From the moment I began reading the novel, “13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl” (2016) by Mona Awad, I couldn’t stop; I read it all the way through until the last chapter, which I didn’t want to read because I just didn’t want the book to be over. But I did because I couldn’t wait.
The book tells such a real and cool and rarely written perspective. Thirteen chapters, with each like a short story. Trying on clothes, watching “America’s Next Top Model,” finding your lover’s porn collection, counting your calories, weighing and measuring your food, what you can and cannot eat, watching men watch women, your own female fascination (Those lips! Those eyes! That hair! That feeling of “I want to try on your clothes/ if only they would fit”), not leaving the house if you feel fat, not leaving the dressing room when the dress you can’t afford anyway rips as you try to make it fit, photophobia and mirror avoidance, discomfort with sex because of how your body looks, fake breasts, how men talk about women sexually, the judgments people make about your body as you get fatter or thinner, how your parents and family and friends react to your fatter or thinner body, the sometimes controlling intimacy of frenemies, co-workers, and department store clerks, and the music you listen to while all that is going on make this book very special to me. (Goth music! Industrial music!) “My Mother’s Idea of Sexy” and “Fit4U” are so poignant and heartbreaking and I’ll never forget the main character’s mom, never, so no matter how callous the daughter is to her, the mom is honored by those two chapters. And there’s even a story about a groupie, “Your Biggest Fan.”
There’s a bit of animal activism, too. And there’s such sly humor – lipstick and nail polish names (Hearts and Tarts), the fanciness of contemporary food (crystallized ginger, lavender pizza), the idea of whorish food (slutty brownies, a recipe for dessert that’s better than sex), how to make a sexy shirt out of your fishnet stockings (stick your head through the fork and your arms through the legs).
I love the tree pine deodorizer in the car, the Fetish nights, the silver-clad men. The sex fantasies of the shape-shifting name-changing narrator who sometimes says exactly the opposite of what she wants. The tyranny of the gym, of other girls and women. How to make the language of the body express what you truly want, if only you could freely figure it out.