenagers with raging hormones, there's more than weight loss going on at Wellness Canyon. When April and Wil start crushing on the same guy, football playing hottie Colin, their relationship gets even more tense. Can they make it through the summer together and maybe even become friends?

A lot of HUGE is your typical summer camp story. Sasha Paley does a great job of creating at least two fleshed-out, interesting characters (although their development as the story goes on is lacking), though some secondary characters sometimes seem a little flat. Paley is a talented writer, but the popular-kids-are-mean message is maybe a little heavy, and, despite what the back cover says about learning to accept yourself, I felt like she was saying more that being skinny is better than being fat, even if she never came out and said it. Despite this, HUGE is a fairly satisfying read, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Sasha Paley writes next!

Rating: 8/10

**Also posted on**


Anonymous said...

Personally I thought the two main characters, Wil and April, were hollow stereotypes. Their actions are entirely predictable and you know where the plot is going from their wager on Colin. Wil is made to be the typical jaded indie music-loving rich kid who is too busy being miserable to put forth any effort. April is the typical naive, eager-to-please and optimistic girl whose patience runs thin after weeks with a pessimistic roommate. I thought that maybe they would depart from these roles in a more creative way, but the book only solidifies these stereotypes. References to Wil's music preferences are many, and the evidence to April's wishes to be popular is obvious. I think the characters were intended to show the changes from their experiences at the end of the novel, but they are essentially the same. The only difference is the weight they lost, in the end.

I also felt like the whole book was filled with product names. When lacking a better description, Paley resorts to saying what company made the item. For example, its not just a toothbrush, but an OralB toothbrush. Hearing brand names over and over is tiring and gives the book a commercially produced feel (even if this is not so).

In short, the book was a disapointment. I expected a realistic, intriguing novel and ended up with boring characters and a predictable plot. Thumbs down.

Anonymous said...

I actually attended a fat camp when I was 15, and it was an unusual experience full of humor, bizarre characters, internal conflict, growth, and drama that is not to be believed. Unfortunately, this book was completely devoid of any of the qualities listed above. It was 259 pages of pure cliche and awkward product placement [Nalgene, Apple, Max Mara, Louis Vuitton, Neutrogena, Theory, Habitual, Americn Apparel, Calvin Klein, Nicole Miller, Adidas, Juicy Couture, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany's, LAMB, Chanel, Puma and Stella McCartney - among others - get mentions.]
The characters are INCREDIBLY one-dimensional. Wil lies around in bed listening to Death Cab and staring at her chipped black nail polish; April repeatedly humiliates herself trying to be a part of the in-crowd. They hate each other but they eventually become friends. Oh, and they sabotage the mean, egomaniacal camp hottie by giving him diarrhea. And that's pretty much the whole book.
Sorry if that's harsh, but... it was truly disappointing. Thumbs down.