The novel, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things written by Carolyn Mackler.[edit | edit source]

This novel is about a high school sophomore, Virginia, who is trying to deal with being an overweight female in a society that values extreme thinness. Her family is a group of overachievers, her sister has just joined the peace corps after graduating from college, and her brother is attending college at Columbia, an Ivy League school. Her best and only friend at her high school has left for Walla Walla, Washington for an entire year, leaving her all alone in a big city. Virginia thinks her family is perfect in every way-- they are all tall and thin with beautiful features and gorgeous brown hair, while she is short and plump with blond hair. Because Virginia feels so out of place in her family, this self doubt carries over into the rest of her life.

When it comes to her love life, Virginia falls for a boy in her school named Froggy Welsh the Fourth. Froggy is a trombone player who has practice on Monday afternoons, and coincidentally he and Virginia ride the same bus which spurs conversation first, "romantic encounters" at her house every Monday after school. Whether Froggy likes Virginia or not, Virginia refuses to consider the idea because she is "fat" and fat girls don't have boyfriends.

Virginia's mother keeps trying to find different ways to make Virginia lose weight. She keeps telling Virginia that when she was young, she was heavy too, and the only way to stay slim is to exercise and diet. She takes Virginia to the nutricianist at the gym that she attends and that lady tells Virginia all about power bars and protien powders. What Virginia's mother doesn't realize, is that Virginia is not herself reencarnate of her youth...Virginia is her own person who doesn't like the gym or powerbars.

Virginia's mom takes Virginia to see a new doctor, Dr. Love, who talks to Virginia about her body type and setting points. Virginia begins to like him and listen to him when he realizes that her mom is not the best advocate for Virginia because she doesn't understand that not everyone is designed to be thin and not everyone is happy being thin. This realization is a major turning point in the novel, and in Virginia's life.

In relation to Virginia' belief that her family is perfect and she is not, Virginia's brother, Byron is? suspended from school after he is accused of date rape. Virginia heavily struggles with her brother's betrayal and deception. The whole family is in chaos because of his crime yet each member is incapable of talking about the issue. Their attitude is to treat life as normal and eventually everything will be normal again. Because Virginia doesn't handle the situation in the same way, she again feels a disconnection with her family.

This book is not by any means a sad, depressing story of a girl who hates herself and her family. Rather, this a story of growth and developing a sense of appreciation for who you are. As the book progresses, Virginia grows and changes into a person that she is happy with first and foremost. We're not going to spoil the ending because we want you to read the book for yourself, but we also want to give you a sense of how Virginia deals with her thoughts and emotions. That is, through lists. Here's a taste:

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Virginia Shreves

1. My best friend moved to the other side of the earth for the entire school year. I thought I couldn't survive without her. While I still miss her like crazy, I think it's good that I've had to venture on my own.

3. I've never been a fan of my butt. Too big, too round, blah, blah, blah, blah. But when grooving outside the MTV studios in Times Square, it's much more fun to shake, not just a bony excuse for a rear end.

    • There's more to this list and others, but you'll have to check them out for yourself.**

Characters

Virginia Shreves: The protagonist, a fifteen year old tenth grader who is a little heavy and has a low self esteem. The story is told from her point of view. She makes lists of everything that impacts on her life.

Dr. Phyllis Shreves: Virginia's mother is an adolescent psychologist who is too busy with her job and workouts at the gym to notice that her own children need a mother.

Mike Shreves: Virginia's father is a high powered software executive who is constantly jetting off to various places for business. He likes to watch sports with his children but doesn't stand up for his children when their mother makes a decision.

Anais Shreves: Virginia's older sister has joined the Peace Corps and is remembered when Virginia reminisces each time something good or bad happens to her especially involving her mother.

Byron Shreves: Virginia's older brother is expelled from Columbia University because he is accused of date rape and returns home to live.

Shannon Iris Malloy-Newman: Virginia's best friend is living in Walla Walla, WA for this year while her father researches onions for an article. She invites Virginia to visit her for Thanksgiving weekend.

Froggy Welsh the Fourth: A classmate in Virginia's French class. Has trombone lessons near Virginia's home on Mondays so they spend the time between the bus and his lessons making out in her bedroom. He actuallly likes her for herself.

The 3 B's - Brie, Briar and Brinna: The most popular girls in school seem to be slightly mean toward the more unpopular students, or are they just clueless?

Annie Mills: The girl Byron date raped. Virginia decides to go and apologize for Byron and the two become friends when Annie explains that she didn't let it ruin her life.

Dr. Love: The adolescent pediatrician Virginia goes to. He recognizes that she needs an outlet for her feelings and recommends that she try kickboxing in a class for other girls just like her. It helps build her self esteem.

Mrs Crowley: Virginia's ninth grade English teacher offers Virginia the use of her office as a sanctuary during lunch on the pretext of getting help grading papers.

Throughout the novel, Virginia writes out her inner most thoughts through lists. These lists are her equivalent to a journal as they reflect all those things she can't say out loud.

Themes: One of the major themes in this novel is nutrition and health. Virginia struggles with her weight and as a result struggles with her self esteem. Virginia was also insecure about her and had no social life becasue of that. This link offers great information about health and nutrition, and specifically finding a weight loss program and more information on the theme:https://catalog.denverlibrary.org/Mobile/Syndetics/Reviews?ISBN=0763619582&UPC=&OCPL=&position=1

Another site with information about weightloss and nutrition is: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/take_charge.htm#family This site is great because it is specifically designed to assist teenagers in losing weight and becoming an all over healthy person.

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