Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a quick read. Turn each page to follow the protagonist Eric Calhoun (nicknamed Moby, like the whale) as he moves with wit, compassion, and purpose through his senior year of high school. Understand his protective feelings for his childhood friend, Sarah Byrnes. As a toddler, her face was severely scarred by an accident in the kitchen; her father refused reconstructive surgery. Although damage was done to her psyche as well as her body, Sarah pursues academic excellence. Eric/Moby suffers from obesity until he swims pounds off on the high school swim team. Then, instead of developing a tapered swimmer’s body, he decides to overeat and stay a “misfit” with his friend, Sarah. Eric eventually discovers Sarah’s dark secret. Since for him “what’s known can’t be unknown,” he is propelled into saving Sarah’s life although it may sever their friendship, and puts them both in danger. This story features drama, destruction, change, and hope, and emphasizes the value of help from buddies and caring adults.
Crutcher draws on his experiences as a family therapist to develop his characters. Readers should be prepared for some foul language, unflinching portrayals of abuse of family members, bigotry, hatred, depression, and even death. Crutcher’s characters also consider other serious social issues, including religion and abortion. Be prepared to think about how YOU treat others. Finally, be prepared to cheer for the survivors in Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes.
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