If this book doesn't make kids think about the possibilities open to them, and the ways in which they can sabotage themselves, it's not nearly as powerful as I believe it to be. Here are these kids, facing such horrors in their lives and looking for ways to deal, or not deal as the case may be.
Troy Billings was a regular guy with a mom and a military dad and a little brother who adored him. Then his mom died and Troy started putting on weight. A lot of weight. Now, his self-esteem is destroyed, he's convinced that his father is just trying to tolerate him and his brother at best is embarrassed by him, and at worst may hate him. We get to hear inside his head as he interprets the looks he gets and the actions of people around him. Troy got knocked down by his mother's death and even though, he thinks he's carrying on, he's never gotten up.
One day, he's sure that people are all moving to get as far from the fat kid cooties as they can on the subway and the train platform. After imagining all the ways they are judging him for his large and slovenly state, he contemplates stepping off the platform into the path of an oncoming train. He's stopped by Curt McRae, the illusive ex-schoolmate who has achieved godlike status since his disappearance. Curt's home life is awful, he's semi-homeless and drug addicted. He's got amazing talents and despite his problems is amazingly upbeat. He convinces Troy to start a band with him.
What happens next is amazing and powerful and realistic. Troy needs to find the will to live and regain his self-respect. But, there's a bizarre kind of protection in feeling beneath contempt. Although readers probably did feel like some of what Troy sensed was real, most of his internal monologue has been filtered through his perception. It's not real. The truth is that, for the most part, strangers don't care about him, probably wouldn't even notice him. His relationship with his brother and his father was as much his doing as theirs. He pushed and when they moved, he held it against them, or thought it was what they wanted, not what he instigated. Gradually, you see just how much his family loves him, how they've all been shattered by the loss and they're so lucky to still have one another, even though it takes a while for them to catch on.
Troy Billings is the voice of a generation. Not just overweight kids, all kids. Have you seen Finding Nemo? At the beginning, Nemo has to explain his "lucky fin" and instead of it being a cause to tease him the other kids all share their shortcomings, including the little fish who exclaims, "I'm obnoxious!" No one is without some damage, physical, mental or emotional. Some we've brought on ourselves, some have been thrust upon us. Generally speaking, we care so much more about it than anyone else does. We're all busy worrying about our own problems and when others do notice us, we perceive what we want, even if you think you are seeing the thing you dread most.
Going managed to make her characters believable and easy to relate to. I don't know how many kids who become like Troy or Dale or Curt get the opportunity to turn their lives around. I'm sure the numbers not nearly as high as we'd all like it to be. Seeing it in print might just give some of Fat Kid's readers the nudge they need to succeed.
For your information about the book and the reader's thoughts, you can check out the Fat Kid Rules the World page of her website.
There are a number of videos for the book, but no publisher sanctioned trailers. I found two made by readers for school projects. Here's one:
So, that's it for me, for now.