Saturday, December 8, 2007

Manstealing For Fat Girls by Michelle Embree

The cover and the title make this look like "chick lit" but I beg to differ. This is, instead, an 80's-esque working-class misfit teen adventure revenge story, aimed at adults. The story revolves around Angie who, at 16, believes herself to be fat and possibly ugly. She and her girlfriends are teased by the kids at school and each one of them stands out in her own way. Angie's the fat one who's been nick-named "lezzylard." Shelby is an out lesbian. And Heather has one enormous breast. "Spunky" doesn't begin to illustrate these girls' survival-instinct attitudes.

It's not until she gets hit on at a party and another girl calls her a manstealer that Angie begins to realize that she may be prettier than she thinks. Fueled by a slight boost in confidence, Angie stands up for herself against a popular girl and is then sexually assaulted by the girl's boyfriend in order to "teach her a lesson." When it looks like her friend Shelby is going to be "next," Angie fesses up to what happened and takes part in an elaborate plot to get revenge on the assaulter. In the midst of all this Angie gets her first boyfriend, loses her virginity, experiments with drugs, makeup and crash-dieting, and learns to trust herself and her friends a little bit more in the process. Not necessarily in that order, of course.

Embree's created some characters who are both plausible and a little bit out-there, and they are the driving force behind this rough, slightly weird novel. The sexual assault is graphic and there are a couple of other scenes of violence that make for uncomfortable reading, but all in all they help to effect a sense of gritty realism. There are times when I wanted to shake some sense into the main character, but chalk that up to her being an impressionable and angsty teen girl with poor decision-making skills. In the end, however, Angie comes out on top; not on top of the world, but on top of where she needs to be at that point in her life. You get the sense she's going to be ok.
This may appeal to misfits and former misfits, older teen girls, cool feminist punk boys, or anyone in for a dose of gritty warts-and-all working class teen culture.

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