13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
Author: Mona Awad
Narrator: Jorjeana Marie

Published 2016 by Blackstone Audio
6 hours, 30 minutes – Unabridged

13ways_bxt9-square-400Mona Awad’s compact work of fiction sneaks up on you. In 13 episodic chapters that are actually discrete little stories – consecutive vignettes from the life of Lizzie/Beth/Elizabeth – the punches keep coming, and their impact accumulates. Early on, the stories concern the teenage and college-student Lizzie and so are loaded with the burgeoning sexuality of youth and its implications for a fat girl. Listeners who employ audiobooks while driving should take warning: One depressing scenario after another may have you cringing so hard on the hapless protagonist’s behalf that you might have trouble maintaining your lane.

About one-third of the way in, however, Lizzie becomes Beth and emerges into adulthood. Her focus shifts from mundanely horrifying entanglements with untrustworthy men, to increasingly complicated preoccupations with food, clothing, and the comparative attributes of other women. She also starts to come into focus herself as an individual, and her continuing saga gets more interesting. The promised humorous elements of the story become loud enough to compete with the downers, and you’re hooked for the duration. At the risk of letting a spoiler slip, suffice to say that Elizabeth’s journey gives the lie to the common fantasy that weight loss makes everything hunky-dory.

Narrator Jorjeana Marie’s voice has a youthful timbre that is well suited to Lizzie/Beth/Elizabeth’s storytelling and to the characters of her contemporaries. Slightly adenoidal at times, her delivery tends toward the flat and laconic, which helps emphasize the main character’s continued detachment from the story she is relating. Instead of getting swept up in a maelstrom of dramatic emotion, the listener is free to observe and draw her own conclusions about how to sum up this baker’s dozen of close-up views of fat-girl life. It is an extraordinary accomplishment, and one with the potential to hit home and make you think – whether you identify with the title or not.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher as part of the Solid Gold Reviewer program administered by Audiobook Jukebox. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.

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