Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Skinny - Diana Spechler

Don't you love it when an author meanders around the blogosphere, sees a comment or post you've written, and then contacts you and offers you their book?  That is exactly what happened with "Skinny".  I had read a guest post by Diana on Heather's blog (Book Addiction), and was really taken with her totally hip and cool personality.  Which scored me a book.  I'd been hearing good things about it, so I wasted no time in picking it up.  And as luck and fate would have it, my other blogging half Jill (Rhapsody in Books) was reading it too, so we decided to post our thoughts simultaneously. 

Synopsis:  Gray has spend her entire life watching her parents obsess over food.  Her mother on one end of the spectrum, eating close to nothing, and her father, an obese binge-eater.  When her father dies of a heart-attack, and Gray is left with elephant-sized baggage filled with unresolved daddy issues, it is no surprise that she goes from a calorie-counting dieter to a binge-eater.  Over the period of a year, she gains 15 pounds (a horror for her) and drifts away from her live-in boyfriend. 

In the process of resolving her father's will, Gray discovers that her father has been supporting an illegitimate child named Eden.  When Gray learns that Eden is severely overweight and is attending a kids' weight-loss camp over the summer, Gray signs up for the same camp as a counselor to get closer to her half-sister. 

The camp, as it turns out, isn't the answer to Gray's problems.  The camp director is a sham; nobody working there is qualified.  There is a whole undercurrent of psychological distress with the campers and the counselors, none of which are handled appropriately.  Gray begins having an affair with one of the fitness instructors, knowing there will ultimately be repercussions.   Gray begins to sort out her emotions on her weight and body image, the half-sister she can't connect with, and her love life.  But the question is...can she fix herself or is it too late?

My thoughts:  Jill and I had a good time hashing out this book via e-mail, and in one conversation, I decided to list all the plot lines present in this story.  I mean, it was everywhere.  Here was the quick list I was able to rattle off, and chances are I'm missing a few:

Daddy issues
The reason behind the disconnect between father and daughter
Inter-faith relationships
Relationships drifting apart
Eating to mask bigger problems
Obsession with being skinny and body image
Sham of a weight camp
Summer flings
Cheating on boyfriend
Connection with half-sister
Psycho camp counselor

So yes, we cover alot of ground here.  It made for a quick entertaining read, but feeling a tad bit scattered. 

I also really didn't like Gray.  She was extremely selfish, and had some serious, deeply-embedded hang-ups that prevented her from a meaningful connection with anyone.  I would expect that she went on to live a very lonely life.  I was REALLY annoyed that she treated 15 pounds like the end of the world.  Seriously?  In my world, it is sucky to have to lose 15 pounds, but this is not insurmountable.  As the book progressed though, I realized that the obsession over the 15 pounds was just a symptom of bigger issues. 

At the same time I felt bad for Gray.  I can relate to the body image issues, and everything that goes with it.  It seemed like she wanted to be a better person, but just didn't have it in her.

Also up for debate was the way Spechler wrapped up the book.  In about two pages, she summarized the rest of Gray's life in a sort of fast forward big picture summary.  It was jarring to be moving along at a steady pace, then go into hyperspeed for the last two pages.  I had to read it a couple times just to make sure I caught everything.  Was it poignant?  Was it rushed?  I can't decide. 

As much as it sounds like I'm being critical though, I did enjoy reading the book.  It is certainly discussion-worthy, and would be a great book club pick.  I'd like to thank Diana Spechler for sending me a copy of her book (she really is hip and cool).

Want another take on "Skinny"?  Hop on over to Jill's place.



bermudaonion said...

The reviews for this book seem to be mixed. I still look forward to reading it - I don't have to like characters in order to enjoy a book.

Alice said...

I echo Kathy in this. Sometimes I loved it that there are characters that are "impossible". If I see this in the bookstore, I would consider picking it up.

Unknown said...

I'm with you - I hate it when characters are so annoying I want to slap them! It is possible for authors to create characters that I love to hate, but it is a rare and special skill. I don't think this one is for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually very curious about this one. I agree that at times characters like this can be very annoying (though I do understand the feeling of 15 pounds feeling very problematic), but the issues behind these things and the fact that the author seems great make me want to read this anyway.

Anonymous said...

Too bad it didn't work well for you, Sandy! I can definitely see where you're coming from with your thoughts, although as you know I really did love the book. Grey's vulnerability and insecurities really made me love her and (perhaps because I am this way myself at times) I felt a strong connection to what she was going through. If you like Spechler's writing you might enjoy her other novel, Who By Fire, I think she published it in 2009. I am a huge fan of hers, as you well know. :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

See, I feel that if you have a problem, even fifteen pounds can seem like fifty. Even five pounds. It's what's going on in the head that's important, not the reality, in my opinion...

Ti said...

Diana is very supportive of bloggers. I love her. I didn't ask for a copy of this one, only because the topic didn't fit my mood when she was going around promoting it, plus I had a eating disorder when I was younger so I am rather critical of books about that topic.

On a funny note, I once slipped food to kids in a fat camp when my cheerleader camp was in the dorm building next to them. LOL. I couldn't stand to see them hungry.

Zibilee said...

Your list of all the issues that this books presents is sort of shocking, but I can totally see myself loving this book, despite it's protagonist. I definitely agree that 15 pounds is no big deal when it comes to weight, but I think that there are bigger issues when it comes to the way that Gray obsesses and binges. I am actually really curious to read this one now, and see what I think. Diana also offered me a book, and I took her up on her offer, just knowing that this was going to be a really juicy read. Looks like I wasn't wrong! Great and thoughtful review, Sandy. We will have to have a powwow once I read it.

Kathleen said...

Sounds like this one just couldn't make up its mind what kind of book it wanted to be. I can where you enjoyed certain aspects of it though.

Julie P. said...

I don't think anyone liked Grey! Hmmmm. I do want to read this one and I think it does sound like a great book club pick.

Alyce said...

I've had this one on my coffee table (from the library) for a few weeks. I just haven't been in the right mood to pick it up yet.

Marie Cloutier said...

Yeah, 15 pounds is nothing. Oh well. I think this book might be a little too "issue-y" for me!

Heidenkind said...

Sounds like too much dramaz for me. :)

Susan said...

This sounds like the kind of book I would hate, especially the ending. Wonder why she felt that she had to do such a summary?

I have that same 15 pounds I would love to get rid of, but it definitely wouldn't make me Skinny, to say the least. I would be comfortable in my clothes. My neighbor has the same body image issues, even though she weighs about 2 pounds.

Jenny said...

I love how you broke down the plots, LOL! I've read really good things and really bad things about this book. I could see myself getting very frustrated with the character too!

Jenners said...

I know Jill will be made that I read your review first but she will just have to deal with it! HAHA! ; )

It does sound like a lot is going on here ... but I do think body image issues are complicated and deal with more that one issue. Not sure this is for me. I thought it was a diet book at first.