Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Book Review Club (October 2010)

Happy 22nd Book Review Club! This week, I've spoken to over 1,200 students in Columbia, Missouri. I had dinner last night with Jody Feldman. And today I'm on the road to Kansas for their school librarians' conference. So....my wonderful and kind critique partner, Kelly Hayes, wrote today's book review. Love her!

By Carolyn Mackler
Virginia Shreve is convinced her family would be perfect, if she weren’t in it. As she puts it, she’s “definitely the weakest link in the Shreves clan.”Her parents, sister, and brother are all skinny, good-looking overachievers. And then there’s Virginia, the youngest, chubby and totally lacking in self-confidence. Even as she’s about to get felt up by a boy for the first time, all she can think about is how she can’t let him see her flabby upper arms and stomach. And that’s just the first scene of the book. There’s much more shame and self-loathing to come. But despite that, Virginia is a strong teen heroine whom the reader can really root for.

She’s developed what she calls the “Fat Girl Code of Conduct.” Among her private taboos are things like: “Any sexual activity is a secret. No public displays of affection.” and “If you can’t sell him on your body, you’d better overcompensate with sexual perks.” The heart-wrenching thing is, as skewed as Virginia’s self-image is, it’s very true to life.

The irony is that her mother is a renowned child psychologist, but she struggles with body issues of her own. She’s a work-out fiend who thinks eating a tortilla chip will turn her back into the overweight girl she once was. When Virginia sticks pictures of waif-thin models on the refrigerator as motivation to lose weight, her mother tells her she’s proud of her. I think most memorable books have an ah-ha moment for the reader, that passage you relate to in a deep way because you’ve been there. That was my moment in this book. I really felt for Virginian because she hasn’t yet figured out how hypocritical her mother is and still believes the misguided things her mother tells her. It just shows how some people can help others, but when it comes to their own children, they’re no help at all.

When Virginia’s brother does something that changes everyone’s shining image of him, Virginia finds she can’t forgive him. In her quest to find out the truth, she discovers some painful truths about her family , herself, and her place in the world.

Ultimately The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things is an extremely hopeful book. It shows us what we can achieve when we stop listening to Society’s pressures and tap into our own strength.

This book was a Printz award winner. It was also banned in 2009 for reasons of offensive language, sexual explicitness, and being unsuited to its age group. I say “Bah!” to all counts. We have a saying in the library biz: If a book is banned, it’s probably because there’s something in it worth reading!

Thank you, Kelly! As usual, you've written an outstanding review. And for more outstanding reviews, please visit the blogs below. You'll be so happy you did.


Linda McLaughlin: AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell*


Jody Feldman: CICADA SUMMER by Andrea Beaty (middle grade)

Sarah Laurence: BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver(young adult) Reviews by both mother and daughter!

Beth Yarnall: THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins* and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger*

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger* (young adult)

Gary Dobbs of The Tainted Archive: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain* (young adult)

Kaye of the Book Review Forum: BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale (young adult fantasy)

Scott Parker: THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Ray Bradbury (young adult)

Stacy Nyikos: SPEAK vs WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson* (a comparison of two young adult books)


Patti Abbott: STRANGLEHOLD by Ed Gorman

Beth of From the Desk of Bee Drunken: FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: THE DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING by Deanna Raybourn (historical mystery)

Kathy Holmes: GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT by Stacey Ballis (women's fiction)

Staci of Life in the Thumb: TAKE A CHANCE ON ME by Jill Mansell (British Chicklit)

Thao of serene hours: BABY PROOF by Emily Griffin (Chicklit)

*Banned/Challenged Book* In honor of Banned Books Week, some reviewers reviewed banned/challenged books. These titles are marked with a *

Note to Reviewers: leave a comment if I missed you or made a mistake concerning your review. I'll rectify the situation the second I get a chance.



  1. Back when I was a preteen/teen, all the YA heroines were sticks. I could probably have used a heroine like Virginia.

    On another note, I'm so sorry I wasn't able to participate in the book review club this month. I'll try to stop by as many blogs as I can to see what everyone else has been reading.

  2. This book sounds amazing! And oh so true to life - the part about people helping others but not their own kids, the hypocrisy, and the struggle to fit in with society's ideals. Excellent review!

  3. It sounds both brave and brilliant.

  4. Barrie, thanks for hosting while on the road! The link to Beth Yarness is broken.

    Kelly, terrific review! It sounds like this book earned its Printz.

  5. Wow, that's what I get for making assumptions. THE EARTH, MY BUTT sounds wonderful, and somehow I'd gotten the idea I shouldn't bother reading it. EVEN THOUGH our tiny library, which is top-notch on YA, had it prominently displayed for months.

    Thanks for the enlightenment, Kelly!

    Great roster of books this month, Barrie--I'm running from pillar to post today--the post being a half-painted kitchen *sigh*--but I'll reward myself by reading some reviews tonight.

  6. Really lovely review! The 'Bah' was great, as was the old saying in the library biz. ;)

  7. Kelly, great review. I can totally relate to the title and wish there had been books like that when I was part of the YA crowd.

    Barrie, thanks for organizing us while on the road. Hope you're having a fantastic and successful trip.

    Linda, who late in reading book reviews (out of town most of Wed.)


Comments are always welcome!