Fat Cat by Robin Brande. Grades 8+. Knopf Books for Young Readers, October 2009. Review copy provided by my local library.
Cat Locke is taking a seriously difficult science class this year and as part of that class, she has to pick a science project to work on and enter in the annual science fair. A winning project could be her ticket to the Ivy Leagues, so Cat knows it's got to be good. The trick is that her teacher is making them base their projects on a picture they draw out of his pile. She bravely goes to the front of the room to pick her fate, but her heart sinks when she looks at the picture she's chosen. It's a picture of early people, hominids. Naked hominids. What kind of project can she make out of that?
In a flash of inspiration, Cat decides that she'll try an experiment on herself. Seven months of living like an early hominid. That means walking to school instead of driving, no alarm clock, no cell phone... and eating a diet like early man's (i.e. mostly nuts and berries). Cat's hoping to win the science fair... but she's also hoping to see some changes in herself and find out what'll happen when she looks good instead of being Fat Cat. The results are in... and they're not what she expected.
I liked this book, I did. But there's a lot going on here. If the book had been pared down a bit, I think it might have been great. As it is, I liked it, but I didn't love it.
Here's what I liked:
I liked that Cat is science-minded. She's smart, she's sassy, she's a good friend. There is a lot to like about Cat.
I liked the secondary characters quite a bit. I liked that Cat, as her body changed, went out with a couple different guys and didn't necessarily fall head over heels just because they paid attention to her. (Again with the smart! Cat is smart!)
I liked that Cat explores the idea of eating organically and avoiding processed foods. I found it to be a little preachy at first, but by the end of the book I was intrigued about the idea myself. I think the book might inspire teens to examine their own diets and consider eliminating some of the junk.
Now, the thing I didn't like was that the novel kind of overflowed with stuff. I mean, in addition to the stuff Cat's doing for her project, there was this whole sub-plot about a failing vegetarian restaurant. I actually liked the restaurant scenes quite a bit, but I felt like they belonged in a different book. The novel would have been better overall with a little paring down.
Also, I did feel like there were parts of the novel that felt a little preachy about eating a healthy diet. And yes, I know that healthy eating is good, but it seemed like it was a little bit too easy for Cat to give up all the junk food she'd been eating for years. However, I freely admit that I am picky about my fat-girl books, so that might just be my own bias.
Still, I liked the book enough to want to tell you about it, so do pick it up if you're so inclined. Let me know what you think.
And if you want to know what other bloggers think, check out reviews at Steph Su Reads, Book Moot, Pinot and Prose, and Frenetic Reader.