Fat Cat by Robin Brande

I loved Robin Brande’s Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, so I was excited to read her new book. Unfortunately, it came out the week of Alisa’s wedding, so I never actually got around to reading it until now (thank you, winter break, for all this time to read books and watch movies. I am ever so grateful).

Fat Cat is the story of Cat, a high school student who ends up doing a science experiment about her own life – she wants to see if she can change her eating and lifestyle habits to be more like those of a cave person. In with the natural foods and out with the processed junk. During the course of the experiment, she loses a lot of weight, which leads to her feeling better physically and emotionally. It also leads to a bit of a social experiment as she decides to use her newfound confidence on the boys who are suddenly attracted to her. Throughout the course of the story, Cat learns about friendship, health, forgiveness, and relationships, all while eating like a prehistoric person.

I really enjoyed Cat as a character, especially her relationship with her best friend Amanda. Cat and Amanda support each other, trust each other, and keep each other’s secrets. I love to give my students books with these sorts of friendships in them rather than the kinds of books where girls are mean to each other. I also enjoyed Cat’s thoughts on her experiment. I don’t think I could give up everything that she gave up, but it’s always a good idea to think about what we are putting in our bodies and what it does to us. I thought a lot about those things after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I like that this is an accessible way to present some of those same ideas to teenagers. I also liked that Cat was a good cook and made good food for her family and friends. I think it would have been fun if there had been recipes included, especially when Cat started thinking more about whether vegetarianism was the right choice for her. (But you can go to Robin Brande’s website and find some if you are interested!)

One thing that stood out to me was that, even though Cat did lose weight, the book focused on health rather than a perfect size or weight. In fact, the book went out of its way to not mention weight numbers. Instead the focus is on the fact that Cat starts eating better, exercising more, and taking care of herself, and that those things make her feel better.

I did like that Cat had to deal with the idea of people being attracted to her new outside without knowing who she was on the inside. However, as she was dealing with the pressures of dating, the book lost me a bit. Cat deliberately decides to use her newfound “powers” on boys as part of her experiment, and I was not sure that I bought the idea that she would deliberately seek those things out. That almost seemed like a different book, and I was glad that Cat abandoned that idea after a short period of time. I think that I would rather that the book dealt with her estranged relationship with her former best friend Matt (my favorite plotline) in a different way than by having her flaunt her other relationships in front of him. I was satisfied with how the Matt story was resolved. I was concerned at first that it was going to be one of those idiot plot misunderstandings, but it was a genuine look at how people can care about each other and still hurt each other, and whether those things can be forgiven.

Overall, this was a very strong YA book that I would recommend for ages 12 and up. I am going to put it in my school’s library and I will be interested to see if the cover of the book makes it a tough sell for students. I think a lot of girls would enjoy the story but I am not sure the cover will draw them in. I think I would have picked it up sooner if I had liked the cover more, actually.

Disclaimer: Random House provided me with a copy of this book to review, but, come on, you know I wouldn’t tell you I liked it unless I really did.

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