Saturday, March 19, 2011

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Chris Crutcher
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (March 18, 2003)
5/5 stars

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is narrated by high school senior, Eric Calhoune.  Back in grade school, he and Sarah Byrnes became best friends because they were both outcasts: she had suffered disfiguring burns on her face and hands, and he was the fattest kid in school.  They banded together and, thanks mainly to the caustic wit of Sarah Byrnes, were able to survive all the bullying.  (Yes, she is always called Sarah Byrnes, at her own demand; she became tired of all those who thought they were so witty making jokes about her appearance and her name and to cut it off before they had a chance, demanded everyone call her by both names at all times.)

The summer before they started high school, the swim coach discovered Eric and drafted him for the swim team.  Eric promised his best friend that nothing would come between them, not even if he lost weight swimming.  He was so terrified that Sarah Byrnes would think he was leaving her behind, that their partnership of uglies would be over, that his first year of swimming, he ate twice as much as ever so he could stay fat for her, even while swimming.  Finally Sarah Byrnes called him on it and as a result, by his senior year he's no longer fat.

Then comes the day that Sarah Byrnes doesn't get out of her desk when the bell rings.  Finally, men have to come and carry her to an ambulance and take her to the children's mental ward and that is really when Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes begins.  Eric feels like his life is in limbo without Sarah Byrnes, but as he begins to get to the bottom of her problem, he finds so much more than he bargained for.

Though it may not sound like it from this synopses, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a riveting, moving novel.  These characters are living and breathing people and their decisions and emotions become all absorbing during reading.  The plot takes various twists and turns, but nearly always in a realistic way, with believable consequences.  Though it is often funny, this is is no light read.  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes brings up such issues as bullying, abuse, abortion, teen sex, religion, the ethics in a friendship, and teen suicide.  Were I a parent, I would want to read it first, to be sure if my young teen could handle the seriousness of parts of this book.

For an older "young adult", though, or for an adult, I recommend this book unhesitatingly.  It is the kind of thought provoking book that will consume you while reading, and for days afterward, and I walked away from it glad I had read it.  No, more than that, I walked away BETTER for having read it.

~~Read for "size" category of the What's in a Name Challenge.~~


  1. i LOVE chris crutcher's books. this is one of my favourites of his too. "stotan" is my all-time favourite. this one is probably my 2nd favorite. :)

  2. I read a review that was so glowing, I had to read it--mainly to disprove it. There was just no way it could be as good as the reviewer said. Boy was I wrong! My first time reading one of his novels, but I'll certainly recommend him and will probably read him again!

  3. This really intrigues me.
    Really great review! I think I may add this to my TBR pile!

  4. If you read it, I'll look forward to seeing what you think of it!

  5. oooh sounds like a lovely story
    Great review Gypsi