Publishers Weekly Review
Larsen's 2013 adult memoir, Stranger Here, detailed her own experience with having weight-loss surgery; in her first book for teens, a high school student must decide whether she will do the same. Ashley is beautiful and popular, has a loving boyfriend, and is valedictorian of the best high school around. But Ashley is also fat-something that doesn't bother her at all, but that her grandmother believes stands in the way of a successful future. Each birthday, Ashley is wracked with anxiety as she awaits her grandmother's inevitable present: a homemade coupon for something Ashley desperately wants (a shopping spree, a trip to Paris) in exchange for losing weight. On Ashley's 17th birthday, her grandmother offers to pay for Ashley's Harvard education if she will undergo weight-loss surgery. A drawn-out lead-up to Ashley's grandmother's yearly wager and digressions about Ashley's friends cause the plot to drag, but when Larsen focuses on Ashley's struggle to make her decision regarding surgery, as well as her pride in her natural shape, the novel is a moving, empowering read. Ages 13-up. Agent: Cheryl Pientka, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Ashley Perkins's lifelong dream is to attend Harvard, become a surgeon, and change the world. As she nears graduation, the dream is within reach. But how will she pay for Harvard? For that, she may have to make a deal with her grandmother. Her grandmother is the matriarch who has made Ashley's life of comfort possible, but to send the teen to Harvard she requires one trade-off: Ashley must get weight loss surgery. The teen plans to tell her no instantly, but as she considers the offer, it's not as easy as she planned. As she faces her future, the protagonist must decide who she is beyond her weight and what she really stands for. Larsen's reluctance to accurately describe Ashley's body and actual weight make the general premise unbelievable. The procedure is referred to only as "weight loss surgery" and it's never clear if Ashley's grandmother is offering simple liposuction or actual bariatric surgery, which alters a person's internal organs. There's a considerable difference and it's not really plausible that a character who describes herself as being "a size 18 (sometimes 20)" would even qualify for this surgery, which is a major operation. While Larsen has created likable, empathetic characters in Ashley and her close friends, the basic premise is too weak to sustain believability, which will keep most teens from being immersed in the narrative. VERDICT YA certainly needs more fat characters, but they deserve richer stories and more precise descriptions of their physicality.-Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos County Library System, NM © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Ashley's grandmother is the town hero brilliant surgeon, humanitarian, font of information but she drives a hard bargain. Ashley, Harvard-bound and overweight, is all too familiar with her grandmother's ploys. Every birthday, she gets a card with a conditional present: lose 50 pounds, go to Disneyland. Lose 80 pounds, get a new car. Every year Ashley says no. But for her eighteenth, her grandmother offers the unthinkable: tuition to Harvard if Ashley gets weight-loss surgery. Ashley and her dad live with her grandmother, and her mom is long out of the picture; without her grandmother's money, she won't be able to go. As Ashley struggles with the decision, she also deals with the end of high school: changing friendships, a boyfriend she is pushing away, an unattainable crush, and the heavy specter of the future. Ashley's grandmother is a bit unbelievable her selfless, accepting persona never quite jibes with her tough-love approach to Ashley but Ashley's fight to discover what she truly wants, independent of the expectations of others, is an important one that will speak to many.--Reagan, Maggie Copyright 2015 Booklist