Published by Penguin Group on February 23, 2016
Genres/Lists: Fiction, Gender-Based Books
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
When I was trying to decide what to read next, Andi over at Estella’s Revenge recommended 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad. It’s been getting rave reviews, so while I wasn’t quite sure what the book was about, I decided to give it ago. This was also because Awad is a PhD student at the University of Denver (DU), where I went to grad school.
Told through a series of short stories, 13 Ways follows Lizzie, a woman who spends her life obsessing about her weight. From growing up as an overweight teen to her thin adult years, we get a glimpse into the toll her struggles take on her relationships and self-worth. It’s heartbreaking and honest and anyone who has ever struggled with their weight will find something to relate to.
Upon reading the synopsis, I went into this book expecting a story about a woman trying to conform to society’s definition of beauty. This is true in that Lizzie’s desire to be thin comes from societal expectations, but it’s so much more than that – 13 Ways highlights how the people in your life can influence your view of yourself and how that, in turn, guides your actions. Self-esteem, after all, can be bolstered or shattered by anyone at any time and even an unintentional lingering glance can deal a devastating blow. We see this with Lizzie and learn how the consequences play themselves out over the course of her life.
Having been overweight myself, there were parts of this book that really resonated with me. I’ve never been “thin” but it wasn’t until I was about 30 that I was actually considered overweight. Following two hip surgeries, I gained 45 pounds and vividly remember the breakdowns I would have every morning about what to wear. Part of this was because my body was sluggish from the recovery, but mostly it was because I hated myself for letting it get that far. From an intellectual standpoint, I knew that this was ridiculous, but good luck telling that to my reflection. Even when my husband proposed (and married me) while I was at my heaviest, I had panicky visions of him not showing up at the wedding because really, why would he marry someone that size?Every Woman Can Relate to 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by @monaawadauthor. Click To Tweet
Because of that experience, I had a lot of empathy for Lizzie. Even her most cringeworthy moments made sense in the context of her life experiences. While I can’t claim to know what it’s like to spend a lifetime struggling with weight, I know what it’s like to live in a world where society places undue burdens on women. Perhaps that’s why 13 Ways is getting such rave reviews. Rather than being a book that tells you how weight struggles can impact a person, it shows you. While it’s not a blatant analysis about the psychology of it all, you see it in every single thought and action Lizzie has and does. Her struggles pervade everything she does and says, from where and what she eats to who she hangs out with.
As depressing as all of this sounds, 13 Ways has a quick, upbeat tempo. There were times when I was laughing out loud, gasping in disbelief, and physically cringing. Despite Lizzie’s singular obsession, the book offers a 360-view of both her and her worldview. It’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s also not all sunshine and roses. In other words, it’s realistic. If you ask me, every woman is affected by society’s definition of beauty in some way (whether they conform to it or not) and that is ultimately what 13 Ways is about. Lizzie is not just Lizzie – she’s all of us.
Recommended for: Anyone who’s ever based their self-worth on their physical appearance, if even for a moment.