Crutcher, Chris (1993). Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. New York: Greenwillow Books, 216 pages.
Summary and Evaluation: Eric Calhoune, aka Moby, is obese; Sarah Byrnes is ugly and has been since she was three. An accidental burn permanently disfigured her face because her father would not let doctors repair it. Eric and Sarah Byrnes have been friends for life believing that "terminal ugliness" brought them together. At the beginning of high school Eric even started overeating afraid that he would lose Sarah's friendship if he lost weight due to swimming. Now it's senior year and Sarah Byrnes has suddenly sunken into a strange catatonia and is hospitalized. Eric finally discovers the truth about Sarah's deformity and must help free her from her horrible past.
I initially chose this book because I wanted to read a sports story. This one was about swimming (a favorite of mine), but seemed to have more than descriptions of monotonous practices and vicious competitive spirit. Well, that was true. Woven into a rather secondary story of preparing for regionals is a complex story dealing with issues of religion, abortion, and abuse. Crutcher presents these issues in such a way that it forced me to consider the reasons for my own beliefs on the matters. Although challenging, the topics were introduced with sensitivity. Students brought up each issue during a course called Contemporary American Thought; then the issues remained present as various students had to deal with the real life applications of them. Suspenseful action scenes and the occasional bit of humor prevent the book from being overly philosophical. Eric's clashes with Sarah's father and testosterone heavy competition keep the story moving for those who may not be the philosophy types.
Booktalk Hook: Because this book has so many layers it may be difficult to summarize well, but I think a five sentence booktalk would work best. "Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune are best friends because they are both ugly. When Sarah Byrnes was three she was scalded by a pot of boiling water - at least that's what she says. Now it's senior year and the normally vicious Sarah Byrnes has slipped into a mysterious catatonia. Eric is trying to balance school, swimming, and helping his friend find a way out of her mental trap. When all the secrets finally come out, Eric has to choose the best way to be loyal to his friend."
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