Book Review: Fat Cat

Brande, Robin. Fat Cat. New York, NY: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009.

You are what you eat. . . .

Cat smart, sassy, and funny—but thin, she’s not. Until her class science project. That’s when she winds up doing an experiment—on herself. Before she knows it, Cat is living—and eating—like the hominids, our earliest human ancestors. True, no chips or TV is a bummer and no car is a pain, but healthful eating and walking everywhere do have their benefits.

As the pounds drop off, the guys pile on. All this newfound male attention is enough to drive a girl crazy! If only she weren’t too busy hating Matt McKinney to notice. . . .

This funny and thoughtful novel explores how girls feel about their bodies, and the ways they can best take care of their most precious resource: themselves.

This is the first book I read by author Robin Brande, who also wrote Doggirl. The funniest thing about my experience of reading the book is this post from my Facebook page in September:

I can’t say hominids too well. Reading a book that uses that word a lot, and that in-my-head reading voice keeps saying homonyms instead. (This book is making me get better at it- that word is, by necessity, on almost every page. Fat Cat by Robin Brande)

I really enjoyed this book. I love that Cat loses weight not to gain male attention, though that is an unexpected side effect, but because she’s doing a science project where she learns that her eating habits are really not that healthy. I didn’t know much about early man before reading this book, and the facts Cat discovers are really interesting. I was inspired after reading this book to try to change my own eating habits (though in the interest of full disclosure, I must say that without the incentive of a grade that Cat has, my efforts were far less successful, and less permanent).

(Vague potential spoilers ahead) Similar to Doggirl, I found my adult mind read into things differently than Cat did. While she felt Matt was an enemy, who hated her and was always finding ways to talk to her just to annoy her, I could see that she was holding a grudge from long ago that was probably unfounded. In fact, as children often do, Cat made a mountain out of a molehill, and Matt can’t figure out what he did wrong – she made a big deal out of something he doesn’t even remember happening, and now years later there is still fallout from the miscommunication.

What this means, about both of Robin’s books I’ve read, is that the antagonist of the novel is not a bad guy. I love that there is no real villain, just fully rounded characters that are seen as “bad” in the eyes of the protagonist based on past experience, but who turn out to be pretty good in the end. I find that a lot of children’s stories are good vs. evil (fairy tales, for example, usually have characters that are either pure good or pure evil), and it’s important for teens to understand that the real world is full of shades of gray. You should never judge someone’s entire life based on a single incident, which I suppose is why so many people are against the death penalty. YA authors have a responsibility to their audience to reflect these shades of gray, and Robin certainly fulfills this responsibility.

The only thing I can think of that would have made the book “better” (and I’m hesitant to use that word because really I don’t think of myself highly enough to think I could do better) would be to include some recipes in the back of the book. Cat creates healthy vegan meals for herself and her family, and ends up being hired by a local vegan coffee shop as a cook. With so many people going vegan these days, especially teens, I think a small cookbook would be great as an addition to a future edition of the book, or as a companion book.

Love love love this book, and this author. Highly recommended.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Fat Cat

  1. Thanks for this lovely review, Michelle! And I agree with you about including recipes–that’s why the paperback version coming out this September will have them. I love that sort of extra, too!

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